The Mediating Effect of Leader-Member Exchange on the Relationship between Theory X and Y Management Styles and Affective Commitment: A Multilevel Analysis

By Sahin, Faruk | Journal of Management and Organization, March 2012 | Go to article overview

The Mediating Effect of Leader-Member Exchange on the Relationship between Theory X and Y Management Styles and Affective Commitment: A Multilevel Analysis


Sahin, Faruk, Journal of Management and Organization


Abstract

The purpose of the present study was to investigate the relationship between McGregor's Theory X and Y management styles and affective commitment through the mediating mechanism of the leader-member exchange (LMX). Adopting a multilevel perspective to explain the complex relations among variables, data were collected from 56 supervisors and 173 subordinates from yacht building companies in Turkey. The results indicated that the Theory Y management style related positively to affective commitment and LMX. In addition, the results indicated that LMX partially mediated the relationship between the Theory Y management style and affective commitment. However, the Theory X management style had no relationships with either LMX or affective commitment. Implications for future research and practice are discussed.

Keywords: Theory X and Y management styles, affective commitment, leader-member exchange

Much of the empirical organizational commitment research has focused on affective commitment (Wasti, 2003). This emphasis on affective commitment has been mostly because of its association with desirable outcomes such as lower turnover, fewer intentions to quit and organizational citizenship behavior (Allen & Meyer, 1996; Meyer, Stanley, Herscovich, & Topolnytsky, 2002; Wasti, 2008). Although there are a variety of antecedents for affective commitment (Meyer & Allen, 1991, 1997), one of the most common is a high-quality relationship with one's supervisor (e.g., Eisenberger et al., 2010; Gerstner & Day, 1997). The quality of the relationship between a supervisor and subordinate can be described in terms of the leader- member exchange (LMX) theory (Dienesch & Liden, 1986; Gerstner & Day, 1997; Liden, Sparrowe, & Wayne, 1997). LMX theory argues that leaders develop unique relationships with different subordinates and that the quality of these relationships is a determinant of how each subordinate will be treated (Graen & Uhl-Bien, 1995).

Considering the benefits for individuals and organizations, it seems important to take action in order to strengthen subordinates' affective commitment to the organization. Therefore, efforts should be based on understanding the determinants of affective commitment and the exchange relationships. Although research has indicated that supervisors can influence the development of subordinates' affective commitment (e.g., Cohen, 1992; Wayne et al., 2009), the influence of supervisors' management styles on affective commitment remains unclear. One of the research directions from the style approach is that by McGregor (1960), who developed 'Theory X and Y' but which has seldom been empirically tested (Kopelman, Prottas, & Davis, 2008; Kopelman, Prottas, & Falk, 2010).

McGregor (1960) proposed two sets of assumptions about human motivation that a manager can hold. These are Theory X assumptions - that people basically dislike work, need direction and avoid responsibility - and Theory Y assumptions - that people like work, are creative and accept responsibility. Although McGregor proposed Theory X and Y over 50 years ago, these theories have contributed to management and leadership thinking and practice for many years (Heil, Bennis, & Stephens, 2000). Scholars have continued to discuss and debate since their introduction in 1960. One general criticism is the fact that McGregor's work was simple and undeveloped (Reddin, 1969) and that it did not take the impact and role of environmental factors into consideration (Thomas & Bennis, 1972). Some scholars have asserted that the assumptions underlying Theory Y are too general and need to be more specific (e.g., Bobic & Davis, 2003; Morse & Lorsch, 1970). Despite these criticisms, McGregor's work has lefta lasting mark on organizational management and leadership studies (Heil et al., 2000). Miner (2003) reported a recent peer review that ranked McGregor's Theory X and Y second in terms of recognition and in 33rd place in importance out of 73 organizational behavior theories, as rated by organizational behavior scholars.

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