Dissertation: Michael Christensen

Cohort 2, published 2011

Title

Does Agreement Matter?: How Supervisor-Subordinate Influence Behavior Agreement/Disagreement Contributes to Supervisor Ratings of Subordinate Effectiveness

Abstract

Leveraging behavior theory, coupled with a self-other-rater data collection process, this non-randomized quantitative study explored how differences in supervisor-subordinate upward influence behavior agreement and non-agreement affected supervisor ratings of subordinate effectiveness. Targets of the study were public college and university vice presidents (supervisors) and their direct reporting middle managers (subordinates). Eighty-one supervisor-subordinate dyads, or 162 individuals, participated in the study. Gathering data from study participants required the use of supervisor and subordinate influence behavior questionnaires (see Yukl, Seifert, & Chavez, 2008). In responding to questions presented in the questionnaires, subordinates provided “self” and supervisors provided “other” ratings on subordinate use of the eleven proactive influence behaviors considered. Previous research has demonstrated that subordinates who lacked an ability to successfully actualize upward influence behaviors diminished their likelihood of obtaining needed resources from supervisors (e.g., Applegate, 1982; Barry & Watson, 1996; Douglas & Gardner, 2004; Ferris, Judge, Rowland, & Fitzgibbons, 1994; Lamude & Scudder, 1995). The inappropriate selection, timing, and use of various upward influence behaviors has also been shown to have a deleterious effect on subordinate job performance ratings (Giacalone, 1985; Schlenker, 1980). As conjectured by Floyd and Wooldridge (1997) and Schilt and Lock (1982), the skillful use of upward influence behaviors by subordinates may be an important factor in the overall success of supervisors and organizations, in addition to subordinates. As few studies have considered supervisor-subordinate influence behavior agreement/non-agreement and its relationship to supervisor ratings of subordinate effectiveness within public institutions of higher education, further investigation of upward influence behavior and leader effectiveness within the context of these organizations was determined appropriate. For three of the influence behaviors investigated (i.e., rational persuasion, inspirational appeals, and consultation), study results identified in-agreement/good and under-estimator subordinates as receiving significantly higher effectiveness ratings than subordinates who were in-agreement/poor or who over-estimated their use of these three influence behaviors. Although the study definitively established a relationship between increased subordinate effectiveness ratings and in-agreement/good and under-estimators, the study’s design did not seek to determine whether supervisors and subordinates were actually aware of the perceptions each held with regard to subordinate use of upward influence behaviors. Only the researcher knew—by analysis of the data—the actual levels of congruency (i.e., agreement/non-agreement) that existed between supervisors and subordinates. The fact that supervisors provided higher effectiveness ratings for subordinates who under-estimated their use of rational persuasion, consultation, and inspirational appeals, suggests that supervisor perceptions of subordinate influence behavior may be more important than actual agreement (i.e., in-agreement/good or in-agreement/poor), as perceptions, rather than realities, may significantly persuade supervisor ratings of subordinate effectiveness.

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