This study demonstrates the role of team-member exchange (TMX)—between and within groups-in predicting identification among co-workers and thereby facilitating social identification in the group
Based on the research of Steven M. Farmer, Linn Van Dyne and Dishan Kamdar
How can an individual contribute to his maximum level and help unless he feels embedded in the work group? Dishan Kamdar, Professor in the Organisational Behaviour area at the Indian School of Business, and his co-authors throw light on the role of quality of relationships in developing social identity in the work group and subsequent work behaviour. In their study on TMX among bank managers in Singapore, the authors found that the quality of relationships among co-workers is of critical importance in facilitating the contextualised self-identification process and helping among co-workers.
Team-member exchange (TMX) is a common social exchange process that measures the quality of reciprocal exchange (of ideas, feedback, efforts, resources, etc.) among employees in the workplace. It is an indicator of the quality of relationships in a group. High-quality TMX relations are characterised by high levels of mutual trust and respect and the timely completion of tasks. There are two different levels at which TMX processes can be conceptualised in the context of organisations. The first is group-level TMX, which is often called group average TMX and is the same for all of the members in the group. The overall or absolute level of TMX reflects belongingness to the group. When the overall working relationship in a group is high, individuals express themselves freely, give feedback readily and constructively, share resources, benefit from each other’s expertise and recognise each other’s efforts. The second level is relative TMX within the group, where the quality of an individual’s TMX relations is compared to the average level of TMX in the group. Individuals with high relative TMX possess uniqueness, distinctiveness and the ability to stand out in a group.
TMX is an important factor in the smooth functioning of an organisation and in determining employees’ behaviour towards work and helping organisational citizenship behaviour (OCB). The quality of these social exchanges can be vital in influencing the helping action among team members.
Dishan Kamdar, Professor in the Organisational Behaviour area at the Indian School of Business, and his co-authors aim to shed light on how the quality of working relationships influences an individual’s feeling of being united with other members in the group and his helping behaviour towards them. Their research looks at how the quality of exchange can help individuals develop a sense of oneness with others and facilitate OCB. The study was conducted using a multi-level modelling analysis by testing the hypothesis with field data from 236 bank managers in Singapore. Employees were asked to complete questionnaires on TMX, identification with co-workers and role perceptions for helping, and data on employee helping OCB and demographic information was provided by their supervisors.
The authors find that identification with co-workers in the group will occur at the highest level only when both the group average TMX and relative TMX are high. This hypothesis used optimal distinctive theory (ODT) as a lens, according to which identification in the group is highest when both belongingness (assimilation) and uniqueness (differentiation) needs are satisfied. These two needs need not be opposed processes; they can complement each other. Identification with group members is achieved at the highest level when an individual is well accepted in the group and his unique qualities are valued by the group.
The study also shows that once an individual starts feeling that he is part of the working group and that his contributions will help achieve the goals of the group, he will be more helpful. Social identification occurs when there is a sense of oneness within the group, and this motivates the individual to view the goals of the group as his own goals. This feeling of inclusion of the other in the self will predict helping OCB.
The study also found that the quality of TMX relationships is positively related to levels of helping (above and beyond the job roles) at the co-worker level. High levels of TMX lead to the creation of the “good soldier” syndrome. Once the TMX group relations are built and the individual starts feeling he is a valued part of the group, though still unique, he is involved in a higher level of helping. It became clear from the study that identification and helping behaviour among co-workers can happen only if the TMX relationship is interactive. Overall, moderation mediation analysis demonstrates that an individual can demonstrate his uniqueness only when he has high belongingness in the working group. Hence, the interactive effect of group average TMX and relative TMX will mediate helping behaviour in individuals.
The results of the study suggest that managers should pay attention to individuals who are high in uniqueness and low in assimilation or the reverse. Such individuals would not be able to identify and gel well with other group members and thus would show less helping behaviour. The study recommends that managers give positive feedback to those who maintain a good balance between the two needs. They should also promote high-quality social exchanges among members, encourage group interactions and respect and value the uniqueness of each team member.
About the Researchers:
Steven M Farmer is the Department Chair & W. Frank Barton Distinguished Chair in Business atthe W. Frank Barton School of Business at Wichita State University.
Linn Van Dyne is a Professor at the Eli Broad Graduate School of Management, Michigan State University.
Dishan Kamdar is a Professor in the Organisational Behaviour area at the Indian School of Business.
About the Research:
Farmer, S. M., Van Dyne, L., & Kamdar, D. (2015). The contextualized self: How team-member exchange leads to coworker identification and helping OCB. Journal of Applied Psychology, 100(2), 583-95.
About the Writer:
Poonam Singhal (Ph.D) is a writer with the Centre for Learning and Management Practice at the Indian School of Business.