Curvilinear relationships between role clarity and supervisor satisfaction

Xingshan Zheng, Tomas Thundiyil, Ryan Klinger, Andrew T. Hinrichs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Purpose – Utilizing attribution theory, the purpose of this paper is to propose a more nuanced theoretical understanding of role clarity – supervisor satisfaction trajectories. The authors also identify leadership characteristics that moderate these trajectories: supervisor developmental feedback (SDF) and interpersonal justice. Design/methodology/approach – In this field study, survey responses were collected from 334 employees. Data were submitted to hierarchical polynomial regression. Findings – The impact of too much role clarity was dependent on the level of interpersonal justice and SDF. When these moderators were high, too much role clarity had a decremental effect on supervisor satisfaction. When these moderatos were low, high role clarity was depicted by an asymptotic trajectory. Research limitations/implications – Cross-sectional data were collected from a single source. Future research might attempt to replicate findings using longitudinal designs and multiple data sources. Proposed mediating mechanisms might be measured and incorporated into tests of the theoretical models. Practical implications – When managing employee role clarity, more is not always better. Decision makers should examine supervisor-subordinate characteristics to predict employee responses to increased levels of role clarity. Even under optimal conditions, one should expect decreasing marginal returns from role clarity interventions. Originality/value – This is the first study to explore nonlinear relationships between role clarity and supervisor satisfaction. This is also the first study to explore moderators of role clarity trajectories.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)110-126
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Managerial Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 8 2016


  • Interpersonal justice
  • Role clarity
  • Supervisor developmental feedback
  • Supervisor satisfaction


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