Give and Take: An Episodic Perspective on Leader-Member Exchange


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Abstract

Research on leader-member exchange (LMX) has predominantly taken a dyadic relationship perspective to understand the differences in overall exchanges across leader-member dyads, while neglecting the within-dyad exchange dynamics across a series of episodic resource transactions. Drawing from the literature on equity and reciprocity principles of social exchange, we develop and test a model of leader-member episodic resource transactions that delineates the momentary psychological mechanism and the boundary condition under which episodic resource contribution surplus generates member subsequent reciprocations. Multilevel polynomial regression analyses of 600 episodic exchange responses from 73 employees show that resource contribution surplus in an exchange episode increased state work engagement immediately following the episode and member resource contribution in the next episode by evoking member momentary sense of obligation to reciprocate. Additionally, the between-dyad LMX relationship quality attenuated these effects by reducing the likelihood to feel obligated to reciprocate due to episodic resource contribution surplus. Our research highlights the microdynamic transaction nature of the exchanges between leaders and members and provides insight into how leader-member dyads exchange resources in episodic interactions.

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