Not All Differentiation is the Same: Examining the Moderating Effects of Leader-Member Exchange (LMX) Configurations

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Abstract

Leaders often influence whether an employee stays or quits and yet research in collective turnover, or turnover at the work-unit level, has neglected leadership as a key antecedent. In the current study we examine how the quality of leader-member relationships within a group (i.e., leader-member exchange, LMX) influences building a shared mindset of collective organizational commitment and ultimately influences collective turnover. We build on a key tenet of LMX theory that leaders form differentiated relationships with followers and propose that not all LMX differentiation is the same and therefore, researchers must take into account the configuration, or mix of high and low LMX relationships, within a group. We expect LMX configurations will moderate the influence of LMX differentiation on collective turnover through the mechanism of collective organizational commitment. We find 5 configurations of LMX relationships, including a bimodal, solo-status low LMX, solo-status high LMX, and 2 fragmented configurations. As hypothesized, LMX differentiation positively relates to collective organizational commitment and negatively relates to collective turnover in a solo-status low LMX configuration and a fragmented LMX configuration, and negatively relates to collective organizational commitment and positively relates to collective turnover in a bimodal configuration. Theoretical implications and future research directions are discussed.

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