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Supervisor–Subordinate Relationships

Patricia M. Sias

Subject Communication Studies » Organizational Communication
Sociology » Social Psychology

Key-Topics leadership

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x


Hierarchy is a defining characteristic of organizations. The earliest formal theories of organization – bureaucratic theory and administrative management – held hierarchy at the core of management processes, emphasizing chain of command, order, control, and discipline (→  Bureaucracy and Communication ; Control and Authority in Organizations ). These processes occur in the context of supervisor–subordinate relationships. Supervisor–subordinate relationships are workplace relationships in which one partner (the supervisor) holds direct formal authority over the other (the subordinate employee). Early research tended to treat management/supervision and leadership as synonymous terms. Both “processes” involved leaders (supervisors/managers) eliciting the optimal (i.e., most productive) attitudes and performance from followers (subordinate employees). In the early 1980s, scholars began to distinguish between management/supervision, which centers on day-to-day direction of departmental activities, and leadership, which centers on vision and organizational change (→  Leadership in Organizations ). Early studies of supervisor–subordinate relationships, conducted by both leadership and management scholars, tended to be unidirectional and focused on the functional aspects of such relationships. This research attempted to identify supervisor qualities and behaviors that lead to improved ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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