LMX and Attributions of Organizational Citizenship Behavior Motives: When is Citizenship Perceived as Brownnosing?

  • Wm. Matthew Bowler
  • Jeffrey B. PaulEmail author
  • Jonathon R. Halbesleben
Original Paper


This study tests the potential negative impact of leader-member exchange (LMX) quality on perceptions of followers’ motives to perform organizational citizenship behavior (OCB). Based on the OCB motives introduced and tested by Rioux and Penner (Journal of Applied Psychology, 86, 1306–1314, 2001), structural equation modeling using matched-pair data from follower-leader-coworker triads was used to test a model proposed by (Bowler, Halbesleben, and Paul Human Resource Management Review, 20, 309–316 2010) of the double-bind faced by those in low- or high-quality LMX relationships. Followers have their OCB motives attributed to positive pro-social values and organizational concern motives or, alternatively to, negative impression management motives based solely on the point of view of the observer. The first double-bind occurs in that third-party observers attribute the OCB performance motives of followers in high-quality LMX relationships to impression management motives. This puts high LMX followers in a double-bind in that while performing OCB is encouraged and positive, such behavior is seen as self-serving by coworkers. This can lead to followers being labeled as brownnosers by coworkers, among other descriptors. The second double-bind occurs when employees in low-quality LMX relationships have their OCB attributed negatively by their leader. This makes it difficult for employees to develop LMX with their leader. We discuss the implications of the study and outcomes for future research on LMX and OCB motives along with recommendations for practitioners for handling the potential dark side of LMX relationships.


Leader-member exchange (LMX) Organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) Motives Impression management Leadership Matched pairs Brownnose Organizational politics Attribution theory 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wm. Matthew Bowler
    • 1
  • Jeffrey B. Paul
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jonathon R. Halbesleben
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Management; Spears School of BusinessOklahoma State UniversityStillwaterUSA
  2. 2.Department of Health Care Management; Culverhouse College of CommerceThe University of AlabamaTuscaloosaUSA

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