Managing Multiple Dyadic Links – LMX Theory in Action

As I vaguely remember it, Leader-Member Exchange Theory (LMX) focuses primarily on the link between two members of a group and the impact that their relationship has on their performance. In this post, I am going to discuss both how maintaining these dyadic links with my supervisors assists me in my work at my company, as well as how the organization of the company contributes to these dyadic links. I will include some thoughts on the value of these dyadic links and where better links between employees could improve productivity.

My primary supervisor is the one who is most directly responsible for me and acts formally as a “Site Supervisor” for me. This is the most important dyadic link for me to maintain, as this is the person I go to for direct advice. The more comfortable I am going to my supervisor for advice, the easier it is for me to quickly confront problems in my daily work. If I were avoiding asking questions of my supervisor, either because I was intimidated by them or because I did not want to feel that I was wasting their time, my work would be noticeably hindered. In my small department, my supervisor is the source of all knowledge, and the only other employee is newer than me.

It is not often that I work alongside my supervisor, but I attend meetings with her. When at these meetings, my knowledge of her opinions on policy and workflow allow me to cooperate with her in arguments regarding changes to workflow. If I were more distant from my supervisor, I would not understand her position as well, and I would be less able to provide a supporting voice in these kinds of meetings.

I also maintain other secondary dyadic links, which are also incredibly valuable to me as an intern. My supervisor from last year works in an adjacent department which I am doing some work for – his presence and leadership makes it much easier for me to perform my job because I have a reliable and familiar person to ask questions to. Accepting projects from other departments allows me to meet new people and make new links which become valuable when I work on future projects with those departments.

I have seen situations where poor dyadic links have decreased the quality of work. People who have difficulty cooperating, or who do not have enough familiarity with each other’s phrasing and mannerisms that emails get misinterpreted, have caused some noticeable (if minor) roadblocks to productivity. This is an area where I will certainly NOT be advising the company of my ideas. Dyadic links are personal, and for me to even discuss them would be very rude. I even feel somewhat uncomfortable discussing it here – I am barely an adult and have only 3 years of leadership study under my belt – how is it my place to judge?

In any case – I look forward to next week and the arrival of the other intern in my department. I am excited to see what I can learn about leadership through our interactions. The previous sentence is extremely clinical in its wording, and I certainly would not phrase it like that when speaking to him, but I feel it captures my feelings on the quality of future blog posts.

One thought on “Managing Multiple Dyadic Links – LMX Theory in Action

  • August 1, 2019 at 10:43 am

    Not really asking you to judge, asking you to apply theories and ideas discussed in the classroom in a real world context. And don’t really expect you to ‘school’ anyone at your internship about leadership studies, but we have had site supervisors acknowledge (many times) that leadership studies interns do have some different and interesting insights that others at their organization do not. For the fall paper you will write, you need to select a theory and do a deep dive, discussing all the elements and providing examples from your internship site that illustrate (and do not illustrate) the various elements. If you were to choose LMX as your theory for this paper, you would want to expand you discussion to talk about in-groups and out-groups (a key element in the theory) and provide examples. You’d want to talk about the prescriptive and descriptive uses of LMX as well probably. Having said all that, glad you have the relationships you do with both your current supervisor and your supervisor from last year.

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