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Leading When Overweight: the Influence of Supervisor Body Weight on Subordinates’ Perceptions and Citizenship Behaviors

Abstract

Integrating the stereotype content model, attribution theory, and social exchange theory, we examined the perceptions underlying bias towards overweight supervisors and the effect of supervisor weight on the workplace behaviors of subordinates. Study 1 (N = 204) confirmed that supervisors are subject to weight bias, such that supervisor weight is negatively related to subordinates’ perceptions of supervisor competence. In turn, Study 2 (N = 829) and Study 3 (N = 226) demonstrated that supervisor weight indirectly influences subordinates’ perceptions of the subordinate-supervisor relationship (leader-member exchange) and important reciprocal workplace behaviors (organizational citizenship behaviors). Furthermore, in predicting perceptions of competence, we found no interaction between supervisor weight and supervisor status, subordinate weight, or supervisor gender. We also found that supervisor weight does not influence perceptions of supervisor warmth and that the relationship between supervisor weight and perceptions of supervisor competence is linear.

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Henderson, A.A., Matthews, R.A., McKersie, S.J. et al. Leading When Overweight: the Influence of Supervisor Body Weight on Subordinates’ Perceptions and Citizenship Behaviors. J Bus Psychol 37, 615–631 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10869-021-09763-2

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Keywords

  • Leader-member exchange
  • Organizational citizenship behavior
  • Bias
  • Body Weight
  • Obesity