Goal orientation and employee resistance at work: Implications for manager emotional exhaustion with the employee

Joan Brett, Mary Uhl-Bien, Lei Huang, Melissa Carsten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations

Abstract

This study advances our understanding of goal orientation (GO) theory by relating GO to manager outcomes (i.e., manager emotional exhaustion with the employee) through interpersonal behaviour patterns (i.e., employee resistance). Specifically, we examine the mediating effect of constructive and dysfunctional resistance (DR) on the relationships between GO and manager emotional exhaustion with the employee. The findings from 565 manager–employee dyads in a Chinese company indicate that learning GO (LGO) and performance-prove GO (PPGO) are positively related to constructive resistance (CR), and performance-avoid GO (PAGO) is negatively related to CR and positively related to DR. CR and DR significantly mediate the relationships between LGO and PAGO and manager emotional exhaustion with the employee. The findings are discussed in terms of the importance of GO theory for understanding interpersonal behaviours and manager outcomes. Practitioner points: First, organizations should educate and sensitize managers to the motivational orientations their employees bring to the workplace so that managers can better shape work experiences and challenges in ways that allow employees to attain their goal orientation (GO)-related goals (e.g., avoid embarrassment, insure positive evaluations) without jeopardizing important interactions with others. Second, before managers coach employees with a performance-avoid GO on how to provide constructive feedback and the benefits of doing so, they may set the stage by discussing how avoidance behaviours may lead to future embarrassment or negative evaluations rather than to prevent these outcomes. Managers can foster work climates that value learning and development and reward employees for offering constructive resistance rather than avoidance behaviours. Third, the findings linking GO with manager emotional exhaustion with the employee clearly indicate that the personal consequences for a manager make it worth their time and effort to coach employees on more adaptive and constructive behaviours.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)611-633
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology
Volume89
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016

Keywords

  • constructive resistance
  • dysfunctional resistance
  • goal orientation
  • interpersonal behaviours
  • manager emotional exhaustion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management

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