Supervisor-Employee Power Distance Incompatibility, Gender Similarity, and Relationship Conflict: A Test of Interpersonal Interaction Theory

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Abstract

According to interpersonal interaction theory, relational harmony surfaces when two individuals have compatible interaction styles. Building from this theory, we propose that supervisor-employee power distance orientation incompatibility will be related to employees’ experience of higher levels of relationship conflict with their supervisors. Additionally, we propose an asymmetrical incongruence effect such that relationship conflict will be highest when supervisors are high in power distance and employees are low in power distance. Furthermore, we address calls in interpersonal interaction research for more direct attention to the social context of the dyadic interaction and explore the moderating effects of supervisor-employee gender (dis)similarity on the relationship between this incompatibility and conflict. We propose that supervisor-employee gender dissimilarity (e.g., male-female or female-male pairs) acts as a conditional moderator, neutralizing the power distance incongruence effect and the asymmetrical incongruence effect. Using 259 supervisor-employee dyads in the physical therapy industry, the hypotheses were generally supported. Theoretical and practical implications regarding the unique benefits of power distance compatibility and gender diversity in supervisor-employee dyads are discussed.

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