Understanding the Role of Machiavellianism in Unfavorable LMX Comparison Processes

Herman Tse, March L. To, Catherine K. Lam, Xiaosong Lin

Research output: Contribution to journalAbstract/Meeting Abstractpeer-review


Individuals are always sensitive to their relative status in different leader-member exchanges (LMXs) through the comparison of their own LMXs with those of others, which may affect their interaction with each other. Little research, however, has examined whether or not one’s LMX is outperformed by another coworker will always influence one to have a negative perception and reaction to this coworker within a dyad. Drawing on social comparison and utility theories and the research on Machiavellianism (Mach), we propose to test a moderated-mediation model uncovering why and when employees with high Mach can affiliate with their comparison target coworkers in unfavorable LMX comparison processes. Our results revealed that a lower level of A’s LMX compared with a higher level of B’s LMX elicits A’s perception of status threat caused by B when Mach is high. We also found that A’s perceived status threat motivates A to engage in affiliative behaviors - seeking help from B and displaying impression-management toward B when Mach is high. Furthermore, our results showed that the indirect effect of A’s perceived status threat is also significant when Mach is high. Finally, interpersonal help seeking and impression-management behaviors were found to be positively associated with individual-level job performance and supervisor-rated impression-management perception.
Original languageEnglish
Article number12551
JournalAcademy of Management Proceedings
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2017
Externally publishedYes


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