As we work with our managers and leaders, we begin to develop a level of trust between us. The employee trusts the leader will be good and fair, and the leader also develops trust in the employee's ability to do his job.
Blending of Roles
Many of us are lucky enough to have a person we work with that we trust a great deal. That person that does the work and gets the results we want. Many managers have that person on their team, and they look to that person for help in getting all the work done. Many managers do not have to manage that particular person too closely; they have developed a bond or a trust with that person.
Now, there are also people that we do not trust as much or have as good of a relationship with. Those individuals are people that work for a manager but with whom the manager does not feel a connection with or have a sense of confidence in that they will get the work done the right way.
What we are talking about here is the basis of leader-member exchange theory, which is a theory that explains how managers develop relationships with team members. Those relationships can be good relationships or bad ones, so let us look at what makes up leader-member exchange theory.
The Part of the Theory
Several different parts or concepts are present in leader-member exchange theory. Actually, they kind of work in steps from the first part to the last and explain or show how the relationship between the employee or the manager is formed.
- Role taking: This is the first step, if you will. In this step, the manager and the employee meet, and the manager starts to assess the abilities of the employee.
- Role making: In this step, team members begin working on projects, and the manager begins to see how devoted they are to the work that needs to be done. Managers expect employees to work hard, be loyal and also be trustworthy. Thus, during this stage, managers, whether they know it or not, begin to separate employees into two different groups.
The first group is called the in-group. Very simply, this is the group the manager trusts. They start to get more challenging roles, and there is more give and take as it relates to communication. The manager, we could say, trusts the members in this group and begins to bond with them.
Then, we have the out-group, or the group the manager does not really trust. Since the manager does not trust the members in this group as much, their work is less challenging and less critical, and the communication is more directive than give and take. The manager tells these employees what he or she wants done, whereas with the in-group, there is more discussion relating to tasks.
And this all leads to routinization. Once all the role taking and role making is done and in- and out-groups are formed, the teams fall into a routine. They have established norms they follow and begin to work together more cohesively as they are now used to not only working together but how the manager wants to work with them (depending on if they are in the in-group or out-group).
There is an old saying that the whole is the sum of the parts. If that is the case and each department in a company has the leader-member exchange theory present, then all those departments roll up to shape the entire company and how the company runs. That directly impacts organizational behavior. In its most basic form, the manager is selecting members for in-groups and out-groups, and those decisions affect how the individual department will run. Each department doing this then impacts how the company will run and thus affects organizational behavior.
Leader-member exchange theory is a part of business. Whether we know it or not, it happens all the time. Think about how long you've worked for your manager and how the relationship has evolved. Based on what we've discussed here, are you in the in-group or out-group? The fact is you might not really know, but this theory is very real and occurs in an ongoing basis.
When you joined the company, you went through the role-taking portion of this theory, then proceeded to the role-making portion based on your work and how your manager viewed you. Finally, you fell into a routine with your manager that shapes your relationship with him or her. If you pay attention to the phases of this theory and take the time to realize where you are as it relates to the phases, you could potentially move up the ladder at your organization or fix what you might perceive as a bad relationship with your boss.
Studying this video lesson could provide you with the capacity to:
- Name the two parts of the leader-member exchange theory
- Identify the role that this theory plays in the workplace and recognize its importance
- Differentiate between in-group and out-group
- Provide the meaning of routinization