Author(s), Title and Publication

Madlock, P. E., & Hildebrand Clubbs, B. (2019, in press). The Influence of Supervisors’ Use of Motivating Language in Organizations Located in India. International Journal of Business Communication.


Motivating Language Theory describes three communication styles leaders use to motivate employees. Specifically, motivating language (ML) includes using direction-giving language (i.e., give clear directions to subordinates to reduce uncertainty about tasks), empathetic language (i.e., show empathy and concern to subordinates), and meaning-making language (i.e., introduce organizations’ culture, values, and missions to subordinates). This study looked at how leaders in India utilize motivating language and, more specifically, how the culture of India affects the employment of ML, which form of ML is primarily used, and in what way ML is related to subordinates’ perception of leaders’ communication competence as well as subordinates’ job satisfaction. To address their research questions, the authors recruited 180 employees born and living in India. The average age of respondents was 36, and about 37.8% were female.

The results showed that in general, Indian subordinates rated their leaders relatively low in using ML. The authors speculated that leaders in India may be engaging in other forms of communication, which are commonly found in high-context cultures such as India, where communication is transmitted in a nonverbal manner. Second, the study found that the more ML leaders employed, the higher employees reported on leaders’ communication competence and their own job satisfaction, which is in line with studies conducted with U.S employees. Third, the findings show that direction-giving language is the most utilized type of ML among leaders and is strongly related with perceived leader communication competence and employee job satisfaction. Last, culture plays a key role in the use of ML by Indian supervisors. Specifically, India is high in power distance, meaning there is a general appreciation for hierarchy in society and organization. Thus, subordinates prefer clear directions and instructions from their leaders. The moderately collectivistic culture in India also indicates that the benefit of the collective/organization is put ahead of individual welfare. Therefore, leaders do not feel that it is necessary to use empathetic language with subordinates as compared to using direction-giving language. Additionally, India is high in uncertainty avoidance, meaning people generally avoid uncertainty in their life and career, which could cause favorability toward communication that reduces uncertainty in work.

Implications for Practice

Managers working in India should 1) be able to communicate knowledge and skills related to tasks (i.e., use direction-giving language). 2) Human resources should train managers bound for India to  use direction-giving language to simplify work-related issues and reduce job ambiguity. 3) Managers from the U.S. entering India should be prepared to adjust to local culture through culture training.

Location of Article

This 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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