ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2024, Vol. 32 ›› Issue (8): 1287-1301.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2024.01287

• Conceptual Framework • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Changes in leader-member exchange triggered by key events and the related mechanisms

PAN Jingzhou, YANG Wenjing   

  1. College of Management and Economy, Tianjin University, Tianjin 300072, China
  • Received:2023-12-31 Online:2024-08-15 Published:2024-06-05

Abstract: Leader-Member Exchange (LMX) theory postulates that LMX is established through continuous cycles of social exchange where the content and quantity exchanged between parties fluctuate during reciprocal interactions. This dynamic nature implies that the leader-member exchange relationship in organizations is not static but evolves over time and in response to pivotal events. Nonetheless, existing studies lack dynamic exploration into the establishment and development of LMX as well as a comprehensive understanding of changes driven by events.
To address these gaps, this study proposes a theoretical framework that examines how LMX relationships dynamically change in response to key triggering events. We put forth eight propositions and a research agenda. (1) The event strength of direct interactions with leaders will influence the establishment and development of LMX relationships for newcomers, thereby impacting socialization outcomes. (2) The event strength of indirect interactions with leaders will influence the establishment and development of newcomer's LMX relationships, thereby affecting socialization outcomes. (3) The entry of highly skilled newcomers will lower existing employees' LMX levels and negatively impact team performance in the short term. (4) The departure of high-performing employees will lead to changes in the LMX structure within the team and negatively impact team performance in the short term. (5) The strength of external crisis events will result in a U-shaped development trend in LMX relationship quality at both individual and team levels. (6) The strength of external crisis events will increase the level of LMX differences at the team level over time following the crisis. (7) A decline in LMX during a crisis event will lead to emotional exhaustion in individuals, reducing performance; conversely, an improvement in LMX following a crisis event will aid in individual recovery and enhance performance. (8) A decrease in team LMX during a crisis event will reduce team performance; in contrast, an improvement in team LMX post-crisis event will enhance team performance.
This study is the first to preliminarily explore the fundamental trends of LMX relationship changes and the pivotal events that stimulate such changes through a combined approach of deductive theory construction and inductive qualitative research. Building upon systematic investigations, the study suggests to use significant events as a starting point to formulate theories on the dynamic changes in LMX during the establishment and routinization stages, aiming to propel LMX research to a more profound level.
Building on the initial exploration of the fundamental principles of LMX development and the crucial events that prompt such changes, this study suggests to conduct empirical research on the dynamic evolution of LMX at different stages. For the establishment process of LMX, a key emphasis will be placed on the autonomy and actions of new hires in this context. Prior studies have predominantly highlighted leaders' roles in LMX formation, often overlooking the empowerment and decision-making abilities of employees as active participants in the relational exchange. This study aims to investigate employees' perceptions and behaviors during interactions with leaders, considering event-driven changes in LMX, and assessing internal mechanisms that influence the establishment and growth of LMX among newcomers, thus enhancing existing research on the impact of events and employees' agency in LMX dynamics.
Besides, this study also focuses on the routinization phase of LMX, delving into significant internal and external events that drive further LMX variations and patterns from an event-centric viewpoint. The complexity of gathering and analyzing long-term longitudinal data has hindered dynamic research on the routinization stage of LMX, with existing studies confined to specific points in the developmental process where LMX changes occur. To overcome these barriers, this study suggests to utilize cutting-edge data science technologies such as deep learning and natural language processing to mitigate the drawbacks of questionnaire-based LMX research, effectively addressing real-time measurement challenges and capturing evolving changes within the current literature, thereby creating optimal conditions for studying LMX's dynamic evolution. Moreover, objective behavioral records as a measurement basis offer more stability and objectivity compared to individual subjective assessments, surpassing the limitations associated with traditional measurement approaches, such as personal perception discrepancies and inconsistent evaluation outcomes. This interdisciplinary blending of research methodologies not only presents a new lens for future leadership, team, and organizational management studies but also sets a new standard for holistic research practices.

Key words: leader-member exchange, events, changes, role theory

CLC Number: