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Fearless Idea 21: Anchor Your Teams

Mar 21, 2017
World Class Faculty & Research

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SMITH BRAIN TRUST — Organizations need strong leaders who can build high-quality relationships with their subordinates. But the same leaders create a liability when they exit because loyal employees will often follow them out the door. The result can be “turnover contagion.”

The opposite happens when bad leaders depart. Employees are more likely to celebrate. So what’s an organization to do? Research co-authored by professor Debra L. Shapiro at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business explores ways to anchor employees to their organizations so they don’t want to leave.

The key is to invest in organization-wide developmental climates that feature developers at all levels — top-down, laterally and bottom-up — so employees never depend too much on any one person for their support. “A 360-degree relational perspective means that developers may not necessarily be authority figures or even people more senior in the organization,” Shapiro says.

Learning cultures like this don’t happen by accident. Shapiro says organizations must work to align their incentives, rewards, training programs and performance appraisal systems to encourage a range of multidirectional developmental activities. Organizations must also promote many development roles, including but not limited to mentor, coach, sponsor and friend.

Nothing lasts forever, including the tenure of a great leader. “It’s natural for great leaders to move on to other career opportunities,” Shapiro says. “But losing strong leaders admired and trusted by their employees need not weaken organizational attachment.”

Co-authors of the paper also include Smith School professor Rajshree Agarwal.

Read more: Shapiro, D.L. Hom, P., Shen, W., & Agarwal, R. in press. How do leader departures affect subordinates’ organizational attachment?: A 360-degree relational perspective. Academy of Management Review, 41(3): 479-502.  (doi: 10.5465/amr.2014.0233).

Debra L. Shapiro is the Clarice Smith Professor Chair of Management & Organization at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.

Research interests: Negotiation, mediation and dispute resolution; change management; managing multinational teams; strategies for promoting positive work attitudes, including organizational justice, support, developmental climate and inclusiveness; strategies for promoting desired workplace behaviors associated with these attitudes, including organizational commitment, attachment, proactivity, knowledge-sharing, team innovation and high levels of performance; management of workplace challenges, including the “shock” of leader departures.

Selected accomplishments: Past president, Academy of Management; 1991, 1992, 1996 and 2007 best paper awards from AOM’s Conflict Management Division; 1999 Best Empirical Paper Award, International Association for Conflict Management; author of two books; 2007 Krowe Teaching Award recipient at the Smith School. 

About this series: The Smith School faculty is celebrating Women’s History Month 2017 in partnership with ADVANCE, an initiative to transform the University of Maryland by investing in a culture of inclusive excellence. Daily faculty spotlights support activities from the school’s Office of Diversity Initiatives, culminating with the sixth annual Women Leading Women forum on March 30, 2017.

Other fearless ideas from: Rajshree Agarwal  |  Ritu Agarwal  |  Leigh Anenson  |  Kathryn M. Bartol  |  Christine Beckman  |  Margrét Bjarnadóttir  |  M. Cecilia Bustamante  |  Rellie Derfler-Rozin  |  Waverly Ding  |  Wedad J. Elmaghraby  |  Rosellina Ferraro  |  Rebecca Hann  |  Amna Kirmani  |  Hanna Lee  |  Hui Liao  |  Wendy W. Moe  |  Courtney Paulson  |  Louiqa Raschid  |  Rebecca Ratner  |  Rachelle Sampson  |  Debra L. Shapiro  |  Cynthia Kay Stevens  |  M. Susan Taylor  |  Vijaya Venkataramani  |  Janet Wagner  |  Yajin Wang  |  Yajun Wang  |  Liu Yang  |  Jie Zhang  |  Lingling Zhang  |  PhD Candidates

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About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business 

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, specialty masters, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.