Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Leader-Member Exchange Social Comparison and Employee Deviant Behavior: Evidence from a Chinese Context

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Leader-Member Exchange Social Comparison and Employee Deviant Behavior: Evidence from a Chinese Context

Article excerpt

Robinson and Bennett (1995) define deviant behavior as "voluntary behavior of organizational members that violates significant organizational norms and, in so doing, threatens the well-being of the organization and/or its members" (p. 556). Such behavior can be categorized as either interpersonal deviance, organizational deviance (Bennett & Robinson, 2000), or supervisor-directed deviance (Mitchell & Ambrose, 2007). In recent years, the universality of employee deviant behavior and its negative effect on organizational efficiency has drawn a lot of attention (Lian, Ferris, & Brown, 2012). For example, unauthorized gambling during work time has been estimated to cause productivity decrease of up to US$600 million yearly (Taylor, 2007). The antecedents of deviant behavior have also been examined in the Chinese context (Guo, 2012). Our main focus in this study was the antecedents of organizational deviance and supervisor-directed deviance.

On the basis of social exchange theory, El Akremi, Vandenberghe, and Camerman (2010) considered that negative reciprocation served as a means to restore balance and eliminate anger and frustration. Their findings showed that leader-member exchange (LMX) is significantly related to deviant behavior. However, a limitation in LMX theory is that the relationship of supervisor- subordinate dyads is treated as isolated, and the interdependence of this relationship within the social network is neglected (Sparrowe & Liden, 1997). Henderson, Wayne, Shore, Bommer, and Tetrick (2008) further pointed out that employees compare the quality of their own LMX with that of other group members and these authors labeled the objective evaluation of such quality as relative leader-member exchange. In the light of social comparison theory, if individuals perceive their status as disadvantaged through the comparison process, their motivation to harm the advantaged would be activated (Duffy, Scott, Shaw, Tepper, & Aquino, 2012). In our study, we investigated how leader-member exchange social comparison (LMXSC), which is defined as the comparison between one's own LMX and that of coworkers (Vidyarthi, Liden, Anand, Erdogan, & Ghosh, 2010), influences employee deviant behavior in a Chinese context. Further, we investigated the mediating role of organizational justice in the relationship between LMXSC and employee deviant behavior. Different types of deviance may result from different motivations, such as instrumental motivation and expressive motivation (Lee & Allen, 2002). Procedural unfairness induces an employee's instrumental motivation through the inequity of rewards distribution, and interpersonal unfairness may trigger expressive motivation of deviance toward the supervisor. By investigating how LMXSC influences both types of unfairness and impacts deviant behavior, we expected that our findings in this study would shed light on the influence mechanism in the relationship between LMXSC and deviant behavior.

Moreover, our aim was to further explore the moderating effect of supervisor identity. The direct supervisor typically plays the role of organizational agent, bearing responsibilities as both coach and disciplinarian toward his or her subordinates. If supervisors share an identity that is consistent with the organization, they will be capable of instructing subordinates more efficiently. However, supervisors are also individuals, so that not all supervisors are perceived by employees to be sharing the same goals and values as the organization they represent. The supervisor's organizational embodiment (SOE) is defined as the perception of the employee concerning the extent of their supervisor's shared identity with the organization (Eisenberger et al., 2010). Likewise, our aim was to explore the moderating effect of SOE on the relationship between organizational justice and deviant behavior.

Theoretical Background and Hypotheses

Leader-Member Exchange Social Comparison and Deviant Behavior

Because of limitations of time, energy, and resources, a supervisor can develop a high-quality exchange relationship with only a few subordinates, which leads to relationship resource competition among group members who are striving to earn favoritism from the supervisor (Wayne & Ferris, 1990). …

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