This summary is provided by the IPR Organizational Communication Research Center.

Supervisors use a variety of communication strategies when talking to employees, which can influence employee workplace experience. Dominance is understood as a set of communicative acts in which power is exerted and influence exercised. Even though dominance has a negative connotation, it can be an effective communication strategy. The authors of this study argued that dominant communicators signal their dynamic, confident, and expressive characters. They are also viewed as more relaxed and composed while exerting leadership and influence. Dominance encompasses five components: influence (i.e., supervisors use clear and direct persuasive communication), conversational control (i.e., supervisors control conversations through floor dominance, signaling a lack of openness and receptivity), focus/poise (i.e., supervisors demonstrate social skills in communicating), panache (i.e., supervisor communicate with a dramatic style), and self-assurance (i.e., a sense of brashness, which could be interpreted as confidence or arrogance depending on the context). This study examined how supervisors’ expressions of dominance can be related to key employee outcomes, including job satisfaction, motivation, organizational commitment, empowerment, personal accomplishment, and burnout.

The authors conducted two online surveys to explore the proposed relationships. Amazon Mechanical Turk was used to collect data. The first survey included 307 participants with an average age of 33 years (55% female and 45% male), and the second study included 303 participants with an average of 34 years (47% female and 53% male). All participants were employed at least 20 hours a week and worked with a direct supervisor.

Key Findings
1.) Supervisors’ signals of influence and focus/poise were primary drivers of positive employee outcomes.
2.) Conversational control strongly predicted employee burnout (exhaustion and cynicism).
3.) High self-assurance without influence likely reduced employee job satisfaction, motivation, and organizational commitment.
4.) Panache negatively influenced job satisfaction and motivation.

Implications for practice
Organizations should train supervisors on how to 1) effectively employ dominance to generate positive employee outcomes, 2) signal influence and focus/poise, 3) avoid conversational control, and 4) limit the use of panache and self-assurance.

Mikkelson, A. C., & Sloan, D. (2020). The expression of supervisor dominance and employee outcomes. Communication Quarterly, 68(3), 1-24.

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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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