Be Careful What You Ask For: How Highly Inclusive Leaders Diminish Upward Communication Quality Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Sumanth, John J.
    • Affiliation: Kenan-Flagler Business School
  • As organizations have come to realize the value of having employees offer ideas, suggestions, and observations that can improve organizational effectiveness, scholars have sought to better understand how leaders can cultivate higher levels of upward communication within their organizations. To date, research has shown that leaders who signal inclusiveness and openness to their followers' ideas and concerns are able to create a psychologically safe environment that encourages individuals to take the risk of communicating upwards. However, an implicit and untested assumption across this literature is that inclusive leadership also has a similar positive effect on the quality of communication subordinates provide. In this dissertation, I challenge conventional wisdom that more is better by suggesting that highly inclusive leaders may elicit a higher quantity of upward communication from their followers, but potentially a lower quality. Drawing from established literatures on motivation, social exchange and self-censorship, I propose and find evidence for an inverted U-shaped relationship between inclusive leadership and individuals' upward communication quality, such that both highly exclusive and highly inclusive leaders negatively influence the quality of comments individuals provide. In doing so, I advance established theory by providing conceptual and empirical guidance on how managers should be mindful of the benefits of inclusive leadership while recognizing its potential costs.
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Hoffman, David A.
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Graduation year
  • 2011

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