Research

I explore topics related to social influence, most often through the lenses of organizational politics, leadership, or the intersection of the two. My work has been published in a number of outlets, including Journal of Management, Journal of Organizational Behavior, The Leadership Quarterly, and Journal of Business Ethics. Below are abstracts of selected works. Also, you can see all of my work via Google Scholar and request copies of papers through ResearchGate or via email (p.ellen@northeastern.edu).

 

 
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Re-organizing organizational politics research: A review of the literature and identification of future research directions

Organizational politics has been an oft-studied phenomenon for nearly four decades. Prior reviews have described research in this stream as aligning with one of three categories: perceptions of organizational politics, political behavior, or political skill. We suggest that because these categories are at the construct level, research on organizational politics has been artificially constrained. Thus, we suggest a new framework, with higher-level categories, within which to classify organizational politics research – political characteristics, political actions, and political outcomes. We then provide a broad review of the literature applicable to these new categories and discuss the possibilities for future research within each expanded category. Finally, we close with a discussion of future directions for organizational politics research in general, across the categories.


Social Influence Opportunity Recognition, Evaluation, and Capitalization: Increased Theoretical Specification through Political Skill's Dimensional Dynamics

Social influence is one of the oldest and most researched constructs in organizational behavior. Most research has examined the “what” and “who” of social influence behavior, but it was not until recently that scholars began examining the “how,” or the operation, of social influence techniques and behaviors. Social effectiveness constructs, such as political skill, have been the primary focus of this research effort. However, despite these constructs illuminating social influence processes, little is known about the actual operation of the social effectiveness constructs themselves. Thus, to develop a more complete understanding of social influence effectiveness, this article develops a theoretical framework by synthesizing several literatures and explaining how the individual dimensions of political skill affect the social influence process. Specifically, the authors (a) review and integrate research and theory in social influence and political skill; (b) develop an opportunity recognition, evaluation, and capitalization model to provide a theoretical framework for the dimensional dynamics of political skill; and (c) provide suggestions for how this framework informs future political skill research.

 
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Personal initiative and job performance evaluations: The role of political skill in opportunity recognition and capitalization

In recent years, personal initiative has been found to predict job performance. However, implicit in this direct initiative–performance relationship are more complex process dynamics that can be better understood when contextual antecedents, moderators, and mediators are considered. Drawing from perspectives of proactive behavior as a goal-directed process, a research model of personal initiative was tested in a three-study investigation intended to build upon and advance prior work. Specifically, the model indicates that climate for initiative interacts with the social astuteness dimension of political skill (i.e., opportunity recognition) to influence the demonstration of personal initiative, and this first part of the model is tested and supported in Study 1. Then, personal initiative is hypothesized to interact with the interpersonal influence dimension of political skill (i.e., opportunity capitalization) to predict supervisor assessments of job performance, and this part of the model is tested and supported in Study 2. Study 3 provided a test of the entire model and demonstrated support for moderated mediation, thus adding increased confidence in the validity of the theory and findings through constructive replication.


More than one way to articulate a vision: A configurations approach to leader charismatic rhetoric and influence.

Charismatic rhetoric represents an important tool for leaders to articulate their respective visions. However, much of the research to date on this construct has yet to consider how the eight separate dimensions of charismatic rhetoric may be used in conjunction with one another to form distinctive profiles of charismatic leadership influence. Thus, the present investigation explored the interplay of the individual dimensions using content analysis of the 1960-2012 United States presidential debates. Cluster analysis revealed the emergence of four distinctive rhetorical strategies, one of which was more strongly related to the prediction of influence success as measured by Presidential election outcomes. Results suggest conceptualizing charismatic rhetoric as a multidimensional profile construct represents a valuable area for subsequent research on charismatic rhetoric, and several possible directions are suggested.

 
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Dealing with the full-of-self boss: Interactive effects of supervisor narcissism and subordinate resource management ability on work outcomes  

Extensive research has documented the harmful effects associated with working for a narcissistic supervisor. However, little effort has been made to investigate ways for victims to alleviate the burdens associated with exposure to such aversive persons. Building on the tenets of conservation of resources theory and the documented efficacy of functional assets to combat job-related stress, we hypothesized that subordinates’ resource management ability would buffer the detrimental impact of narcissistic supervisors on affective, cognitive, and behavioral work outcomes for subordinates. We found support for our hypotheses across three independent samples of US workers (N = 187; 199; 136). Specifically, higher levels of subordinate resource management ability attenuated the harmful effects of supervisor narcissism on employee-re- ported emotional exhaustion, job tension, depressed mood, task performance, and citizenship behavior. Conversely, these relationships further deteriorated for subordinates with lower levels of resource management ability. Overall, our research contributes to the literature that, although extensively documenting the harmful ramifications of narcissism in organizations, has neglected to investigate potentially mitigating factors.


Navigating uneven terrain: The roles of political skill and LMX differentiation in prediction of work relationship quality and work outcomes

Drawing from social/political influence, leader-member exchange (LMX), and social comparison theories, the present two-study investigation examines three levels of LMX differentiation (i.e., individual-, meso- and group-level LMX differentiation), and further tests a model of the joint effects of political skill and LMX differentiation on LMX, relative LMX, and employee work outcomes. In Study 1, we used data from 231 employees, and found support for the interactive effect of political skill and individual perceptions of LMX differentiation on LMX quality. We also found partial support for the moderating role of individual-level LMX differentiation on the indirect effects of political skill on self-rated task performance and job satisfaction via LMX. In Study 2, we used data from 185 supervisor–subordinate dyads, and examined both meso- and group-level LMX differentiation via a multilevel moderated-mediation model. Results supported the moderating role of group-level LMX differentiation and group-mean LMX on the indirect effects of political skill on supervisor-rated task performance and contextual performance/citizenship behavior as well as job satisfaction via relative LMX. Overall, the results suggest that politically skilled employees reap the benefits of LMX differentiation, as they enjoy higher absolute LMX and relative (i.e., to their peers) LMX quality.

 
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Leader political support: Reconsidering leader political behavior

Historically, organizational politics and political leader behavior have been framed and characterized negatively, as self-serving and counter-productive. However, scholars have noted that political acts can achieve positive ends, and have called for further discussions of positive forms of political leadership. Continuing in this recent stream of research on positive perspectives on organizational politics, a framework of leader political support is proposed, suggesting the positive features of leader political behavior, and testable propositions are developed. The leader political support construct is defined and its antecedents are explicated utilizing a social capital perspective. Additionally, social exchange theory is used to explain the consequences of leader political support. Contributions to both leadership and organizational politics literatures and directions for future research are discussed.


Considering the positive possibilities of leader political behavior 

This Incubator piece presents an overview of a new construct, leader political support, which captures the positive possibilities of leaders’ political behavior. A discussion of why leader political support may seem paradoxical is included, as well as a presentation of the need for its consideration and the research possibilities it provides.

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Subordinate social adaptability and the consequences of abusive supervision perceptions in two samples 

The present investigation examined social adaptability as a moderator of the relationships between perceptions of abusive supervision and several work outcomes. Specifically, we hypothesized that individuals with lower levels of social adaptability would be more adversely affected by heightened levels of abusive supervision perceptions than employees with greater levels of social adaptability. Data from two samples offered strong support for the hypotheses. Specifically, employees with lower levels of social adaptability reported heightened job tension (i.e., Sample 1) and emotional exhaustion (Samples 1 & 2), as well as diminished job satisfaction (Samples 1 & 2) and work effort (Samples 1 & 2) as perceptions of abusive supervision increased, whereas employees with greater social adaptability skill were less strongly affected by their perceptions of abusive supervision. Contributions of the research to scholarship and practice, strengths and limitations, and directions for future research are discussed.


Further specification of the leader political skill - leadership effectiveness relationship: Transformational and transactional leadership as mediators 

The present investigation was a three-source test of the intermediate linkages in the leader political skill–leader effectiveness and follower satisfaction relationships, which examined transformational and transactional (i.e., contingent reward behavior) leader behavior as mediators. Data from 408 leaders (headmasters) and 1429 followers (teachers) of state schools in the western part of Germany participated in this research. The results of mediation analyses, based on bias-corrected bootstrapping confidence intervals, provided support for the hypotheses that political skill predicts both transformational and transactional leader behavior, beyond other established predictors, and that transformational and transactional leader behavior mediate the relationships between leader political skill and leadership effectiveness. The contributions to theory and research, strengths and limitations, directions for future research, and practical implications are discussed.

 
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