An investigation of how gender moderates the impact of Leader-Member Exchange (LMX) on front-line employees’ work outcomes in the hospitality industry
Originating from social exchange and reciprocity theories, Leader-Member Exchange (LMX) describes the dyadic relationship between employees and their managers in organisations (Graen & Uhl-Bien, 1995; Graen & Cashman, 1975; Northouse, 2010). The impact of LMX on work outcomes has been studied by a number of researchers since 1975 (Dulebohn, Bommer, Liden, Brouer, & Ferris, 2011; Graen & Cashman, 1975; Graen & Uhl-Bien, 1995). A variety of conceptual models of LMX has been presented in the literature along with mediators and moderators to improve the models’ generalisability.
This research focused on two major outcomes in the hospitality industry: front-line employees’ turnover intentions and their exhibitions of organisational citizenship behaviour (OCB). Businesses in the hospitality industry have been experiencing consistently high staff turnover rates worldwide, leading to a number of problems affecting both businesses and customers (Dalton, Todor, & Krackhardt, 1982; Powell & York, 1992). OCB has been one of the most popular work outcome variables associated with LMX (Ilies, Nahrgang, & Morgeson, 2007). Given the high importance of customer service in the hospitality industry, OCB is a critical criterion to assess employees’ work performances (Kim, O’Neill, & Cho, 2010; Nadiri & Tanova, 2010; Ravichandran, Gilmore, & Strohbehn, 2007). LMX, between front-line employees and their immediate supervisor/manager, has attracted the attention of both researchers and practitioners in the hospitality industry as a potential factor to improve service quality. Some researchers have applied the existing LMX framework to hospitality businesses, but there is still a lack of empirical studies in the hospitality literature to address the importance of LMX.
The Economist magazine (2013) ranked New Zealand the top country in the world in providing the best working lives for women, including equality, wages, proportion of management positions, and childcare costs compared to wages. This may cause people to think that gender issues in New Zealand are not as serious as in many developing countries where women have less social power and limited working options. A number of researchers have investigated gender as a predictor for a variety of organisational factors (Adebayo & Udegbe, 2004; Bhal, Ansari, & Aafaqi, 2007; Rai, 2009; Varma & Stroh, 2001), but their findings have failed to build any direct and consistent association between gender and those organisational factors.
This research examined the moderating role of gender in the LMX framework with theoretical support from cognitive learning theory. The research hypotheses were developed to link theories from social science to leadership studies in general management. In this way, leadership can be better explained and applied considering the moderating effect of gender. The findings have presented practitioners greater insight into understanding how different work attitudes and performances are caused by gender so that smarter strategies can be adopted to enhance the overall work performance and to ease the high employee turnover rate that characterises the hospitality industry.