<Back to Articles Page
The following article
was written by Coleman Patterson and
appeared in the Business section of the Abilene Reporter-News.
Being 'in' with boss pays off with
recognition, responsibilities, May 27, 2007, 2D.
the theories that management researchers, consultants, and
practitioners study are done so with the hopes of applying
them in the workplace. Theories are explanations for how
things work. They are developed and refined through
research and the scientific method.
absenteeism increases or employee performance drops, it is
important that managers know how to make corrective
actions. The interrelationship among the variables in a
theory permits inferences about ways to bring about desired
outcomes. Because they are often developed and used to
solve actual problems, many organizational theories are
“prescriptive” in nature.
types of theories are “descriptive.” Descriptive theories
describe the phenomenon of interest. Understanding the ways
that things work can help decision makers forecast and
predict events in the future. One popular descriptive
organizational and management theory is Vertical Dyad
Linkage Theory (VDL) or Leader-Member Exchange Theory (LMX)
by George Graen and his associates.
theory was developed while studying worker ratings of
superiors. The traditional method of evaluating supervisors
had been to have workers rate them individually and take the
average rating as the assessment for the superior. Graen’s
team found a flaw with that traditional system. A
supervisor who receives mediocre ratings from all of his or
her workers will appear equal to a superior who receives
outstanding ratings from half of his or her workers and
horrible ratings from the other half. Clearly, however,
those two situations are very different.
Out of the study of disparate
supervisor ratings from different groups of workers was born
VDL—which later became LMX. This theory states that leaders
in organizations tend to form special relationships with
some followers and non-special or ordinary relationships
with others. These relationships form quickly, perhaps over
no more than several months, and are relatively stable.
“In-group” members are those who receive special attention.
They are typically given more responsibilities, placed into
situations where they can prove themselves and make
important connections, and are first to be offered special
opportunities or resources.
who are not in the in-group are known as out-group
members—or “hired hands.” They exist within the
organization to do their jobs and are given relatively low
levels of choice or influence. Their supervisors do not
necessarily dislike out-groupers, they simply do not have
the special relationships with superiors that in-groupers
do. When special opportunities become available,
out-groupers tend to be overlooked.
concepts become most interesting in the midst of
organizational change. When executives retire or are
terminated, when companies merge or have layers of
management eliminated, or when internal versus external
candidates are promoted and hired for management jobs, the
resulting LMX concepts can change the cultures and tones of
organizations. LMX concepts are also very relevant to the
area of career development. Being an in-grouper to
in-groupers all the way to the top of the organization puts
one in an advantageous position within an organization. In
an opposite manner, being an out-grouper in a line of
out-groupers does not bode well for long-term career
research on LMX and leadership style has noted that
effective leaders are those who make all workers feel like
in-groupers…but that is another story.
to Articles Page