The importance of leader-member exchange quality in work engagement
: An explorative interview study of employee experiences in UK organisations

  • Melissa Langenhan

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


With the rise of the knowledge economy, the world of work is increasingly characterised by work intensification, competition and uncertainty. Particularly in developed countries, meaning is becoming more important in one’s working life. In a similar vein, the shift in focus towards positive psychology and employee well-being has meant that work engagement is of growing interest to academics, practitioners and governments alike. The popularity and buzzword status of work engagement has been fuelled by claims of not only improving employee well-being but also organisational performance. Work engagement is understood “as a positive, fulfilling, work- related state of mind that is characterized by vigour, dedication, and absorption” (Schaufeli, Salanova, et al., 2002, p. 74). In an effort to overcome the noted engagement deficit in the UK, understanding what drives and influences work engagement is at the top of organisational agendas.Although there are many factors that can influence engagement, social support and in particular the line manager play a pivotal role in shaping an employee’s experience of their work. As agents of the organisation, it is argued that line managers help facilitate or diminish the psychological connection one has with work. Using social exchange theory (SET), this study explores the impact of leader-member exchange (LMX) quality in relation to employee experiences of work engagement. Moreover, it examines how perceived psychological contract breaches (PCB) further influence the relationship quality and how employees feel at work.Despite the intuitive nature of this topic, the scarcity of research in this field is surprising and literature is still in its infancy at understanding the complexity that underpins this interaction. Using qualitative semi-structured interviews across three UK organisations, this study aims to extend literature in this field and answers calls for more research linking LMX and work engagement. It was found that LMX quality and POS function as distant predictors of work engagement, whereby they moderate the PCB and work engagement relationship. Theoretical and practical implications as well as limitations of the research will be discussed.
Date of Award21 Nov 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorBruce Rayton (Supervisor) & Zeynep Yalabik (Supervisor)


  • Work engagement
  • Leader-Member Exchange
  • Psychological Contract Breach

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