پرسش از کاربردی جهانی رهبری تحول گرا: بررسی کارکنان مبتلا به اختلال طیف اوتیسم
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی||تعداد کلمات|
|20050||2013||15 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید||12475 کلمه|
Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : The Leadership Quarterly, Volume 24, Issue 4, August 2013, Pages 608–622
Challenging an implicit assumption of universal applicability, we propose that a subset of transformational leader behaviors may hamper organizational outcomes for a unique yet growing segment of the workforce: employees on the autism spectrum. Specifically, we tested the hypothesis that emotion-laden communication and social exchanges characterizing the inspirational motivation dimension of the theory are associated with increased feelings of anxiety which, in turn, negatively relate to work outcomes. In contrast, we proposed that other dimensions of transformational leadership, such as individualized consideration, would be associated with reduced levels of anxiety and, ultimately, improved workplace outcomes. Results generally supported the hypothesized indirect relationships for ratings of organizational commitment, but not self-reported job performance which was most strongly predicted by individualized consideration, directly. Implications for managing employees with autism spectrum disorder are discussed as well as the overall applicability of transformational leadership to this growing segment of the workforce.
As a theory, transformational leadership has been shown to be related to a range of outcomes across hundreds of studies, and its impact as a conceptual framework is well summarized in multiple meta-analyses (de Groot et al., 2000, Judge and Piccolo, 2004 and Lowe et al., 1996) and qualitative reviews (Bennis and Nanus, 1985, Hunt, 1999 and Tichy and Devanna, 1986). A number of scholars have suggested that the theory was responsible for taking the field of leadership from the brink of extinction and transforming it into the thriving area of research it is today (Bass and Bass, 2008, Bryman, 1992 and Hunt, 1999). In short, there is little debating the importance, impact, or historical significance of vision-based models to our current understanding of, and approach to, leadership. Despite far-reaching empirical support for its impact on several criteria, the theory is not without its detractors. Criticisms include an overemphasis on vision and affective components to the exclusion of other leadership behaviors and cognitions such as planning and strategy development (Hunter et al., 2007 and Yukl, 1999). Rather than a denigration of omission, other scholars have offered more direct criticisms of the theory, suggesting that a focus on affective and emotional arousal via transformational leadership can have detrimental effects on subordinates, leading to outcomes such as burnout, higher levels of stress, dissatisfaction, and reduced performance (Harrison, 1987, Keller, 1992 and Seltzer and Bass, 1990). Although empirical support regarding increases in stress and anxiety specifically has been lacking (see Seltzer, Numerof, & Bass, 1989), we suggest that this “non-finding” may be attributable to differences across subordinates not yet investigated. That is, we suggest that an understudied subset of the workforce may be more susceptible to the potential for negative influence from transformational leadership. Moreover, given the range of behaviors comprising transformational leadership it seems reasonable to suggest that some actions on the part of the leader may be ineffective or even harmful, while others are likely to have associations with more positive effects. Central to this article, we propose that some employees, specifically, employees with autism spectrum disorder, will be differentially impacted by the varying dimensions of transformational leadership. In the following sections, a brief overview of the characteristics of employees with autism is presented. Next, given these characteristics, we discuss how transformational leadership behaviors might be received by these employees. Finally, we put forth and test a mediation model whereby transformational leadership behaviors indirectly impact workplace outcomes (organizational commitment and job performance) by operating through anxiety. We begin our discussion by introducing an emerging segment of the workforce: employees with autism. 1.1. Employees with autism spectrum disorder Over the course of the past decade, there has been a significant increase in diagnosed cases of autism spectrum disorder, or ASD. A recent report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that approximately 1 in every 50 (2.0%) children meets the diagnostic criteria for the disorder, with that likelihood being much greater (1 in 31) for males (Blumberg et al., 2013). To put these values in perspective, it is useful to consider the prevalence rates of more widely known disabilities, such as vision impairment (1 in 714), hearing impairment (1 in 714), Down syndrome (1 in 800), childhood cancer (1 in 6700), juvenile diabetes (1 in 400) and cerebral palsy (1 in 280; CDC, 2009). Extrapolation from current prevalence rates places the total number of individuals with autism in the United States around 1.5 million, with the Autism Society of America (2006) suggesting that this is a lower bound estimate. Although these values provide some indication of the number of individuals with autism, it is important to note that these values are not static — the number of individuals diagnosed with the disorder is on the rise. The CDC noted that from the years 2002 to 2006, there was a 57% increase in cases of ASD. Additionally, there was a 23% increase in cases from 2006 to 2008. Finally, Blumberg and colleagues (2013) noted a 42% increase in diagnoses between 2007 and 2012. Data are clear in suggesting that diagnoses are likely to stay on an upward trajectory for some time, even with the acknowledgement of currently debated stricter diagnostic criteria that may curb the sharp upward trend. Most central to the present study, a sizable influx of teens and adolescents are entering adulthood and beginning to seek employment (Gerhardt & Lainer, 2011). Improved diagnostic tools as well as early behavioral interventions have led to greater optimism for education and employment resulting in increased numbers of young adults having aspirations of a fulfilling work life (Dawson et al., 2010). For reasons that range from legal (Colella et al., 2004 and VanBergeijk et al., 2008) to ethical, as this growing population becomes of age to enter the workforce, organizations must increase their preparedness to deal with the unique opportunities and challenges this influx presents. In particular, the social nature of ASD and its high comorbidity with anxiety disorder (Gillott and Standen, 2007 and Volker and Lopata, 2008) present noteworthy challenges to those that manage and operate organizations. In short, identifying mechanisms that will facilitate the successful integration and engagement of employees with ASD at work appears to be of paramount and increasing importance. 1.2. Autism and the workplace Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are a group of pervasive developmental disorders which range from severe to milder forms. According to the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, ASD is broadly characterized by impairments in social interaction, deficits in verbal and nonverbal communication, as well as the presence of restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior and interests (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). ASD is thought to be a permanent developmental disorder creating lifelong challenges for the individual (Gerhardt and Lainer, 2011 and Hendricks, 2010). Despite these social impairments, growing research on adults with ASD suggests that this population may possess qualities and attributes that can enable them to excel in the workplace. For example, individuals with ASD often display a keen attention to detail, a willingness to engage in repetitive activities, trustworthiness, reliability, and timeliness ( Hillier et al., 2007). Furthermore, having a focused interest can allow them to gain significant expertise on a particular topic, providing a valuable knowledge resource to an organization. Finally, several studies have found that most, if not all, supervisors rated the job performance of their employee with ASD as average or above average (e.g., Hagner and Cooney, 2005, Hillier et al., 2007 and Unger, 2003). Taken together, it appears that with sufficient accommodations and supports, individuals with ASD possess the capabilities to be an asset to an organization. Although individuals with autism have the competencies to do well in the workplace, they face significant obstacles in organizations. Overall, individuals with ASD are more likely to be unemployed compared to any other group with disabilities (Dew & Allan, 2007). Specifically, it is estimated that 50%–75% of adults with ASD are unemployed (Howlin et al., 2004, Hurlbutt and Chalmers, 2004, Mawhood et al., 2000 and National Organization on Disability, 2004) and the majority who are employed are not working full-time (Chappel & Somers, 2010). To compound the problem, unemployment difficulties are still common even after taking into account those who are higher functioning and who have postsecondary educational experiences (Gerhardt and Lainer, 2011 and Howlin, 2000). Specifically, the National Autistic Society (2011) estimated that approximately 332,600 individuals of working age have ASD in the United Kingdom. Of those, only 6% hold a full-time job and only 12% of those with high functioning autism hold full-time jobs. While acknowledging that core human resource practices, such as training and selection, are critical parts of the broader solution to managing the influx of ASD employees (Gerhardt and Lainer, 2011 and Schall et al., 2012), we contend that there are more proximal factors which may directly impact these relationships. In order to better understand the nature of this issue, it is important to determine whether there are person–situation interactions which may be impacting these unemployment rates. In particular, we propose that employee anxiety, which is quite common in individuals with ASD, and leadership, as a contextual influence, may be contributing factors. 1.3. Anxiety in individuals with ASD As mentioned previously, there is a high occurrence of anxiety in individuals with ASD. A recent study by Gillott and Standen (2007) compared levels of anxiety in a group of 34 adults with autism and intellectual disabilities to a matched group of 20 adults with intellectual disabilities without autism. The researchers found that the group with autism had significantly higher overall levels of anxiety, with 73.1% scoring outside the range of the control group. Moreover, researchers have also suggested that these individuals may not have the coping skills to manage the stress or cognitively appraise the situations they find anxiety provoking (Groden et al., 2001). Given that the modern work environment is increasingly more dynamic, uncertain, and team-based, it is likely that the workplace can be a significant stressor for individuals on the autism spectrum. In a series of interviews, employees with ASD cited that one of the factors affecting their employability was increased levels of stress and anxiety in trying to work “in a neurotypical world” (Hurlbutt & Chalmers, 2004, p. 219). The participants stated that they quickly became overwhelmed by not knowing which topics were appropriate to discuss in the workplace and not knowing when to ask for help. As a means to combat these underlying challenges, we contend that leadership will play a central role in the successful engagement of employees on spectrum. Leaders serve as role models, select task assignments, make accommodations to work roles, and provide task and emotional support which all can potentially increase the likelihood of worker success ( Bass and Bass, 2008, DeRue et al., 2011, Walumbwa et al., 2008 and Yukl, 2010). Thus, leaders can serve as an essential support mechanism to help individuals with ASD better adapt to their environment and successfully engage in their job. Additionally, given that leaders are central role models for how to appropriately behave in the organization ( Brown et al., 2005 and Klimoski and Hayes, 1980) and that employees with ASD report significant challenges in interpreting and understanding the social environment, these social cues from leaders are critical ( Müller, Schuler, Burton, & Yates, 2003). Although the impact that a leader can have on employees with ASD is substantial, there currently exist very few empirical studies directly examining the role of leadership in this unique and growing population (Holwerda, van der Klink, Groothoff, & Brouwer, 2012). Additionally, the studies that have been conducted on employees with ASD have been severely limited in their sample size, averaging about three to four participants per study (e.g., Bennett et al., 2010, Burt et al., 1991 and Lattimore et al., 2002). Perhaps most critically, although the limited work that has been done has helped lay an essential foundation for understanding the role of leadership in supporting employees with ASD (e.g., Hagner and Cooney, 2005 and Hurlbutt and Chalmers, 2004), early efforts have been largely atheoretical with regard to investigations of leader influence. For substantive gains in this area of research to be made, it will be essential to develop research questions grounded in the theoretical framing of leadership literature explicitly (Bacharach, 1989, Cook and Campbell, 1979 and Yukl, 2010). Therefore, as an effort to advance current research strategies and to better understand the issue, we turn to how the role of leadership, and in particular transformational leadership, may facilitate healthy well-being and successful engagement at work. 1.4. Transformational leadership Although varying conceptualizations to leadership abound, we chose to focus on transformational leadership (Bass, 1985a) as our primary theoretical framework for three primary reasons: the theory's widespread popularity among modern-day research and practice, its demonstrated capacity to predict key organizational outcomes, and the substantial dimension overlap it displays with elements of ASD (Bass and Bass, 2008 and Gardner et al., 2010). First, although the theory has its critics, transformational leadership currently represents the most popular leadership framework and is widely researched as well as utilized in leadership development programs. As such, transformational leadership may be widely implemented in work environments given it is appropriate for the masses. Additionally, since there are several risks associated with disclosing their condition that may prevent several employees on the spectrum to notify their employer of their condition (Genchanok & Kunce, 2011), leaders may not be modifying their approach to leadership and instead may be utilizing this more widespread approach. Second, transformational leadership has been empirically demonstrated numerous times to be related to several outcomes important for success in the workplace. Third, when comparing some of the defining features of transformational leadership with typical symptoms associated with ASD, we noticed substantial overlap. In particular, transformational leadership has a strong focus on affect, emotion, and individualized consideration. All of these may be especially relevant to people on the spectrum because they often struggle to interpret social and emotional cues and therefore may require individualized consideration as a result. As such, transformational leadership seemed to be a natural starting point for investigating leader influence on employees with autism. As originally proposed by Bass (1985a), the four behavioral dimensions of transformational leadership are: 1) inspirational motivation, 2) idealized influence, 3) intellectual stimulation, and 4) individualized consideration. Since its introduction as a theory, however, there has been sizable debate in the literature regarding the precise factor structure of what behaviors comprise transformational leadership (see Tejada, Scandura, & Pillai, 2001 for discussion). Some researchers, for example, have suggested that a two-factor model be used ( Yammarino, Spangler, & Dubinsky, 1998), others have proposed three-factor solution ( Heinitz, Liepmann, & Felfe, 2005), and even a nine-factor approach has been offered ( Alimo-Metcalfe & Alban-Metcalfe, 2001). It is important to bear in mind, however, that with the exception of a few notable scholars (e.g., Yukl, 1999) these criticisms have largely been levied against the multifactor leadership questionnaire (MLQ) as the primary measure of transformational leadership, rather than the dimensionality of the theory, per se. Other scales, such as the Transformational Leadership Inventory or TLI (Podsakoff, MacKenzie, Moorman, & Fetter, 1990) have produced factor structures congruent with proposed and extended theory. Moreover, there has been some support for a four factor solution, even with respect to the MLQ itself (Bass, 1985b). Thus, although the exact factor structure associated with the theory is open to debate, there is general agreement among leadership scholars that the range of behaviors comprising it are distinct from one another in some form, and that transformational leadership as a theory is indeed multidimensional (Burns, 1978 and Schriesheim et al., 2006). Central to the present study, these distinct transformational leader dimensions may also have variable influence on subordinate outcomes, and particularly with employees with autism spectrum disorder. We turned to the theoretical framework proposed originally by Bass (1985a) and Bass and Bass (2008) as well as updated recommendations offered by Rafferty and Griffin (2004) for guidance on dimensionality, rather than the conflicting milieu of findings observed within the realm of scaling and measurement. We briefly discuss each of the four proposed transformational leadership dimensions along with their hypothesized relationships with anxiety below. 1.5. Transformational leadership, anxiety, and work outcomes As described earlier, anxiety is common in adults with ASD (Gillott & Standen, 2007) and some of the symptoms associated with ASD may prevent them from executing appropriate coping skills to manage stress and appraise anxiety-arousing situations (Groden et al., 2001). For example, in their study examining the prevalence of anxiety and stressors leading to anxiety in adults with ASD, Gillott and Standen (2007) found that change, anticipation, positive events, and sensory/personal contact were all rated significantly higher as sources of stress in the group of adults with autism than in the matched sample. Given that the modern work environment is increasingly more dynamic and team-based, it is likely that the workplace will be a significant stressor to employees on the autism spectrum. As such, unless mechanisms are in place to help them cope with anxiety producing events in the workplace, it is likely that these stressors will negatively impact their approach to work and performance. Consistent with the wealth of research on neurotypical subordinates (Mumford, 2006 and Strauss, 1944), we propose that leaders can also serve as mechanisms to help employees with ASD better cope and appraise the anxiety-provoking situations. For example, knowing that individuals with ASD become anxious when routines change, leaders can prepare their employees for future changes and make subtle, rather than abrupt, changes. Providing careful, individualized support throughout the change event would appear critical and has been shown, via case-study, to help several employees on the autism spectrum (Hurlbutt & Chalmers, 2004). If unaddressed, moreover, such anxiety inducing events could have significant implications on work attitudes and performance. Central to the article, however, is the emerging proposition that leaders themselves may operate as a source of anxiety. That is, the emotionally and affectively laden aspects of transformational leader behaviors may be anxiety inducing antecedents for employees with autism. More precisely, we suggest that certain dimensions of transformational leadership may differentially influence levels of anxiety, with some helping to reduce apprehension and others resulting in anxiety increases. Our proposed conceptual model and our hypotheses are presented in Fig. 1. We discuss each hypothesis in greater detail, below. 1.5.1. Inspirational motivation and anxiety Through inspirational motivation, transformational leaders use affect-laden communication (Bass, 1985a and Bass, 1985b). Inspiration-oriented behaviors are those that are emotionally driven (Bass, 1999) — behaviors that are often embraced by subordinates that have a high need for messages with an emotional appeal (Howell & Shamir, 2005). Essentially, leaders using inspirational motivation enhance enthusiasm in followers through the use of nonintellectual, emotional qualities (Bass, 1985a). In a study examining how leader positive affect, leader positive expressions, and leader-aroused behaviors, relate to follower affect, Erez, Misangy, Johnson, LePine, and Halverson (2008) found that these positive affective displays were contagious to their followers. Specifically, participants who were exposed to leaders expressing positive charismatic displays indicated experiencing higher levels of positive affect than those not exposed to leaders expressing positive charismatic displays. Given the evidence which suggests individuals with ASD experience sensory overload quite easily (Hurlbutt & Chalmers, 2004), being in contact with someone who expresses these extreme positive displays can be overwhelming to them and may be a source of anxiety. Additionally, transformational leaders communicate their vision using symbols and abstract ideas (Bass & Bass, 2008). However, as noted in a study of employees with ASD, this population has difficulty understanding abstract concepts related to their job (Hillier et al., 2007). In particular, these employees had problems grasping the overall picture of how their job role fit within the broader organization. Moreover, individuals with ASD interpret ideas very literally and may struggle with value-based visions. Therefore, these strategies for motivating employees may not resonate well with employees with ASD, leading us to our first study proposition: Hypothesis 1. Inspirational motivation will be associated with increased levels of anxiety in employees with ASD. 1.5.2. Idealized influence and anxiety Despite the potentially deleterious effects of how leaders communicate their vision to employees with ASD, we contend that what they communicate—via the leader's vision—should not have harmful effects on anxiety and, in fact, may provide greater levels of social ease and comfort. Although some research has suggested the combination of inspirational motivation and idealized influence (e.g., Colby & Zak, 1988), scholars such as Barbuto (1997) and Rafferty and Griffin (2004) suggest that the distinguishing feature of behaviors related to idealized influence is to provide a vision in order to enhance goal clarity, task focus, and value congruence (House, 1971). Thus, through idealized influence, leaders clearly articulate a vision providing more structure and guidance to their employees to better understand performance expectations. These behaviors are unlike inspirational motivation because there is a greater emphasis on providing clarity through the content of the message rather than an emphasis on how the message is delivered (i.e., through emotion-laden language; Barbuto, 1997 and Rafferty and Griffin, 2004). When asked to give recommendations for enhancing success at work, employees with ASD commented that it is important to clearly describe job duties, responsibilities, expectations, and roles well in advance (Hurlbutt & Chalmers, 2004). Additionally, some effective strategies that supervisors of employees with ASD have used include maintaining a consistent schedule and consistent job tasks, providing organizers to structure work or written instructions for assignments, and being very clear when giving directions (Hagner & Cooney, 2005). These behaviors are consistent with establishing clear objectives and facilitating an environment to increase task focus. In addition, transformational leaders also serve to enhance value congruence and to act as strong role models by displaying high standards for moral behavior. Because individuals with ASD are often quite literal and see ideas in a black-and-white nature (Hurlbutt & Chalmers, 2004), it may be important for their leaders to display honesty, adhere to societal principles, and take into consideration the perspectives of everyone. Having a leader attend to values which individuals with ASD hold closely, may put them more at ease. Therefore, we predict that idealized influence should lessen the anxiety levels of employees with ASD. Hypothesis 2. Idealized influence will be associated with lower levels of anxiety in employees with ASD. 1.5.3. Intellectual stimulation and anxiety Transformational leaders encourage followers to challenge traditions and to inspire intellectual growth and creativity through intellectual stimulation. Leaders accomplish intellectual stimulation in a number of ways, such as through reframing problems through the use of metaphors and similes (Wicker, 1985) or refuting existing points of view (Infante & Gorden, 1985). Quinn and Hall (1983) suggested that intellectual stimulation may come about through rational, existential, empirical, or ideological behaviors. Additionally, Spreitzer and de Janasz (1994) proposed that intellectual stimulation is largely driven by empowering subordinates to formulate their own unique framing to problems. Finally, Seltzer, Numerof, and Bass (1989) suggested that intellectual stimulation may inherently arouse stress because these behaviors push subordinates to use reasoning rather than unsupported beliefs. In support, Seltzer and Bass (1990) found that intellectual stimulation had a negative effect on subordinate satisfaction. Keller (1992) recognized these differences and suggested that contextual factors may influence whether intellectual stimulation has positive or negative effects. Thus, it appears that behaviors associated with this dimension are often abstract, lack high levels of structure, and are stress-inducing, particularly for individuals already susceptible to stress and anxiety. Moreover, the emphasis on challenging the status quo is likely to be anxiety inducing for employees who struggle to understand basic social norms, much less how to effectively challenge them. While individuals with ASD are often very intelligent and creative, this push and the use of abstract language may be overly excessive. As such, we predicted that leaders who engage in intellectually stimulating behaviors would increase levels of anxiety in employees on the autism spectrum. Hypothesis 3. Intellectual stimulation will be associated with increased levels of anxiety in employees with ASD. 1.5.4. Individualized consideration and anxiety Finally, through individualized consideration, transformational leaders support subordinates by providing unique and tailored coaching. This attentiveness may be needed, especially with regards to potential frustration and affective breakdowns that can afflict employees with ASD (Hagner & Cooney, 2005). Additionally, because autism is largely a social and communication-based disorder, supervisors may need to provide support and guidance when employees with ASD are interacting with other coworkers or customers. For example, individuals on the autism spectrum often have difficulty interpreting nonverbal cues therefore it may be necessary for the supervisor to assist in their understanding of these cues. Leaders who engage in tailored and individualized behaviors for their employees are likely to recognize the unique needs of individuals on the autism spectrum and, accordingly, assign tasks that suit their skill-set and match their social capacity. In one example, Hagner and Cooney (2005) discussed an employee working as a cashier at a grocery store who became anxious when lines began to form and customers were in a rush. The supervisor recognized the employee's anxiety and scheduled the employee to work on off-peak hours as a means to improve performance and reduce subordinate stress. On the whole, we predicted that leaders who pay special and unique attention to the needs of employees on the autism spectrum would reduce anxiety in these employees, leading to our fourth hypothesis: Hypothesis 4. Individualized consideration will be associated with lower levels of anxiety in employees with ASD. 1.5.5. Anxiety and workplace outcomes In addition to proposing the direct effects of transformational leadership on anxiety, we also hypothesize that levels of anxiety should impact work outcomes of employees with ASD. We chose to focus on one attitudinal variable, organizational commitment, as well as self-reported indicators of organizational performance. As previous research has integrated how transformational leadership affects strain through organizational commitment (Franziska & Felfe, 2011), we focused on the attitudinal variable of organizational commitment due to its relevance. Additionally, organizational commitment is appropriate given the relative underemployment of individuals with ASD (e.g., Howlin et al., 2004 and Hurlbutt and Chalmers, 2004; Mawhood et al., 2000 and National Organization on Disability, 2004) and may shed light onto potential factors associated with underemployment. We believe the combination of attitudes and performance indicators provides a broader indication of how transformational leadership and anxiety impact work outcomes. Organizational commitment is defined as a “the relative strength of an individual's identification with and involvement in a particular organization” (Mowday, Porter, & Steers, 1982, p. 226). Several studies have examined various antecedents of organizational commitment including individual-level characteristics, role states, job characteristics, leader relations, and organizational characteristics. In a recent study examining the role organizational commitment in stress models, Glazer and Kruse (2008) sought to determine whether organizational commitment moderated the relationship between job-related anxiety and intention to leave. While they were not testing the direct relationship between job-related anxiety and organizational commitment, they did report a significant and negative bivariate correlation between job-related anxiety and organizational commitment (r = − .17). It is important to note that the sample was composed of employees not reporting ASD, with a fairly low mean level of anxiety (M = 2.95, SD = 1.26, on a scale of 1–7; Glazer & Kruse, 2008). Given that individuals with ASD tend to have higher levels of anxiety, it is likely that this correlation would be magnified in a sample expressly focused on such employees. Additionally, there is some indirect evidence which suggests that levels of anxiety may influence organizational commitment. In a meta-analysis examining the antecedents, correlates, and consequences of organizational commitment, Mathieu and Zajac (1990) reported that role ambiguity had a negative and moderate correlation with organizational commitment (mean weighted r = − .22). Role ambiguity, defined as a condition in which an employee lacks clear knowledge of what behaviors are expected in his or her job, has very similar properties as anxiety. In employees with ASD, anxiety may arise when they are put in social situations in which they do not know how to interact. However, anxiety is not just limited to ambiguity but also extends to states or conditions resulting from highly arousing situations. Therefore, while role ambiguity overlaps some properties of anxiety, it encompasses additional elements which may also result in decreased levels of organizational commitment. Additionally, we propose that anxiety may have an influence on performance. At the most general level, role ambiguity has also been shown to have a strong negative correlation with performance in a recent meta-analysis (Gilboa, Shirom, Fried, & Cooper, 2008) indicating that elements of anxiety may decrease not only organizational commitment but also performance. More specifically, anxiety leads to heightened arousal and stress which may impact the cognitive appraisal of situations (Groden et al., 2001). In a recent study by Luke, Clare, Ring, Redley, and Watson (2012), individuals with ASD were compared to a matched control group on their decision-making abilities. Overall, participants with ASD reported higher levels of anxiety than the matched control group. Additionally, analyses revealed that as anxiety increased in participants with ASD, reports of experiencing more problems in decision-making increased as well. Thus, it is likely that anxiety may impede some of the processes critical for effective performance at work. Hypothesis 5. Anxiety will be negatively related to (a) organizational commitment and (b) performance. Finally, we propose that transformational leadership will have an indirect effect on work outcomes, operating through anxiety. That is, we propose that leaders have the ability to ease or increase anxiety levels in employees with ASD, which may ultimately be related to their work attitudes and performance. Drawing on the path goal theory, a partial precursor to transformational leadership (Bass, 1965), we suggest that leaders should seek to remove obstacles in order to enhance the performance of subordinates (House, 1971 and Mitchell, 1979). In particular, we suggest that anxiety may be the obstacle and the behaviors of leaders may either reduce that barrier to successful outcomes or potentially augment the barrier ultimately impacting their attitudes and performance. Thus, the critical role of leadership for employees with ASD may be to help manage anxiety in order to ultimately enhance organizational commitment and performance. As noted by House (1971), leaders make the paths to desired work outcomes “easier to travel, by clarifying [them], reducing roadblocks and pitfalls…” (p. 324). Our sixth, and final hypothesis is as follows: Hypothesis 6. Transformational leadership dimensions will be indirectly related to (a) organizational commitment and (b) performance through anxiety.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
Despite a wealth of data suggesting that transformational leadership is a universally beneficial approach to leadership, results from this study suggest that such implicit universality may not hold for all employees. In particular, we observed that one dimension of transformational leadership, inspirational motivation, increased levels of anxiety in employees with ASD, which was related to lower levels of organizational commitment. It is of note, however, that other dimensions such as individualized consideration demonstrated relationships with both reduced levels of anxiety as well a notable direct relationship with organizational performance. Similar findings were also observed for idealized influence with our interpretation being that leaders who offer a clear vision serve to provide goal clarity, thereby limiting perceptions of ambiguity and uncertainty. On the whole, then, results suggest that some transformational behaviors are helpful for employees with ASD, while others may hamper employee well-being in the workplace. At the onset of the article, we suggested that the growing number of employees with ASD dictates that organizations increase their preparedness to manage and support their success in the workplace. Results from this study support the proposition that leaders will play a key role in managing this influx and that a number of behaviors will be particularly crucial in the transition. In particular, results suggest that anxiety may attenuate feelings of organizational commitment. Perhaps most critical to leaders was the finding that transformational leadership behaviors, in positive and negative fashion, were significant predictors of anxiety levels. Although time will tell which leadership behaviors are most critical to employees on the autism spectrum, results from this study suggest that leaders would be well-served to provide clear goals, pay special attention to the needs of this unique workforce, and limit the emotionally laden social interactions often associated with inspirational communication. 4.1. Theoretical implications The results from this study have several theoretical and practical implications for leadership research and workplace issues for individuals with ASD. With respect to theory development and refinement, although transformational leadership has been demonstrated to have positive effects on outcomes for neurotypical employees (e.g., de Groot et al., 2000, Judge and Piccolo, 2004 and Lowe et al., 1996), this study highlighted some potential boundary conditions for the positive effects of transformational leadership in other populations. In particular, we found that inspirationally oriented behavior was related to higher levels of anxiety for employees with autism. This is unlike studies on transformational leadership with neurotypicals, which demonstrate inspirational motivation has negative relationships with emotional exhaustion and chronic stress (Densten, 2005 and Roswold and Schlotz, 2009) and positive relationships with personal accomplishment and positive affect (Brown and Keeping, 2005 and Densten, 2005). The implication of our finding is that when leaders communicate using symbols and emotion-laden messages, they may be negatively affecting employee well-being. Directly, this finding suggests that transformational leadership behaviors may not be universally effective for all employees. Rather, there may be some behaviors which negatively impact various outcomes in individuals, particularly those sensitive to abstract and affectively-laden forms of communication and social interaction. Along these lines, this study demonstrated that the four dimensions of transformational leadership differentially influence anxiety in employees with ASD. This finding underscores the importance of unpacking the dimensionality of transformational leadership as a theory to obtain a more nuanced understanding of relationships with other variables. As the debates continue with respect to the precise dimensionality of the theory, our results suggest that more fine-grained approaches may have merit, particularly with regard to investigating unique workplace populations. From a process-oriented perspective, this study provides insight into the mechanisms driving leadership influence of employees with autism. Specifically, we found that transformational leadership produced an indirect relationship on work attitudes, operating through anxiety, a common symptom of individuals with ASD (Groden et al., 2001). As theory is refined with regard to the processes that shape transformational leader influence, it would appear useful to consider the role of anxiety in such processes — particularly for those employees who trend toward higher levels of anxiousness. Notably, although indirect effects were observed for organizational commitment, the effects were not found for self-ratings of performance. In fact, most of the effects were in the opposite direction hypothesized. Inferred from these trends is the possibility that transformational leadership serves to operate indirectly on cognitive and affective variables (i.e., attitudes). If placed in a job position that employees with ASD feel comfortable in and understand the tasks well, it may be the case that leadership and anxiety do not negatively interfere with their task performance. Alternatively, returning to the routinized (and well-known) tasks of the job may ease their anxiety and maintain their level of performance. 4.2. Practical implications Turning now to practical implications, by applying leadership behaviors associated with idealized influence and individualized consideration, results suggest that employees with ASD will experience less anxiety and be more committed to their work. In turn, if they do feel successfully engaged in their work endeavors and feel as though they are contributing to the organization, it is likely that their quality of life will be improved because a sense of independence, self-efficacy, and self-determination will be achieved. Second, understanding these behaviors may have implications not only for employees with ASD but also for the organization. These effects of greater work engagement and productivity are likely to be seen at the organizational level. By having employees who are more successfully engaged and committed to their work, it is likely that organizational effectiveness will also be improved, particularly over time. Noted earlier, individuals with ASD can uniquely contribute to the organization because of their distinct skill sets and having a supported, committed workforce may prove to be a valuable asset to the organization most willing to appropriately manage these employees. Finally, although we have focused most of our attention on employees with ASD, there are some direct benefits to supervisors as well. In particular, if supervisors understand behaviors that work best for engaging individuals with ASD, they can more effectively tailor their actions to those behaviors which have been found to decrease anxiety and increase work attitudes. Thus, rather than experiment using various behaviors, they can more definitively use a set of behaviors thereby increasing the efficiency of their actions, which may produce feelings of efficacy of their leadership skills and may allow them to devote their energy to other matters. Moreover, leaders may be unaware of the appropriate means of engaging employees with autism which may, in turn, cause anxiety in the leaders themselves. Results from this study provide at least initial indication with respect to which leader behaviors may be most useful to begin with when working with employees with ASD. 4.3. Study limitations The results of this study must be considered in light of some limitations. First, the size of the sample is small relative to other studies in organizational behavior. Despite the low numbers, this sample is larger than any other study of its kind. After an analysis of peer-reviewed research studies involving employees with ASD, the largest sample sizes were composed of six individuals with ASD (e.g., Burke et al., 2010 and Hurlbutt and Chalmers, 2004), with the majority of the studies only including three or four individuals with ASD (e.g., Bennett et al., 2010, Burt et al., 1991 and Lattimore et al., 2002). Perhaps most directly, small sample size is a problem only if effect sizes are too small to be detected (Cohen, 1992). In our case, multiple hypotheses were supported, suggesting that the sample was large enough to test the hypothesized effects and that there was acceptable power in the analyses conducted. Moreover, fit indices from two SEM models were supportive of testing the proposed data structure. Nonetheless, a larger sample would lend greater confidence to similar findings and as awareness of autism grows, the procurement of such samples may improve. Second, it is important to note that the measures used in the study utilized self-report ratings. Use of self-report has been criticized for increasing the possibility of common method bias (Organ and Ryan, 1995 and Podsakoff and Todor, 1985). However, we did attempt to control for potential third variable issues by covarying the effects of leader liking (Williams & Anderson, 1994), a known biasing variable with respect to impacting assessments of transformational leadership (Brown & Keeping, 2005). Moreover, given the nature of the variables tested, with the exception of performance which demonstrated high correlations with supervisor ratings, self-report indicators appeared most appropriate for the proposed research questions (Conway & Lance, 2010). In regards to performance, this self-report measure is composed of a single item and therefore direct reliability statistics could not be drawn. However, a subsample demonstrated high correlations with supervisor ratings providing some confidence for using this measure. Additionally, past research demonstrated that single item measures of performance do meet acceptable levels of reliability (Wanous & Hudy, 2001). We encourage future research to use objective performance ratings to replicate our findings. Along these lines, because our study involved collecting self-report data at one point in time, we cannot eliminate the possibility of reverse causality. It may be possible that employees with autism who have higher levels of anxiety are less likely to be receptive to a leader's display of inspirational motivation. However, provided that there is evidence to support that inspirational motivation tends to have positive effects on the general population, who may too have high levels of anxiety at times, we feel that the direction of results implied is suitable. Third, this study only focused on one leadership theory. However, there may be other leadership theories that may be applicable to employees with ASD. For example, transactional leadership may be particularly relevant to those on the spectrum because it focuses on elements related to providing structure, clarity, and direction to tasks as well as providing support, coaching, and guidance. Future research is encouraged to explore how other leadership theories may influence employees on the spectrum. Fourth, this study does not include a comparison sample of coworkers to assess the effects of transformational leadership. Due to the sensitive nature of disclosing their condition to employers and coworkers, we were limited in acquiring a comparison sample in order to respect the privacy of our participants. Finally, the majority of the sample consisted of employees who had a mild form of ASD. Future research is encouraged to actively solicit opinions of individuals who may be on the more severe end of the spectrum to see whether their perspectives differ and whether observed relationships may vary by disorder level. 4.4. Directions for future research Both the results and limitations from this study highlight the need for future research in this domain. First, other outcome variables should be investigated in relation to leadership and employees with ASD. While organizational commitment is certainly important, other more objective indices of performance such as absenteeism, errors, and tenure are also likely related to leadership behaviors with this population. In addition, other models of leadership should be examined for generalizability to this population to determine if one style may outweigh the transformational leadership benefits identified. Second, while the majority of ASD research has focused on young children, there is a critical need to conduct more studies using an adult population to facilitate their successful integration into adulthood and independent living. As employment is one of the defining features of independent living and has implications for quality of life (Schall et al., 2012), it is important to direct more research projects towards adults with ASD in the work environment (Gerhardt & Lainer, 2011). In particular, future research should replicate these results with a broader sample, especially with those lower on the spectrum, to see if there are any differences in perspectives. It may be possible that individuals with more severe cases have exaggerated reactions to transformational behaviors. Additionally, if these individuals have more significant social and communication problems, individualized consideration may be even more important to help employees learn workplace norms and navigate this unique territory in a sincere manner. Third, it is interesting to note that several participants had not self-disclosed their condition to their employer. Future research should seek to understand why and when individuals decide to self-disclose and how their employers react. It is possible that individuals may be resistant to self-disclose because they are fearful that they will be discriminated against or put at a disadvantage. Not only does this present issues for the employee by nature of stigmatization and lack of accommodations provided, but it also presents an issue for research on these understudied populations—ASD and all other cognitive and emotional conditions. As researchers, we will need to focus more closely on recruiting efforts and privacy issues to reach out to this sector. Furthermore, as practitioners, it shows a need that we need to focus on creating work climates that are more open and receptive to all disorders. Fourth, there is a need to examine more closely the role of anxiety in work outcomes of employees with ASD. In particular, it is important to better understand the relationship between anxiety and performance. While an overall measure of performance was utilized for this study, it may be the case that there are differential results for task performance and contextual performance. It is possible that moderate levels of anxiety could enhance task performance on the one hand but could harm contextual performance because of the more social nature of contextual performance. Additionally, thinking more broadly, it will be important to examine how leadership styles may influence other individuals with disabilities, for example attention deficit disorder. The affective nature of transformational leadership may also have a negative impact on this population, as compared to neurotypicals. Finally, although the legal landscape is in continual flux, it is currently open to question what types of actions on the part of an organization might constitute reasonable accommodation for employees with social disabilities such as autism. As the number of employees with ASD grows and their legal awareness increases (VanBergeijk et al., 2008), organizations may soon be left searching for the appropriate action to place them in compliance with disability laws. The social nature of disabilities such as autism may require organizations to offer training to supervisors that guides appropriate forms of support and management. Future research is needed to determine what types of training programs are most effective and whether these programs operate within the reasonable accommodation requirements. In summary, this is the first study to empirically examine the relationship between transformational leadership on work attitudes and performance in employees with ASD and to determine how this relationship is impacted by anxiety. Overall, this study showed that transformational leadership may not always be beneficial to employees. We hope that these results will lead to more investigations in how leadership can influence the successful integration and engagement of employees with ASD, a population which will be entering the workforce in the near future, as well as to take a more critical approach to assessing the applicability of commonly accepted constructs in unique populations.