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Journal of Business and Psychology, Vol. 21, No. 2, Winter 2006 (2006) DOI: 10.


California State University, San Marcos

Thomas Sy Judy Strauss

California State University, Long Beach

ABSTRACT: This study investigated the relationships between leader responsiveness to employee requests and employee attitudes and behaviors in a sample of managers and their subordinates. Additionally, the study investigated the moderating effect of an individual difference variable (equity sensitivity), on the relationships between leader responsiveness and employee attitudes and behaviors. Leader responsiveness related signicantly with job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and organizational citizenship behavior. Furthermore, equity sensitivity moderated the relationships between leader responsiveness and job satisfaction. Entitleds reported lower job satisfaction when manager fulllment of employee requests was low than did Benevolents, whereas differences were minimal when manager request fulllment was high. Implications of the ndings were discussed. KEY WORDS: leader responsiveness; equity sensitivity.

INTRODUCTION Employee attitudes and behaviors have occupied the attention of organizational scholars and practitioners for decades (e.g., Locke, 1976). Numerous studies including meta-analyses (e.g., Mathieu & Zajac, 1990) and literature reviews (see Meyer & Allen, 1997; Spector, 1997 for recent

Address correspondence to Ted Shore, College of Business Administration, California State University, San Marcos, 333 S. Twin Oaks Valley Rd, , San Marcos, CA, 92096 USA. E-mail: tshore@csusm.edu 227
0889-3268/06/1200-0227/0 2006 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc.



reviews) have examined various employee work attitudes. Because of their criticality to organizational effectiveness (e.g., Ostroff, 1992) there is a need to learn more about the antecedents of employee work attitudes and behaviors. In the current study, social exchange (e.g., Blau, 1964) and equity theories (e.g., Adams, 1965) converge to explain the impact of one situational variable (leader responsiveness to employee requests) and one individual difference variable (equity sensitivity) on work attitudes and behaviors. In the current study, we rst examine direct relationships between one type of employee/manager exchange (responsiveness to employee requests) and employee attitudes and behaviors. We believe that request fulllment represents an important but neglected component of the manager/subordinate relationship. A second purpose of the current study is to explore how equity sensitivity moderates the relationships between leader responsiveness to employee requests and employee attitudes and behaviors. Equity sensitivity is derived from recent extensions of equity theory (Adams, 1965), and posits that individuals vary in their reactions to situations involving perceived equity or inequity (Huseman, Hateld, & Miles, 1985, 1987). To date, no known studies have investigated the interactive relationships between the employee/manager exchange relationship, equity sensitivity, and employee attitudes and behaviors. Social Exchange Theory: Leader Responsiveness to Employee Requests Social exchange theory (Blau, 1964) provides a general framework for understanding how employee perceptions of leader responsiveness to requests impacts employee attitudes and behaviors. The theory posits that a norm of reciprocity develops between individuals in organizations (Gouldner, 1960; Rousseau, 1989). According to the norm of reciprocity, a pattern of reciprocal obligation develops when one party provides another with a benet. To date, research on social exchange has been silent on the issue of who initiates the exchange between the employee and manager (Eisenberger, Stinglhamber, Vandenberghe, Sucharski, & Rhoades, 2002; Kottke & Sharanski, 1988). Unlike other types of exchange in which the employee may be a relatively passive participant (i.e., receive rewards without asking), in the current study we are interested in leaders responsiveness when employees initiate the exchange process by making requests for particular benets (e.g., promotion) and/or desired resources (e.g., training opportunity). Prior research has not investigated how employees react when managers grant, deny or ignore their requests for various benets and resources. It is likely that the managers response to their subordinates requests over time will affect employees sense of fairness and subsequent attitudes and behaviors (Folger & Greenberg, 1985). Thus, we



expect that when managers respond favorably to employee requests, this will result in subordinate attitudes and behaviors which enhance the employee/manager relationship. Conversely, a negative (or lack of) response to employee requests should result in attitudes and behaviors counter to a favorable relationship. Our rationale for this prediction is that employees are most likely to initiate requests for things that matter to them and to view their managers response as indicative of their value to the manager and organization. Therefore, denial of a request(s) is likely to have an even greater negative impact on an employees attitudes/behaviors than when employees fail to receive benets they never requested. Our rationale is supported by researchers who have argued that positive discretionary actions by the organization are seen by employees as evidence that the organization cares about their well-being (Eisenberger, Huntington, Hutchison, & Sowa, 1986; Shore & Shore, 1995). Since the manager is often a source of discretionary rewards such as salary increases, bonuses, and training opportunities (e.g., Wayne, Shore, & Liden, 1997), we argue that when managers respond favorably to employee requests (a discretionary act), employees are likely to develop a favorable perception of the managers concern for their wellbeing, resulting in favorable work attitudes/behaviors (e.g., Uhl-Bien, Graen, & Scandura, 2000). The current study tests the relationships between leader responsiveness to employee requests and work attitudes (job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and turnover intention) as well as work behaviors (organizational citizenship behavior, and job performance). These work attitudes and behaviors were selected as our focus due to their prominent role in organizational research. Given the lack of prior empirical research on leader responsiveness, we rely on the theoretical framework presented above as well as empirical evidence from the social exchange literature to support our hypotheses. Studies have shown that perceptions of a positive exchange relationship have been found to relate to job satisfaction (e.g., Masterson, Lewis, Goldman, & Taylor, 2000), organizational commitment (e.g., Liden, Sparrowe, & Wayne, 1997; Manogram & Conlon, 1993; Rhoades, Eisenberger, & Armeli, 2001), and turnover intentions (e.g., Eisenberger et al., 2002; Manogram & Conlon, 1993; Wayne et al., 1997). Research also has found evidence that the quality of the relationship between the manager and subordinate is related to organizational citizenship behavior (e.g., Manogram & Conlon, 1993; Masterson et al., 2000; Wayne et al., 1997) and job performance (Liden et al., 1997; Wayne et al., 1997; Wayne, Shore, Bommer, & Tetrick, 2002). Thus, based on theory as well as empirical support for the relationships between manager/subordinate exchange and work attitudes and behaviors, we expect the following:



Hypothesis 1: Leader responsiveness to employee requests will relate positively to job satisfaction, organizational commitment, organizational citizenship behavior, and job performance, and negatively to turnover intention.

Equity Sensitivity In addition to evaluating direct effects of leader responsiveness on work attitudes and behaviors, this study investigates the moderating effect of equity sensitivity on those relationships. Equity theory is rooted in the idea of social exchange and suggests that individuals develop perceptions of how fairly they are treated by comparing their outcomes and inputs to that of relevant others (Adams, 1965). Equity theory has been criticized for failing to recognize that individual differences exist in how individuals perceive and react to situations involving equity (e.g., Vecchio, 1981). Consequently, Huseman et al. (1985, 1987) proposed the concept of equity sensitivity in which individuals have differential reactions to situations involving perceived equity or inequity. According to their theory, there are three types of individuals. Benevolent individuals are described as givers who dislike being on the receiving end of a social exchange (Greenberg & Westcott, 1983; Huseman et al., 1985, 1987). Entitled individuals, on the other hand, prefer to be on the receiving end of a social exchange, and focus mainly on maximizing their outcomes (e.g., pay) (Huseman et al., 1987; King, Miles, & Day, 1993). They have been described as getters (Huseman et al., 1987) who have a sense of entitlement and a high threshold for feeling indebted (Greenberg & Westcott, 1983). Equity Sensitive individuals fall between these two extremes and are believed to adhere to traditional equity theory tenets, having a preference for equality between their outcome/ input ratios and that of others. A number of empirical studies have demonstrated that equity sensitivity predicts a variety of work outcomes. For example, research has shown that Benevolents receive higher ratings on job performance (Bing & Burroughs, 2001), report greater organizational commitment and job satisfaction, and lower levels of intentions to leave the organization (e.g., King & Miles, 1994) than Entitleds. Benevolents have also demonstrated a willingness to work harder for the same or less pay (Miles, Hateld, & Huseman, 1989), and scored higher on organizational citizenship behavior than Entitleds (Kickul & Lester, 2001). Furthermore, studies have found that Benevolents place greater emphasis on intrinsic outcomes, whereas Entitleds emphasize extrinsic outcomes (Miles et al., 1989; Miles, Hateld, & Huseman, 1994). Benevolents have also been found to be more tolerant of inequity (Huseman et al., 1985; King et al.,



1993; Shore, 2004) and have less negative affect toward the organization (Kickul & Lester, 2001) than Entitleds. Two studies have investigated the possible interaction between equity sensitivity and other organizational variables. ONeill and Mone (1998) found that equity sensitivity moderated the relationship between self-efcacy and several work attitudes, and Kickul and Lester (2001) reported an interaction between equity sensitivity and psychological contract breaches of intrinsic and extrinsic outcomes. In the current study, we expect individuals who receive few fullled requests from their manager (low leader responsiveness) and have an entitled orientation to have less favorable work attitudes and behaviors than individuals with a benevolent orientation. Since Entitleds expect more than Benevolents in general (Greenberg & Westcott, 1983; Huseman et al., 1985, 1987), they are expected to react more negatively (i.e., feel unfairly treated) when their requests are not granted. By contrast, since Benevolents have greater tolerance for under-reward (Huseman et al., 1985; King & Miles, 1994; King et al., 1993; Miles et al., 1994; Shore, 2004), they should react less negatively to unfullled requests. On the other hand, when the manager is highly responsive, Entitleds and Benevolents should not differ signicantly in their work attitudes and behaviors. Empirical research has shown that highly rewarded Benevolents and Entitleds are more satised than when they are under-rewarded (Miles et al., 1994; Shore, 2004). Therefore, for Entitleds we expect that work attitudes and behaviors will be more favorable when leader responsiveness is high than when it is low. By contrast, for Benevolents we expect that work attitudes and behaviors will be relatively unaffected (i.e., uniformly high) by the level of leader responsiveness. Thus, we hypothesize that: Hypothesis 2 : Leader responsiveness will have a more positive impact on job satisfaction, organizational commitment, organizational citizenship behavior, and job performance, and a more negative impact on turnover intentions for Entitleds than for Benevolents.

METHODS Sample and Procedures The sample consisted of 231 managers (198 men, 33 women) and 339 of their subordinates (274 men, 65 women) working for a large multinational transportation rm in the southeastern United States. Managers rated between one and nine employees each, but the majority (81%) rated only one employee. Managers and their employees were matched



by means of an employee identication number. The average age of the employees was 44 years and that of the managers was 48.4 years. The average job tenure for employees was 9.6 years, and the average organizational tenure was 18.6 years; for managers, these averages were 7.6 and 24.9 years, respectively. The subordinates held a variety of positions such as mechanics, maintenance workers, and supervisors. The present research was part of a larger organizational survey for which a random stratied (by age and tenure) sample of 1071 employees representing all levels and job types in the organization were contacted by mail and asked to participate. Potential respondents were asked to complete four surveys over a 2-year period. Slightly fewer than half of them (N = 441, 41%) agreed to do so. The present research used data from the third survey administration. Measures Measures for the main variables of interest were obtained from two sources. Employees provided self-reports of demographic information, requests made and those requests granted by their immediate manager, affective commitment, job satisfaction, and turnover intention. Ratings of employee organizational citizenship behavior and job performance were assessed by their immediate manager. All measures (unless otherwise noted) used a 5-point Likert-type scale where 1 represented strongly disagree and 5 corresponded to strongly agree. Demographics Employees reported their gender, age, and the number of years of formal education they possessed. Leader Responsiveness An initial list of 20 items that employees might request from their manager was developed by the researchers through discussion with the organization. Our goal was to create an unambiguous list of items so that employees could readily report which of these items they had requested from their manager in the past year, and which of those items requested were granted by their manager. Our analysis showed that only seven of these items were requested with sufcient frequency to warrant inclusion in the analysis of leader responsiveness; the remaining items were excluded from further analysis. The included items were focused on pay increase, promotion, training opportunities, changes in job procedures, feedback on job performance, more support for doing the job (e.g., equipment), and support for personal problems (e.g., time off). The percentage of employees requesting these items ranged from 17% (promotion) to 36% (changes in job procedures/polices). Examples of items that



were excluded included revision in performance standards, opportunity to train others, and retirement counseling. An index of leader responsiveness to employee requests was constructed by dividing the number of items granted by the number of items requested, yielding a possible range of scores from 0 to 100%. Equity Sensitivity A ve-item scale developed by Huseman et al. (1985, 1987) was used to assess equity sensitivity. For each item respondents divide 10 points between a benevolent and an entitled response option. Points assigned to the ve benevolent options are summed yielding a possible score range from 0 to 50. A sample item from the ESI is In any organization I might work for, it would be more important for me to: (a) get from the organization, (b) give to the organization. Studies have demonstrated adequate reliability of the ESI (King & Miles, 1994; Miles et al., 1989); in this study coefcient alpha was .76. Organizational Commitment We used Meyer and Allens (1984) eight-item measure (alpha = .87) of affective commitment. A sample item from the measure is This organization has a great deal of personal meaning to me. Job Satisfaction Three global items (alpha = .81) were used to assess job satisfaction (from Seashore, Lawler, Mirvis, & Cammann, 1982). A sample item from the measure is All in all, I am satised with my job. Turnover Intention A single global item (How likely is it you will look for another job outside of your organization within the next year?) was used to measure turnover intention on a scale ranging from 1 (not at all likely) to 5 (extremely likely). This item was developed by the researchers when developing the original survey. Organizational Citizenship Behavior Organizational citizenship behavior was assessed with the Altruism scale (seven items, alpha = .88) developed by Smith, Organ, and Near (1983). A sample item was Volunteers to do things not formally required on the job. Job Performance A global one-item measure was used to measure job performance (How would you rate the employees job performance?) on a scale ranging from 1 (consistently below expectations) to 5 (consistently



exceeds expectations). This item was developed by the researchers when developing the original survey.

RESULTS Table 1 displays descriptive statistics and intercorrelations among the variables. Consistent with past research, equity sensitivity is positively correlated with job satisfaction and organizational commitment, and negatively correlated with turnover intentions. As predicted in hypothesis one, leader-responsiveness is positively correlated with job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and organizational citizenship behavior, and negatively correlated with turnover intentions. However, no relationship exists between leader responsiveness and job performance. In addition to intercorrelations, we tested the hypotheses using hierarchical regression. Similar to past studies (e.g., ONeill & Mone, 1998), we control for gender, age, and education level in the regression analysis. Following Cohen and Cohen (1983), we entered gender, age, and education level in step 1, followed by leader responsiveness as the main effect in step 2. We used pairwise deletion of missing data, resulting in a useable sample of 257 respondents. Results of the hierarchical regressions for hypothesis one are displayed in Table 2. As expected, leader responsiveness was positively related to job satisfaction (B = .36, p < .001), organizational commitment (B = .50, p < .001), and organizational citizenship behavior (B = .30, p < .05). Leader responsiveness was also negatively related to turnover intentions (B = ).27, p = .06) and positively related to performance (B = .29, p = .07), although these relationships were not sufciently strong to meet traditional standards of statistical signicance. For hypothesis two, we sought to examine the moderating effects of equity sensitivity on leader-responsiveness and job satisfaction, organizational commitment, turnover intention, organizational citizenship behavior and job performance. Again, following Cohen and Cohen (1983), we entered gender, age, and education level as control variables in the regression equation (step 1). Then, we entered the main effects for the hypothesized variables in step 2. Finally, in step 3, we entered the crossproduct interaction terms. Using pairwise deletion of missing data, we had a useable sample of 253 respondents. The only signicant interaction found was for job satisfaction (B = ).03, p < .05; incremental change in R2 = .02, p < .05). To identify the form of the interaction, the equation was plotted at the mean, low and high levels of leader responsiveness (Stone & Hollenbeck, 1989). The nature of the interaction, as illustrated in Figure 1, is consistent with our expectations. For more entitled

Table 1 Descriptive Statistics and Pearson Correlations SD 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. .08 ).19*** ).02 .01 ).04 .12* ).04 .19*** .06 ).08 ).16** .05 (.87) ).27*** .08 .20** .06 .02 .68* .00 .12 .35*** .29** .13* .06 .30*** .25*** (.81) .54*** ).34*** .05 .12* .05 .03 ).23*** ).09 ).02 .17** .05 ).02 6.07 .43


Gender Education Age Job Satisfaction Commitment Turnover Intention Job Performance Organizational Citizenship Behavior 9. Equity Sensitivity 10. Leader Responsiveness .02 ).03 ).12* ).13*

339 339 338 337 337 339 301 302

1.19 8.44 43.99 4.02 3.78 1.49 3.61 3.78

.40 2.72 12.51 .65 .75 .98 .99 .80

(.88) .10 .16* (.76) .04

319 257

28.86 .56

Note. ***p < .001; **p < .01; *p < .05. Gender was coded as 1 = Male and 2 = Female. Education was coded on a scale ranging from 1 (completed grade school) to 8 (completed a Ph.D.). Internal consistency reliabilities are in parentheses along the diagonal.




Table 2 Hierarchical Regression Results for Variables Predicting Job Satisfaction, Organizational Commitment, Turnover Intention, Performance and Organizational Citizenship Behavior (OCB) Job satisfaction Predictor variable B DR

Organizational Commitment B DR

Turnover Intention B ).13 ).00 .06* .01 ).27 DR


Performance B DR

OCB B ).08 .00 ).00 DR2 .00

Step 1 .04* .00 Sex .02 .02 Age .01** .00 Education Level ).01 7.01 Step 2 .06*** .08*** Leader .36*** .50*** Responsiveness (LR) Overall F for 6.58*** 5.86*** equation Note. ***p < .001; **p < .01; *p < .05.

.04* .22 ).01* .01


.02 .29 .30*





Figure 1 Equity Sensitivity as a Moderator Between Leader Responsiveness and Job Satisfaction
4.1 4 3.9 3.8 Benevolent

Job Satisfaction

3.7 3.6 3.5 3.4 3.3 3.2 3.1 3 Low Leader Responsiveness High Leader Responsiveness Entitled

Leader Responsiveness



individuals, there was a stronger positive relationship between leader responsiveness and job satisfaction than for Benevolents.

DISCUSSION Overall, our ndings suggest that increased leader responsiveness to employee requests results in more favorable employee attitudes and behaviors. Leader responsiveness was signicantly and positively related to job satisfaction and organizational commitment. Furthermore, leader responsiveness was positively related to organizational citizenship behavior, but not to job performance. Our ndings are consistent with social exchange theory, which argues that employees are likely to reciprocate with attitudes and behavior benecial to their organizations when they are treated favorably (Blau, 1964; Rousseau, 1989; Uhl-bien et al., 2000). Unlike organizational citizenship behavior, in-role performance is a less discretionary form of employee behavior. That is, certain basic standards for job performance must be met by employees in order to retain their employment (e.g., showing up for work on time, performing certain job activities, etc.). Furthermore, employee performance is partly determined by factors outside the employees control. That is, job performance is an interaction of a variety of variables including motivation, skills, and environmental factors, some of which are not under the direct control of the employee. This may explain the non-signicant relationship between leader responsiveness and job performance, as well as the non-signicant interaction between equity sensitivity and leader responsiveness in predicting job performance. In sum, these ndings suggest that leader responsiveness to employee requests may be a stronger predictor of employee attitudes and citizenship behavior than of in-role job performance. Although we have described leader responsiveness as an employeeinitiated social exchange process, it is also a reciprocal process. Clearly, the employees behavior plays a central role in the exchange by making an initial request for a particular benet from their manager, thereby providing an opportunity for the manager to respond. However, an alternative interpretation of our ndings is that managers are more responsive to employees with favorable attitudes and behaviors. Thus, the relationship between leader responsiveness and employee attitudes and behaviors may be one of reciprocal causality rather than a unidirectional causal effect. On the other hand, post-hoc analyses do not support this view since we found a non-signicant relationship between equity sensitivity orientation and manager fulllment of requests. Thus, despite attitudinal differences between Entitleds and Benevolents,



managers fullled requests made by Entitleds and Benevolents with equal frequency perhaps due to a feeling of obligation or fairness. Furthermore, some subordinates are more likely to make requests than others, and employees will also differ in the nature of their requests. Equity sensitivity theory would suggest that Entitled employees would make more requests than Benevolents since Entitleds have a getter orientation as contrasted with the more giving orientation of Benevolents (Huseman et al., 1987). Interestingly, our post-hoc analysis revealed that benevolence was positively associated with requesting behavior. One explanation for this counter-intuitive nding is that since Benevolents have higher commitment and satisfaction than Entitleds, perhaps they are more engaged in their work and seek out more opportunities and support by making more requests. Although Entitleds make fewer requests than Benevolents, they seem to be more distressed when their requests are not granted. We also found that equity sensitivity moderated the relationship between leader responsiveness and job satisfaction. The relationship between leader responsiveness and job satisfaction was more positive for entitled than for benevolent individuals. Thus, when leader responsiveness was high, both Entitleds and Benevolents were relatively satised. However, when leader responsiveness was low, job satisfaction declined much more dramatically for Entitleds than for Benevolents. Perhaps because entitled individuals expect a lot, the managers satisfaction of those expectations had a large impact on their job satisfaction. In contrast, since benevolent individuals expect less and are more tolerant of under-reward (Huseman et al., 1985; King et al, 1993), the managers ability and/or willingness to satisfy their expectations had less impact on their job satisfaction. This study had several limitations, which point to suggestions for additional research. First, employee requests represents only one way in which employees obtain rewards and resources. Employees also may obtain rewards when the manager provides them without being prompted by a request. It may be that our results were not stronger since we measured only a portion of the total rewards that employees received. Thus, an important question for future research is to determine the relative importance of employee-initiated resource requests versus manager-initiated rewards. It is also noteworthy that leadership responsiveness has a stronger relationship between the self-report attitudinal measures (e.g., job satisfaction) than manager-rated behavioral measures (e.g., performance), suggesting that common method variance could be an inuence. Another limitation of our study is that the leader responsiveness index was based solely on the percentage of requests fullled, thus treating all types of requests alike, however, certain types of requests



were likely to have greater importance to employees than others. On the other hand, our leader responsiveness index was comprised of those items that were most frequently requested (e.g., pay raise, promotion, training opportunities), and we believe that the frequency with which items are requested should be related to their relative importance to employees. Our survey contained employee ratings of the importance of a subset of the items employees could have indicated they had requested and their manager might have provided. A post-hoc analysis revealed that the mean importance of the items used to compute leader responsiveness was signicantly greater than the importance of the items excluded (due to their infrequency of request). Unfortunately, we lacked a measure of the vigor with which a manager pursued an employees request. In some cases the manager may have tried hard but was unable to grant a request, whereas in other situations, the manager may have denied the request without making any attempt to satisfy the employee or even ignored the request. Thus, in future studies it would be valuable to determine if granting high priority employee requests has a different impact on work attitudes and behaviors than fullling lower priority requests. It would also be valuable to determine the employees perception of their managers effort to grant their requests. Additionally, it would be of interest to determine if Benevolents and Entitleds make different types of requests since the former place greater emphasis on intrinsic outcomes whereas Entitleds focus more on extrinsic outcomes (Miles et al., 1989, 1994). A nal limitation of our study was that the majority of our sample was male which raises some questions as to the generalizability of our ndings. Future research should explore the relationship of gender to employee reactions to leader responsiveness. The present ndings suggest a number of implications for management practices. First, managers should be attentive to employee requests since our ndings suggest that employees have both attitudinal and behavioral reactions to their managers response to their requests. Thus, even the most benevolent employees may eventually come to believe they are less valued than others if their requests are consistently denied or ignored. Second, there are times when a manager cannot be responsive to a request. The manager may not have the resources or authority to honor the request, or the request isnt justied. In those cases, managers should make efforts to mitigate any negative reactions by using fair decision processes, explaining why the request cannot be honored, and nding alternative ways to meet the employees needs and ways to demonstrate that the employee is valued. Our ndings suggest that such practices could have the greatest impact on the attitudes and behaviors of individuals with an entitled orientation. In summary, this study demonstrated that leader responsiveness to employee requests has a signicant impact on both employee attitudes



and behavior. We also extended prior research by showing that equity sensitivity moderates the relationship between leader responsiveness and job satisfaction, as well as corroborating previous results supporting the equity sensitivity construct (e.g., King & Miles, 1994). Our results suggest that managers can directly impact employee attitudes and behaviors by considering individual differences in employee sensitivity to equity and being responsive to employee needs.

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