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Is My Boss Really Listening to Me? The Impact of Perceived Supervisor Listening on Emotional Exhaustion, Turnover Intention, and Organizational Citizenship Behavior

Abstract

Little is known empirically about the role of supervisor listening and the emotional conditions that listening facilitates. Having the opportunity to speak is only one part of the communication process between employees and supervisors. Employees also react to whether they perceive the supervisor as actively listening. In two studies, this paper examines three important outcomes of employee perceptions of supervisor listening (emotional exhaustion, turnover intentions and organizational citizenship behavior directed toward the organization). Furthermore, positive and negative affect are investigated as distinct mediating mechanisms. Results from Study 1 revealed that employee perceptions of supervisor listening reflected supervisors’ self-ratings of how they listen to their employees and these perceptions were associated with the three work outcomes. Study 2 replicated the findings in a larger sample and found evidence for two explanatory mechanisms. Positive affect mediated the effects of perceived supervisor listening on organizational citizenship behavior and turnover intention, whereas negative affect mediated listening effects on emotional exhaustion and turnover intention. Implications for organizational research and managerial practice concerning workforce sustainability are discussed.

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Fig. 1
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Notes

  1. 1.

    The values of the CFI and TLI are below the conventionally accepted value of .90 (Vandenberg and Lance 2000). However, this is acceptable since all constructs and no distinctive paths (e.g., differentiated indirect effects) had been included in the model.

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Acknowledgments

We would like to thank Anika Deinert from Jacobs University Bremen for her support in the data collection process of study 1.

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Correspondence to Karina J. Lloyd.

Appendix

Appendix

Measure of Supervisor Listening (Supervisor Self-rating)

The response format ranged from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree).

Think of a typical interaction with your employees. Generally, when I listen to my employee, …

  1. 1.

    I am interested in what he/she has to say.

  2. 2.

    I make him/her comfortable so he/she can speak openly.

  3. 3.

    I make it easy for him/her to open up.

  4. 4.

    I understand his/her feelings.

  5. 5.

    I am interested in him/her personally.

  6. 6.

    I accept him/her for what he/she is.

  7. 7.

    I care about him/her.

  8. 8.

    I don’t judge him/her.

Measure of Perceived Supervisor Listening (Employee Rating)

The response format ranged from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree).

Think of a typical interaction with your supervisor. Generally, when my supervisor listens to me, I feel my supervisor…

  1. 1.

    is interested in what I have to say.

  2. 2.

    makes me comfortable so I can speak openly.

  3. 3.

    makes it easy for me to open up.

  4. 4.

    understands my feelings.

  5. 5.

    is interested in me personally.

  6. 6.

    accepts me for what I am.

  7. 7.

    cares about me.

  8. 8.

    doesn’t judge me.

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Lloyd, K.J., Boer, D., Keller, J.W. et al. Is My Boss Really Listening to Me? The Impact of Perceived Supervisor Listening on Emotional Exhaustion, Turnover Intention, and Organizational Citizenship Behavior. J Bus Ethics 130, 509–524 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-014-2242-4

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Keywords

  • Supervisor listening
  • Work affect
  • Affect-driven work outcomes
  • Emotional exhaustion
  • Organizational citizenship behavior
  • Turnover intentions