Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Mean Leader–member Exchange and Team Voice: Roles of Team Task Reflexivity and Perspective Taking

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Mean Leader–member Exchange and Team Voice: Roles of Team Task Reflexivity and Perspective Taking

Article excerpt

The current prevalence of work groups and the need for organizations to adapt to dynamic work environments mean that it is necessary for team leaders to support and promote team voice (Frazier & Bowler, 2015; LePine & Van Dyne, 1998; Morrison, Wheeler-Smith, & Kamdar, 2011), which involves work group members making constructive suggestions for improvement to their direct supervisor (Frazier & Bowler, 2015). The focus in prior studies of various forms of leader behavior, such as authentic leadership (e.g., Walumbwa & Schaubroeck, 2009), transformational leadership (e.g., Detert & Burris, 2007; Liu, Zhu, & Yang, 2010), and supervisor undermining (e.g., Frazier & Bowler, 2015), has largely been on issues arising from the leaders' important role in encouraging employees to voice their thoughts. However, few researchers have examined the influence of the quality of the relationship between leaders and their team on team voice behavior.

Leader-member exchange (LMX) relates to how leaders develop different exchange relationships with individual subordinates (Scandura & Graen, 1984). In contrast, the mean level of leader-member exchange (MLMX) is conceptualized as the relationship quality that a group leader develops with the team as a whole (Nishii & Mayer, 2009). Van Dyne, Kamdar, and Joireman (2008) examined the relationship between LMX and employee voice, but their focus was at an individual level, whereas team voice reflects team members' collective thoughts (Frazier & Bowler, 2015; LePine & Van Dyne, 1998). Team voice is more likely to be accepted by, and valuable to, the organization because collective suggestions appear more legitimate and informative than those put forward by an individual (Frazier & Bowler, 2015). Therefore, my main objective in this study was to build and test a theoretical model linking MLMX to team voice.

In building this model, I drew on social exchange theory (SET; Blau, 1964) to assess the potential mediating mechanism of team task reflexivity, which is defined as "the extent to which group members overtly reflect upon, and communicate about the group's objectives, strategies (e.g., decision making), and processes (e.g., communication), and adapt them to current or anticipated circumstances" (West, Garrod, & Carletta, 1997, p. 296). According to SET, team leaders characterized by high MLMX signal to their team members that their contributions are valued and that the leaders care for their well-being. In return, team members feel obliged to reciprocate through engaging in task reflexivity to achieve collective goals (Graen & Uhl-Bien, 1995), and they feel psychologically safe when engaging in risky behavior, such as voicing their thoughts. Thus, I first examined the MLMX-team task reflexivity-team voice process, based on SET.

I was also interested in the conditions under which MLMX may lead to particularly beneficial advice for leaders regarding how to increase team effectiveness; thus, I examined the potential moderating role of team perspective taking. Perspective taking, defined as the imaginative tendency to put oneself in another person's place, has been hypothesized to be critical for team cooperation and sharing (Hoever, van Knippenberg, van Ginkel, & Barkema, 2012; Parker & Axtell, 2001). According to SET, if team members can take into account the viewpoint of others, teammates will reciprocate with positive feedback (Grant & Berry, 2011). Shared understanding is particularly beneficial for team leaders who have a high-quality relationship with their team, to organize team members engaging in team task reflection (Grant & Berry, 2011; Hoever et al., 2012; Parker & Axtell, 2001).

Using SET, I developed a model to test if MLMX has a positive effect on team voice, team task reflexivity mediates the relationship between MLMX and team voice, and perspective taking plays a positively moderating role on the relationship between MLMX and team task reflexivity. …

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