A fundamental principle of leader–member exchange (LMX) theory is that leaders develop different quality relationships with their employees. However, little research has investigated the impact of LMX differentiation on employees’ work attitude. Therefore, this study examines the mediating influence of trust in teammates on the relationships between perceptions of LMX variability within a team and the work attitude of affective organizational commitment and turnover intentions. Data were obtained from 225 employees in diverse organizations and occupational groups in Shandong Province, People’s Republic of China. The model was tested at the individual level. Controlling for individual-level perceptions of LMX quality, the results revealed that an individual’s perception of LMX variability in their team was negatively related to employee’s affective organizational commitment and positively related to employee turnover intentions, and these two relationships were mediated by reports of relational trust in teammates. Our study thus contributes to a better understanding of the ‘black box’ phenomenon that links LMX differentiation to work attitude and enriches knowledge of the social exchange mechanisms.
Key words: Leader–member exchange (LMX), LMX variability, trust, work attitude.
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