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Media Richness and the Relationship between Direct Reports and Supervisors

Jennifer E Fairweather, Johnson & Wales University


Research has shown that the relationships employees have with their supervisors or managers is one element that may influence employee engagement and retention (Reina et al., 2018). As part of building a positive relationship, communication may be a key factor of influence (Divleli & Ergun, 2015). In today’s workplace, supervisors are often using technology to communicate with their direct reports. With the increasing use of technology to communicate there could be influences on the perceived relationship employees have with their managers (Colbert et al., 2016). As an example, some studies have shown that lesser rich technology media that are in written format, such as email and text messages, may be less effective in augmenting quality interactions (Colbert et al., 2016; Mackenzie, 2010; Stich et al., 2018). There are leadership theories that describe differences in styles that influence effective supervision. The full range leadership model provides a hierarchy of leadership styles that offer different approaches toward supervision (Bass & Avolio, 1994). Specifically, within the full range leadership model, the transformational leadership style may be an effective approach toward engaging employees (Antonakis et al., 2003) that could also be influenced by technology media (Hambley et al., 2007). The purpose of this convergent mixed methods study was to describe the perception of how media richness, when using technology to communicate, influences the relationship direct reports have with their supervisors. To address the research question, a survey was used with a sample of direct reports who frequently receive communication from their supervisors in different formats. The results from the study suggest that technology media influences the perceived relationship between direct reports and their supervisors. According to the results of this study, technology media may be especially helpful in bolstering the availability of supervisors which may positively influence other elements of the supervisory relationship. The results further suggest that it may be important for all leaders to choose technology media that is personalized and preferred by the employee while also using the most effective media for the type of message. Finally, leaders should understand the concerns that employees may have around privacy and overuse of technology media.

Subject Area

Communication|Business administration|Management

Recommended Citation

Fairweather, Jennifer E, "Media Richness and the Relationship between Direct Reports and Supervisors" (2022). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI29394843.