Topic: Supervisor Communication

Authors, Title and Publication
Mayfield, J., & Mayfield, M. (2012). The relationship between leader motivating language and self-efficacy: A partial least squares model analysis. Journal of Business Communication, 49(4), 357-376.

This study examined the nature and processes of the relationships between leader motivating language and its effects on employee self-efficacy and performance. Motivation language theory proposes that strategic leader speech can positively influence employee affective states and hence, motivation and behavioral outcomes through engagement of these three distinctive speech acts: 1) Empathetic (illocutionary) language takes place when a leader shares concern for the emotional well-being of a direct report and uses empathetic speech to convey a genuine sense of humanity to an employee; 2) direction-giving (perlocutionary) language happens when leaders articulate performance expectations and assist with guidance on task achievement; and 3) meaning-making (locutionary) language occurs when leaders share organizational, cultural interpretations with their direct reports. The researchers intended to investigate how such motivating language influences employee performance.

A partial least squares model analysis was conducted to analyze the data gathered from a primarily female group of 151 health care professionals. Results showed that leader motivating language demonstrated a positive and significant effect on employee self-efficacy. Leader motivating language use also positively influenced employee performance. Employee self-efficacy demonstrated a positive and significant
effect on performance as well. Specifically, the partial least squares model results revealed that employee self-efficacy would be 34% higher with increased levels of leader motivating language. Employee performance would grow by 20% with higher motivating language speech. Employees with higher levels of self-efficacy would perform 10% better than in those cases when self-efficacy is lessened.

Implications for Practice
Organizations should 1) provide training and resources for leaders to help them persuade, motivate, and facilitate employee thoughts and behaviors through transmission of vision, rhetoric, strategic communication choice, and symbols; 2) help leaders build and maintain a motivating language vocabulary; and 3) empower employees to improve employee performance.

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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