Topic: Leadership Communication and Employee Burnout

Author(s), Title and Publication

Jian, G. (2012). Revisiting the Association of LMX Quality With Perceived Role Stressors: Evidence for Inverted U Relationships Among Immigrant Employees. Communication Research.


This study examined the relationship between leader-member exchange (LMX) quality and organizational members’ role stress (role ambiguity, role conflict, and role overload). LMX theory suggests that leaders develop differential relationships with their subordinates; high quality LMX relationships are characterized by mutual respect and support, and low quality LMX relationships characterized by contractual and economic exchange of performance. According to role dynamic theory, organizational members can be defined from the perspective of roles, or the directions and expectations they receive from others. Role stressors are important causes of work-related stress; they include uncertainty about what should be accomplished in the job (role ambiguity), inconsistent role requirements (role conflict), and work that’s too much or too difficult (role overload).

A survey was conducted among immigrant employees (n=235) to measure their LMX quality, role ambiguity, role conflict, and role overload. Findings indicated that employees perceived less role ambiguity when they have higher LMX quality. An inverted “U” relationship between LMX quality and role conflict and role overload also was found. This means as LMX quality increases, employees’ perceptions of role conflict and role overload increase first, but then decrease after reaching a critical point, i.e., when leader-member relationships are mature and leaders better understand employees’ abilities. The study also found that 1) male employees perceive higher role conflict than do female employees, and 2) higher levels of role stress are likely to lead to higher turnover rates.

Implications for Practice

Employees experience the highest level of role conflict and role overload when leader-member relationship is at a moderate level. Like many other studies, this one reinforces the importance of positive and respectful relationships between leaders and subordinates. Leaders can help their employees or members reduce stress by providing encouragement and timely feedback, among other actions.

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.
Follow on Twitter

Leave a Reply