Should supervisors communicate goals or visions? The moderating role of subordinates' psychological distance

Arne Vanderstukken*, Bert Schreurs, Filip Germeys, Anja Van den Broeck, Karin Proost

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

There is an ongoing debate about how supervisors should communicate desired endstates to subordinates, that is, whether they should set concrete goals (according to goal setting theory) or communicate abstract visions (according to transformational leadership theory). In this paper, we draw on construal level theory (CLT) to reconcile both views and develop a model of when supervisors communicating concrete goals versus abstract visions are seen as more effective. According to CLT, being psychologically removed from (vs. near to) an event or object makes people construe the event or object in a more abstract (vs. concrete) way, which, in turn, leads people to process abstract (vs. concrete) information more fluently and thus evaluate the sender of this information more favorably. Accordingly, supervisor effectiveness may be higher in conditions where communication and psychological distance to the supervisor converge (vision/far and goals/close) rather than diverge (vision/close and goals/far). We tested this hypothesis in two experiments, using different operationalizations of psychological distance. In these studies, we found supervisor effectiveness to be higher when vision was communicated at a far versus near distance and goals were communicated at a near versus far distance.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Applied Social Psychology
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Aug 2019

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Psychology
Communication

Keywords

  • CHARISMATIC LEADERSHIP
  • CONSTRUAL-LEVEL
  • MOTIVATION
  • ORIENTATION
  • PERFORMANCE
  • PICTURE
  • TIME
  • TRANSACTIONAL LEADERSHIP
  • TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADERSHIP
  • WORK

Cite this

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title = "Should supervisors communicate goals or visions?: The moderating role of subordinates' psychological distance",
abstract = "There is an ongoing debate about how supervisors should communicate desired endstates to subordinates, that is, whether they should set concrete goals (according to goal setting theory) or communicate abstract visions (according to transformational leadership theory). In this paper, we draw on construal level theory (CLT) to reconcile both views and develop a model of when supervisors communicating concrete goals versus abstract visions are seen as more effective. According to CLT, being psychologically removed from (vs. near to) an event or object makes people construe the event or object in a more abstract (vs. concrete) way, which, in turn, leads people to process abstract (vs. concrete) information more fluently and thus evaluate the sender of this information more favorably. Accordingly, supervisor effectiveness may be higher in conditions where communication and psychological distance to the supervisor converge (vision/far and goals/close) rather than diverge (vision/close and goals/far). We tested this hypothesis in two experiments, using different operationalizations of psychological distance. In these studies, we found supervisor effectiveness to be higher when vision was communicated at a far versus near distance and goals were communicated at a near versus far distance.",
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author = "Arne Vanderstukken and Bert Schreurs and Filip Germeys and {Van den Broeck}, Anja and Karin Proost",
year = "2019",
month = "8",
day = "16",
doi = "10.1111/jasp.12626",
language = "English",
journal = "Journal of Applied Social Psychology",
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Should supervisors communicate goals or visions? The moderating role of subordinates' psychological distance. / Vanderstukken, Arne; Schreurs, Bert; Germeys, Filip; Van den Broeck, Anja; Proost, Karin.

In: Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 16.08.2019.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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T1 - Should supervisors communicate goals or visions?

T2 - The moderating role of subordinates' psychological distance

AU - Vanderstukken, Arne

AU - Schreurs, Bert

AU - Germeys, Filip

AU - Van den Broeck, Anja

AU - Proost, Karin

PY - 2019/8/16

Y1 - 2019/8/16

N2 - There is an ongoing debate about how supervisors should communicate desired endstates to subordinates, that is, whether they should set concrete goals (according to goal setting theory) or communicate abstract visions (according to transformational leadership theory). In this paper, we draw on construal level theory (CLT) to reconcile both views and develop a model of when supervisors communicating concrete goals versus abstract visions are seen as more effective. According to CLT, being psychologically removed from (vs. near to) an event or object makes people construe the event or object in a more abstract (vs. concrete) way, which, in turn, leads people to process abstract (vs. concrete) information more fluently and thus evaluate the sender of this information more favorably. Accordingly, supervisor effectiveness may be higher in conditions where communication and psychological distance to the supervisor converge (vision/far and goals/close) rather than diverge (vision/close and goals/far). We tested this hypothesis in two experiments, using different operationalizations of psychological distance. In these studies, we found supervisor effectiveness to be higher when vision was communicated at a far versus near distance and goals were communicated at a near versus far distance.

AB - There is an ongoing debate about how supervisors should communicate desired endstates to subordinates, that is, whether they should set concrete goals (according to goal setting theory) or communicate abstract visions (according to transformational leadership theory). In this paper, we draw on construal level theory (CLT) to reconcile both views and develop a model of when supervisors communicating concrete goals versus abstract visions are seen as more effective. According to CLT, being psychologically removed from (vs. near to) an event or object makes people construe the event or object in a more abstract (vs. concrete) way, which, in turn, leads people to process abstract (vs. concrete) information more fluently and thus evaluate the sender of this information more favorably. Accordingly, supervisor effectiveness may be higher in conditions where communication and psychological distance to the supervisor converge (vision/far and goals/close) rather than diverge (vision/close and goals/far). We tested this hypothesis in two experiments, using different operationalizations of psychological distance. In these studies, we found supervisor effectiveness to be higher when vision was communicated at a far versus near distance and goals were communicated at a near versus far distance.

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