Topic: Supervisor Communication; Digital Communication in the Workplace

Authors, Title and Publication

Hill, N., Kang, J., & Seo, M. (2014). The interactive effect of leader–member exchange and electronic communication on employee psychological empowerment and work outcomes. Leadership Quarterly25(4), 772-783.


The growth in virtual work arrangements and the increased availability of information and communication technologies have led to an increase in employees’ use of electronic rather than face-to-face communication for interactions with others in their job. Researchers have cautioned that the challenges associated with using a high degree of electronic communication, such as more difficulty establishing a sense of connectedness with others and greater ambiguity and uncertainty in communications might impede the development of positive employee psychological states, and ultimately important work outcomes. Given these challenges, it is important to understand how leaders can promote positive employee psychological states, and positive work attitudes and performance in electronic work environments. In this study, the authors examined the role of leadership in promoting psychological empowerment in employees who use electronic communication in their jobs. Specifically, it tests a theoretical model in which the degree of electronic communication moderates the effect that the leader-member exchange (LMX, the quality of relationship between leaders and followers) has on psychological empowerment and, ultimately, employee work outcomes (job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and job performance).

The researchers conducted a web survey among 353 full-time and early-career professionals employed in a range of different types of organizations to test the model. Results showed that the degree of electronic communication amplified the positive relationship between LMX and employee psychological empowerment. This resulted in a mediated moderation effect in which the indirect effect of LMX on employee work outcomes (job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and job performance) through psychological empowerment was more strongly positive at higher levels of electronic communication. This finding points to the heightened importance of leadership in promoting positive work outcomes in more virtual work environments.

Implications for Practice

1) Organizations should build awareness among supervisors of the important role they can play to ensure effective work outcomes among their employees whose work is characterized by a high degree of electronic communication. 2) Organizations should encourage these supervisors to forge strong relationships with their employees, so that employees feel that they are supported and also valuable members of their organizations. 3) Supervisors should be advised to engage in regular and active communication with their employees who operate in work environments characterized by a high degree of electronic communication.

Location of Article

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

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