How and when: the development and strategic maintenance of supervisor-subordinate blended relationships in the workplace
Canales, Pamela E.
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This study explores the development and maintenance strategies of blended supervisor subordinate relationships in the workplace, or those friendships that develop in and outside of work. The motives that drove organizational members to develop blended relationships and the outcomes of each blended relationship were also discussed. This study used Leader-Member Exchange Theory as a framework to understand the development and maintenance of blended supervisor-subordinate relationships in the workplace. Thirty-one individuals were given an open-ended online questionnaire to explore their blended relationship experiences. Individuals consisted of adults who worked full-time and currently or previously had a blended relationship with their supervisor or subordinate. Results indicated that organizational members desire blended supervisor-subordinate relationships for professional and personal benefits and develop these relationships through factors consistent with LMX development models, with a few key distinctions unique to this study. Communicating openly and consistently, sharing time, and respecting boundaries helped organizational members maintain their blended relationship at a satisfactory level. Personal and professional development as well as dialectical tensions were reported as outcomes of participant’s blended supervisor-subordinate relationships. This study contributes to the organizational communication discipline by filling a gap in existing literature and further strengthening LMX theory. It also assists organizational practitioners by providing tools to navigate through the complexities of blended relationships. Keywords: blended relationships; development; Leader-Member Exchange Theory; maintenance; supervisor-subordinate communication