Forgiveness in leader-member exchange (LMX) relationships: A multi-study examination of mediating and moderating mechanisms

  • Ana Radulovic

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Drawing upon theories from both the leadership and forgiveness domains, the overarching aim of this thesis was to answer a fundamental question. Namely, how and when does forgiveness unfold in Leader-Member Exchange (LMX) relationships and what are its outcomes? Even though it has been suggested that generic relationship knowledge from close relationship science can inform the understanding of LMX relationship maintenance, surprisingly little theoretical or empirical studies have addressed this area. By integrating both a framework of relationship maintenance mechanisms and a model of forgiveness in close relationships with LMX theory, study one developed and tested a model of forgiveness in LMX relationships. In a cross-sectional study involving 254 employees from eight organisations it was found that high LMX quality lead to higher job satisfaction and subjective well-being via greater follower’s forgiveness and subsequent follower’s relational efforts. Furthermore, it was found that higher levels of follower’s relationship self-efficacy and Leader-Member Exchange Social Comparison (LMXSC) enhanced follower’s forgiveness. The results of study one demonstrated that forgiveness of interpersonal transgressions in LMX relationships can lead to positive outcomes, and thus has important implications for LMX relationship maintenance and repair. Building on study one, study two adopted an experimental scenario design in order to examine the causal associations between LMX and forgiveness. Additionally, the study investigated the moderating role of forgiveness climate and the type of offence on follower’s forgiveness. The causal links between LMX and forgiveness were found for a competence-based offence but not for an integrity-based offence. Furthermore, it was found that forgiveness climate enhanced follower’s forgiveness in low quality (but not high quality) LMX relationships. This impact of forgiveness climate was found only following a low severity competence-based offence, and not following a high severity of competence-based or integrity-based offence. Overall, the findings of the thesis demonstrate that LMX relationships are vulnerable to interpersonal offences and that forgiveness could be used as a relationship maintenance strategy that yields positive outcomes.
Date of Award8 Mar 2017
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorAlison Legood (Supervisor), Olga Epitropaki (Supervisor) & Geoffrey M Thomas (Supervisor)


  • leadership
  • forgiveness
  • leader-member exchange (LMX)
  • subjective well-being
  • job satisfaction

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