What do values have to do with it?: an exploration into the moderating impact of work values on the relationship between leader-member-exchange and work satisfaction.

Author:Monahan, Kelly


The study of employee satisfaction and managerial influence continues to remain important in today's volatile marketplace. Recently released data shows that U.S. job satisfaction is at an all-time low, with less than 50% of employees satisfied within their role (Consumer Research Center of The Conference Board, 2010). The literature notes that a contributing or detracting factor to one's satisfaction is an employee's direct supervisor (Robie, Ryan, Schmieder, Parra, & Smith, 1998). The social science field contains numerous studies expanding the literature regarding the relationship between work satisfaction and leadership. Specifically, research has found that leader-member exchange (LMX), which is the quality of one's relationship with his or her direct supervisor directly, influences ones satisfaction at work (eg. Graen, Novak & Sommerkamp, 1982; Graen, Orris & Johnson, 19731; Scandura & Graen, 1984). However, a compelling influence to this relationship, which has largely been ignored within the literature are followers' values. Human nature is comprised of innate values, which influence the way one is satisfied in their job (Schwartz, 1994). These values are the lens, which interprets ones relationship with his or her supervisor. Therefore, it is necessary for both employees as well as supervisors to understand the implications that followers' values have on understanding the level of relationship with his or her supervisor and the impact it may have on their work satisfaction.

However, few studies examine the impact that one's values have on the relationship between leader-member exchange and work satisfaction. Callum's (2011) study found a positive relationship between leader-member-exchange, job satisfaction and one's psychological contract fulfillment. However, an employee's psychological contract may vary from workplace to workplace depending upon the agreed expectations. Therefore, it is necessary to continue to explore ones values, which are fairly consistent throughout one's life and not dependent upon a work environment (Schwartz, 1994). Graen et al. (1982) empirical research explored the relationship between an employee's growth need strength and LMX. Moreover, while growth need strength may derive from ones values, this limited scope allows for little discussion surrounding the impact of an employee's value set. Schyns, Kroon, and Moors (2008) note that few studies consider follower characteristics, such as values, within the LMX construct. Their study also measured the impact of followers' growth need strength, extraversion, and locus of control. However, employees' values are not discussed nor measured within the study. Questions remain such as, why are certain employees more satisfied with their supervisor and organization than others are? Why do certain employees' relationships with the supervisor have greater influence on their job satisfaction compared to others? Ros, Schwartz and Surkiss (1999) point out the gap within the literature that exists concerning one's values and its impact within the workplace in addressing questions such as these.

This study is an attempt to understand and clarify the moderating role of individual work values on the relationship between leader-member exchange and work satisfaction within the American workforce. Though previous studies have noted that the quality of a leader's relationship with an employee influences work satisfaction, few have examined the moderation effect of individual work values. Within the model, an employee's work values are predicted to moderate the relationship between leader-member-exchange and employee work satisfaction. A quantitative study, using data collected from 122 participants further elaborates on the relationship between the influence of leader-member exchange on employee work satisfaction and the moderating role of work values. The research question under consideration is do individual work values moderate the relationship between leader-member exchange dimensions and employee work satisfaction.


Leader-Member Exchange Theory

Leader-member-exchange (LMX) theory is a relatively contemporary theory within leadership studies. Many leadership theories solely focus on the behaviors of the leader, rather than also noting the followers' involvement. Dansereau, Graen, and Haga (1975) originated the construct when introducing the vertical dyad linkage (VDL) theory. VDL evolved into LMX theory with the emphasis on a leader's relationship with each individual organizational member (Graen & Scandura, 1987). The central focus of the theory is understanding the relationship that exists between the supervisor and employee as well as the exchanges that take place over time between the two.

How do individual relationships form between leader and employee, and how do they differ across organizational members? It has been suggested that these relationships form based on "personal compatibility and subordinate competence and dependability" (Yukl, 2006, p. 117). Dienesch and Linden (1986) argue that each behave based on the amount of resources one puts forth into the relationship. "For example, the leader may offer increased job latitude or delegation to the member, and the member may offer strong commitment to work goals or high levels of effort and performance to the leader" (Bauer & Green, 1996, p. 1538). However, a leader has only a limited amount of resources to dispense upon individual followers. Therefore, Green, Anderson, and Shivers (1996) note the disparity between what is considered high-level exchanges and lower-level exchanges. For example, those relationships between leader and follower that exhibit mutual respect and trust will evolve into higher quality relationships. Whereas, those that evolve based on obligation of organizational employment will experience a lower quality relationship (Liden, Sparrowe & Wayne, 1997).

Since the origination of LMX theory, a growing body of research has been conducted to determine the outcomes of LMX theory. Many of the studies confirm that a follower's relationship with the leader is crucial to one's work experience (Graen & Cashman, 1975; Graen & Uhl-Bien, 1995). One of the noteworthy outcomes supported in the literature is that leader-member exchange is related to subordinate satisfaction (Graen, Novak & Sommerkamp, 1982; Graen, Orris & Johnson, 19731; Scandura & Graen, 1984). Liden and Maslyn's studies (1998) also have found a significant correlation between LMX and job satisfaction. In addition, few studies exist surrounding the influence that LMX has on the different factors of job satisfaction, intrinsic and extrinsic. Springer (2006) explored the relationship of overall LMX and its varying influence on either extrinsic or intrinsic job satisfaction. Two questions under consideration are does LMX dimensions positively correlate with job satisfaction and do these factors of LMX differ on their impact between extrinsic and intrinsic motivators of job satisfaction.

Individual Job Satisfaction

Locke et al. (2001) describes job satisfaction as the gratifying state one experiences while on the job. Fields (2002) defines job satisfaction, "as an employee's affective reactions to a job based on comparing actual outcomes with desired outcomes" (p. 1). Westover et al (2010) note that when expectations are met or exceeded, employee job satisfaction is often high. Work satisfaction is known to not only impact one's work life, but also one's personal life as well (Judge & Watanable, 1993)...

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