Authors, Title and Publication

McWorthy, L., & Henningsen, D. D. (2014). Looking at favorable and unfavorable superior-subordinate relationships through dominance and affiliation lenses. International Journal of Business Communication51(2), 123-137.

Using relational framing theory, this study examined factors that influence judgments subordinates make about the quality of their supervisors. According to this theory, two dimensions—dominance-submission and affiliation-disaffiliation—guide any social interaction. Dominance-submission reflects the degree to which an interaction is guided by establishing authority, control, or power over another individual or yielding such authority, control, or power to another. Affiliation-disaffiliation, on the other hand, reflects the extent to which an interaction is guided by appreciation, respect, or high regard for another individual or the lack thereof. The authors predicted that how employees rate their superiors along the dominance-submission and affiliation-disaffiliation continuums would affect their evaluation of their superiors (i.e., favorable vs. unfavorable).

Through a survey of 363 working adults in the United States, results revealed that perceptions of superiors’ quality are influenced by judgments about the activation of the affiliation-disaffiliation frame in the relationship. Specifically, superiors who were viewed as good bosses by the respondents produced higher ratings of affiliation-disaffiliation relevance judgments than did those perceived as bad bosses. However, dominance-submission relevance judgments were unrelated to perceptions of superiors’ quality. Additionally, the study showed that gender of subordinates or gender of superior does not affect subordinates’ perceptions of dominance or affiliation in the superior-subordinate relationship.

Implications for Practice

1) Leaders should show appreciation, respect, and high regard to subordinates to cultivate quality supervisor-subordinate relationships. 2) Supervisors as leaders are expected to exert authority, control, and power in their position. Leaders being dominant will not directly affect subordinates’ evaluation of the leader. 3) Organizations should provide leadership training to supervisors and foster a culture of appreciation, care, and respect for employees.

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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