Author(s), Title and Publication

Mikkelson, A. C., Sloan, D., & Hesse, C. (2017). The expression of dominance and perceptions of supervisor credibility in supervisor/employee relationships. Communication Research Reports, 34(4), 287-296. DOI: 10.1080/08824096.2017.1340265


Dominance is a fundamental dimension utilized by individuals to help define their relationship. Dominance, which is context bound and dependent on the motives of the individuals, is a communicative act by which power is exerted and influence exercised. Expressions of dominance are central components to relationships at work since supervisors and employees depend on each other to attain their goals. Dominance includes five components: influence (which largely represents one’s persuasiveness), conversation control (having more and longer turns at talking), focus/poise (social skill of the communicator), panache (strong presence through a dramatic and expressive style), and self-assurance (captures a sense of arrogance or brashness). To examine how supervisors’ messages of dominance are related to perceptions of supervisor credibility, the authors of this study explored the idea of interpersonal dominance and examined perceptions of credibility and its dimensions of competence (expertise, intelligence, and knowledge), goodwill (caring and responsiveness), and trustworthiness (character, honesty, and integrity).

This study, which surveyed 303 participants working in various industries in the United States, showed that influence and focus/poise both share a positive relationship with perceptions of supervisor credibility. Importantly, they both served as the strongest indicators of competence, goodwill, and trustworthiness. Conversational control was negatively related to goodwill and trustworthiness but not competence. It appears that too much control of the conversation, too much time talking, or even not allowing time and space for employees to share input is related to reduced perceptions of goodwill and trustworthiness. Self-assurance was weakly related to goodwill.

Implications for Practice

Organizations should be aware that (1) more-dominant supervisors (especially those that communicate influence and focus/poise) are perceived to be more credible than supervisors who do not display dominance, and (2) conversational control could communicate a lack of openness or receptivity, and therefore, supervisors may want to be thoughtful about allowing time and space for their employees to share input.

Location of Article

This article is available online at: (abstract free, purchase full article)

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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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