Author(s), Title and Publication
Mikkelson, A. C., Hesse, C., & Sloan, D. (2017). Relational communication messages and employee outcomes in supervisor/employee relationships. Public Relations Review, 43(1), 152-162. DOI: 10.1016/j.pubrev.2016.11.004

Supervisors’ communication with employees can have a substantial influence on their workplace experience. Given this reality, this study’s authors examined how employees perceive relational communication messages from their supervisors, and tested how those relational messages are related to employee outcomes. Previous research has found eight distinct dimensions of relational messages, including affection/involvement, similarity/depth, receptivity/trust, composure, formality, dominance, equality, and task orientation. Intimacy (which includes affection/involvement, similarity/depth, and receptivity/trust) and dominance are the two superordinate dimensions of relational communication. The study’s goals were to explore all relational communication message themes and demonstrate how relational messages are related to specific employee outcomes. Specifically, 307 participants working in various industries in the United States completed measures of relational communication about their direct supervisor along with measures of their job satisfaction, motivation, and organizational commitment.

The results indicated that affection/involvement, similarity/depth, receptivity/trust, equality, and composure had a significant positive relationship to job satisfaction, motivation, and organizational commitment. On the other hand, the study indicated that dominance and formality had a significant negative relationship to job satisfaction, motivation, and organizational commitment. The authors also found that task orientation was not significantly related to any of the three previously mentioned outcomes. These findings suggest that the communication of positive affect and interest (affection/involvement), expressing like attitudes and beliefs with the need for personal disclosure (similarity/depth), combined with a level of comfort (composure) while communicating, were the primary, positive predictors of employee outcomes.

Implications for Practice
Organizations should be aware that (1) the more intimacy (in the form of affection/involvement and similarity/depth) a supervisor displays, the more job satisfaction, motivation, and organizational commitment an employee is likely to experience, (2) the level of relaxation, comfort, and poise that is demonstrated in interactions (referred to as composure) is significantly related to job satisfaction, motivation, and organizational commitment, and (3) supervisors who display dominance may unnecessarily create a negative impact on employee outcomes.

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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