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Leader-member exchange (LMX), Conflict and Emotional Intelligence

Leader-member exchange (LMX)

LMX refers to how leaders (managers and supervisors) maintain their position through a series of interactions with the members (subordinates) in an organizational hierarchy (Kulkarni & Ramamoorthy, 2011). LMX relationship can be classified as ‘high-quality’ (‘in-group’) or ‘low-quality’ (‘out-group’) exchanges (Kulkarni & Ramamoorthy, 2011). Low LMX relationships are purely economic and based on the employment contract (Lawrence & Michele, 2012). High quality exchanges are characterized by high levels of support, interaction, and formal and informal rewards as opposed to low-quality exchange relationships (Kulkarni & Ramamoorthy, 2011). Subordinates who enjoy a high-quality LMX relationship have higher job satisfaction and autonomy, and receive more formal and informal rewards than those in low-quality LMX relationships (Lawrence & Michele, 2012).

LMX and Work Conflict

Leader-member exchange (LMX) can act as an ‘antidote’ to work strain, because subordinates with high LMXs are likely to receive emotional and social support from their supervisors to cope with a stressful working environment (Xu, Simon, Wing, & Xinsheng, 2010). Service workers with lower levels of self-emotion appraisal may benefit from a high quality LMX, because in such an exchange relationship they may experience high levels self-control, and thus reduced work-related stress and heightened intrinsic motivation (Xu, Simon, Wing, & Xinsheng, 2010). High-quality LMX subordinates experience lower levels of stress due to the reduction or elimination of role stressors, such as ambiguity and role conflict, and through the increased support and information (Lawrence & Michele, 2012). High-quality LMX relationships experience lower levels of role conflict then low-quality LMX members as these members receive adequate information, communication, and assistance from their supervisors to prioritize their roles (Lawrence & Michele, 2012).

Other conflicts an LMX leader will experience

An effective leader must handle conflict effectively. Many choose to avoid or pretend that conflict does not exist. Non-action is the most common conflict management strategy because people are uncomfortable with confronting the conflict (Singleton, Toombs, Taneja, Larkin, & Pryor, 2011). But this can lead to many problems. Unresolved conflict can lead to unhappy employees, high turnover, lower productivity and lower profits (Deyoe & Fox, 2011). Leadership can give people a voice, help them stay with their conflicts when needed, and contain the tensions rather than adopting a one-dimensional either/or perspective when collaboration is not yet an option (Kuttner, 2011). Leadership that is effective provides encouragement and support, releases tensions, harmonizes misunderstanding and deals with disruptive or aggressive behavior (Lather, Jain, Jain, & Vikas, 2009). The most sever type of conflict that causes the most amount of stress is interpersonal conflict (Jaramillo, Mulki, & Boles, 2011). Leader must pay the most attention to this type of conflict. Interpersonal conflict involves both overt (e.g., rudeness) and covert (e.g., spreading rumors) behaviors that lead to psychological strain (Jaramillo, Mulki, & Boles, 2011).

Conflict and Emotional Intelligence

People who are more sensitive to their emotions and the impact of their emotions on others will be leaders who are more effective (Northouse, 2012). In the position of leader, the importance of emotional intelligence tends to be positioned around 85%, and IQ at 15% (Hahn, Sabou, Toader, & Radulescu, 2012). Emotional intelligence helps leaders in times of stress. This is important because, conflict decreases our awareness through increased stress, but conflict resolution requires increasing awareness and decreased stress (Nan, 2011). Lenaghan, Buda, and Eisner (2007) found that leaders who have high emotional intelligence may better and more carefully handle the inherent work-family conflict than those with low Emotional Intelligence. There is a positive relation between emotional intelligence and conflict management which means that the emotional intelligence of individuals affect their quality of dissolving disagreements and the styles of conflict managements (Aliasgari & Farzadnia, 2012). High emotional intelligence brings in a different type of leadership style. Emotionally intelligent leaders and employees tend to use more of the collaborating or integrating style of conflict resolution in which there is high concern towards self and other (Godse & Thingujam, 2010). Leaders must communicate their emotions using all means of expression, verbal and nonverbal (Kouzes & Posner, 2012).

LMX and Emotional Intelligence

LMX is more likely to help reduce emotional pressure for service workers with lower levels of EI, because they need more emotional and social support from their supervisors to deal with work-related strain and emotional problems (Xu, Simon, Wing, & Xinsheng, 2010). Increased emotional investment in the work role includes increased time and energy focusing on the work role and can include behaviors such as, taking work home or continuing to think about unfinished tasks at work and how they will be completed on the next day (Lawrence & Michele, 2012). While high-quality LMX members do not experience stress as a result of role conflict, they indeed experience stress through a different mechanism, job involvement high-quality LMX members experience reduced amounts of stress as a result of increased communication and information that they receive from supervisors (Lawrence & Michele, 2012).


Aliasgari, M., & Farzadnia, F. (2012). The relationship between emotional intelligence and conflict management styles among teachers. Interdisciplinary Journal of Contemporary Research in Business, 4(8), 555-562.

Deyoe, R., & Fox, T. (2011). Identifying strategies to minimize workplace conflict due to generational differences. Journal of Behavioral Studies in Business, 4, 1-17.

Godse, A., & Thingujam, N. (2010). Perceived emotional intelligence and conflict resolution styles among information technology professionals: testing the mediating role of personality.Singapore Management Review, 32(1), 69-83.

Hahn, R., Sabou, S., Toader, R., & Radulescu, C. (2012). About emotional intelligence and leadership. Annals of the University of Oradea, Economic Sciences Series, 21(2), 744-749.

Jaramillo, F., Mulki, J., & Boles, J. (2011). Workplace stressors, job attitude, and job behaviors: is interpersonal conflict the missing link? Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, 18(1), 339-356.

Kouzes, J., & Posner, B. (2012). The leadership challenge. (Fifth ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Kulkarni, S., & Ramamoorthy, N. (2011). Leader-member exchange, subordinate stewardship, and hierarchical governance. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 22(13), 2770-2793.

Kuttner, R. (2011). Conflict specialists as leaders: revisiting the role of the conflict specialist from a leadership perspective. Conflict Resolution Quarterly, 29(2), 103-126.

Lawrence, E., & Michele, K. (2012). Leader-member exchange and stress: the mediating role of job involvement and role conflict. Journal of Behavioral & Applied Management, 14(1), 39-52.

Lather, A., Jain, V., Jain, S., & Vikas, S. (2009). Leadership styles in relation to conflict resolution modes: a study of Delhi Jal Board (DJB). Vilakshan: The XIMB Journal of Management, 6(1), 19-38.

Lenaghan, J., Buda, R., & Eisner, A. (2007). An examination of the role of emotional intelligence in work and family conflict. Journal of Managerial Issues, 19(1), 76-94.

Nan, S. (2011). Consciousness in culture-based conflict and conflict resolution. Conflict Resolution Quarterly, 28(3), 239-262.

Northouse, P. (2012). Leadership: Theory and practice. (6 ed.). Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publishing.

Singleton, R., Toombs, L., Taneja, S., Larkin, C., & Pryor, M. (2011). Workplace conflict: a strategic leadership imperative. International Journal of Business & Public Administration, 8(1), 149-163.

Xu, H., Simon, C., Wing, L., & Xinsheng, N. (2010). The joint effect of leader-member exchange and emotional intelligence on burnout and work performance in call centers in China. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 21(7), 1124-1144.