Maintenance Communication in Superior-Subordinate Work Relationships


  • A previous version of this article was presented at the 1994 annual meeting of the International Communication Association, Sydney, Australia. The authors would like to thank two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments.


In a series of two studies, this research (a) identified strategic situations in which superiors and subordinates felt the need to maintain their relationships, (b) delineated communication tactics and strategies that supervisors and subordinates consciously enacted to maintain their relationships, and (c) investigated how superiors and subordinates in different kinds of relationship exchanges employed maintenance communication behaviors and activities in strategic maintenance situations. Findings indicated that approximately 50% of the maintenance situations that respondents identified concerned deteriorating interactional contexts, 25% concerned escalating situations, and 25% concerned routine situations. In addition, results suggested that although there may be similarities across situations with respect to the overall strategies that superiors and subordinates use to maintain their relationships, how they enact those strategies is fairly unique depending on the situation and the quality of the leader-member relationships (as perceived by subordinates).