The Relational Antecedents of Voice Targeted at Different Leaders

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Abstract

We investigated how employees can, simultaneously, speak up to leaders at different levels of the organizational hierarchy. In particular, we examined 2 targets of employees’ upward voice on work-related issues: the direct leader (i.e., the supervisor) and the skip-level leader (i.e., supervisor’s boss). Drawing on emerging research on the socially embedded nature of leader–member exchanges and using data from 237 employees and their direct and skip-level leaders, we found that the choice of a particular leader as a target was affected by the quality of the dyadic relationship between that leader and the employee. Further, the association between voice to the direct leader and the quality of the employee’s relationship with the direct leader was more positive when the relationship between the direct leader and the skip-level leader was stronger. By contrast, the association between voice to the skip-level leader and the quality of the employee’s relationship with the skip-level leader was more positive when the relationship between the direct leader and the skip-level leader was weaker. The implications of these findings are discussed.

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