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Superior and subordinate style fit: Dominance complementarity as a determinant of subordinate success

Lily Benjamin Maissen, 2009
Faculty Advisor: Eric Abrahamson


A number of literatures bear on the question of which behaviors subordinates should employ with their superiors in order to be successful, i.e., to achieve their preferred psychological and work-related outcomes. Yet, these literatures have been disconnected and have not incorporated key theoretical and empirical developments from each other. Although there has been much scholarly research on the effectiveness of subordinate influence behaviors, this research has been atheoretical and has not considered important contingencies. Consequently, it is not surprising that the results have been inconsistent.

To remedy this problem, I articulate a meso theory that connects the relevant literatures in order to better understand the success of subordinates with their superiors. The central contribution of mydissertation is that it specifies how different contingencies affect the relationship between subordinates' behaviors with their superiors and their success. I propose that subordinates will be most successful when their style is complementary with their superiors' with respect to the interpersonal dimension of control (i.e., dominance-submissiveness) and consider how these relationships are mediated and moderated by micro and macro variables in a dynamic context. The results of two empirical studies--an experimental study with international MBA students and senior executives and a field study with partner-associate dyads at a law firm-support my theory.

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