The purpose of this paper is to present exploratory research on the potential variation of front line manager (FLM) types and attendant causal links between FLM style and employee outcomes. It challenges the value of a homogenous FLM construct and tests for variation in FLM styles which may affect behaviours and employee outcomes.
A set of discreet FLM types is defined from extant theory and literature (named here as Policy Enactor; Organizational Leader; and Employee Coach). Each type and its relationship to employee outcomes is explored empirically using survey data and qualitative interviews with a small sample of employees (n=46 employees across eight FLM groups) within a multi-national manufacturing plant.
The findings provide preliminary support for an FLM “type” construct. Employees reported a significant dominance of the “Organizational Leader” type for one FLM, while across a broader set of FLM’s the proportions showed measurable variation. The qualitative data provides context examples that help explain FLM typologies and link to employee outcomes.
Much of current literature explores the FLM construct as a singular construct, relying on its contextual relevance for definition within a certain discipline. This paper focuses on combining these contextual experiences to present a multi-faceted construct for the role of FLMs within the employment relations literatures. By moving from the implicit to the explicit, the paper offers a conceptual lens for quantitative and qualitative exploration of the role of FLM types. As a result, attendant and subsequent FLM and employee behaviours may be better examined and possibly better specified. To add value to this contribution longitudinal and more extensive data sets could be examined and tested in the future.
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