Int. Journal of Business Science and Applied Management, Volume 12, Issue 1, 2017
Supervisor’s behavioral complexity: Ineffective in the call center
Federico R. León
Research, Universidad San Ignacio de Loyola
Av. La Fontana 550, Lima 13, Peru
Tel: 51-1-3481262
Andrés Burga-León
Psychology Faculty, Universidad de Lima
Av. Javier Prado, cuadra 46, s/n, Lima 33, Perú
Tel: 51-1-4376767
Oswaldo Morales
Graduate School, Universidad ESAN
Alonso de Molina 1652, Lima 33, Peru
Tel: 51-1-7127200
An ample repertoire of leadership behaviors available to the manager is expected to guarantee his/her
effectiveness transcending situations, but research in the call-center context has identified a specific form of
effective supervision: people-oriented leadership. The purpose of this paper is to compare the effectiveness of
leader behavioral complexity vis-vis people-oriented supervision. 268 employees out of 728 of a Peruvian
call center filled in an on-line survey that included, among other questionnaires, the Competing Values
Framework Managerial Behavior Instrument in reference to their front-line supervisor. The study analyzed
the relationships between supervisory leadership and subordinate turnover intention and absenteeism.
Behavioral complexity, like people-oriented leadership, predicted subordinate turnover intention but did not
predict subordinate absenteeism, which people-oriented leadership did when other leadership orientations (to
change, results, processes) were held constant. Our explanations consider that absenteeism is a concrete
behavior and turnover intention an abstract attitude. The findings are consistent with the call-center literature,
suggest important boundaries to the concept of manager behavioral complexity, and highlight the need for
contingency theories of leadership effectiveness.
Keywords: leader behavioral complexity, people-oriented leadership, absenteeism, competing values
Acknowledgements: We thank Juan Ramos, Álvaro Goyenechea, Paul Rojas, and José Meza for their
contributions to the research.
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Managerial leadership - the process whereby managers influence the behavior of their subordinates - is
regarded as effective when it leads to the achievement of organizational goals. Two types of leadership
effectiveness models are found in the managerial literature: one-size-fits-all models and situational models.
Whereas the former propose specific forms of leadership as solutions for any organizational situation, the
latter assume that a form of leadership may be effective in some situations and ineffective in others. The
research gap identified in this article is the absence of empirical challenges to a recently proposed one-size-
fits-all model of managerial leadership. The study presented addresses the gap by identifying in the
organizational literature a specific context which seems to call for only part of the proposed model a part
which is relevant to the situation - and tests the effectiveness of the proposed model, in whole and in part, in
that organizational context.
1.1 Leader behavioral complexity and Hypothesis 1
One-size-fits-all models of leadership effectiveness have prevailed in research on managerial leadership
in recent decades (Bryman, Collinson, Grint, Jackson, & Uhl-Bien, 2011). Using transformational leadership,
the manager convinces his/her personnel to transcend their self-interest for the sake of the organization while
elevating employees’ needs from concerns for safety and security to concerns for achievement and self-
actualization. The transformational leader gives subordinates autonomy over specific jobs, training and tools
to succeed, and authority to make decisions, and serves as an empathetic role model who inspires them to
achieve remarkable results. In transactional leadership, the leader promotes compliance by followers through
rewards and punishments. With transactional leadership, the manager emphasizes extrinsic rewards and
motivates subordinates through contractual agreements to pursue organizational goals while workplace
anxiety is minimized and follower self-interest is fulfilled. Whereas the transformational leader shows that old
patterns are ineffective and works to change the system, the transactional leader solves challenges by fitting
experiences to a known pattern and works within the system. Whereas the former wants to know what has to
change, the latter wants to know the step-by-step approach. Leader-member exchange (LMX) theory focuses
in the dyadic leader-member relationship. It is a combination of the two previously described models which
begins as transactional exchange and evolves into transformational exchange. Research motivated by these
models has achieved a high degree of theoretical sophistication (e.g., Kimura, 2012; Li, Furst-Holloway,
Gales, Masterson, & Blume, 2017; Mao, Chiang, & Gao, 2017), but a major problem with one-size-fits-all
theories is that they do not specify the generalized impacts of situational and context variables that may
influence leadership effectiveness (Yukl, 2011; see also House, Hanges, Javidan, Dorfman, & Gupta, 2004).
An original twist of the one-size-fits-all approach to leadership effectiveness is brought by the concept of
leader behavioral complexity, which recognizes that specific types of leadership are required by specific types
of situations and yet assumes the existence of a leadership trait which would assure effectiveness across
situations. The theory is based on the Competing Values Framework (CVF), a model of organizational
cultures (Cameron, Quinn, DeGraff, &Thakor, 2006; Hartnell, Ou, & Kinicki, 2011; Quinn & Rohrbaugh,
1983). The CVF consists in the orthogonal crossing of a structural factor of stability and control versus
flexibility and discretion and a focus factor of internal orientation and integration of persons versus external
orientation and differentiation of persons. The crossing originates four types of organizations (see Figure 1).
The CVF guides the specification of leadership roles according to mutually exclusive values which define the
behavioral breadth with which a manager might act (Quinn, Spreitzer, & Hart, 1992). One of the pairs of
opposed values or capabilities contrasts priorities of relationships versus results (internal- versus external-
orientation axis). The second pair contrasts behaviors that create continuity versus change (stability versus
flexibility axis). Because opposing quadrants are viewed as mutually exclusive, their coexistence in an
individual manager presents a paradox. The CVF emphasizes the inherent difficulty of addressing competing
demands and gives a theoretical structure to the requisite behaviors for satisfying each quadrant’s demands.
People-, change-, results-, and process-oriented leadership, respectively, would be required by the
cooperation, creation, competition, and control cultures of the CVF (Lawrence, Lenk, & Quinn, 2009).
However, there would be a trait that permits the leader to perform adequately across CVF quadrants.
Behavioral complexity is defined as the capacity of a given leader to engage in a wide repertoire of behaviors
(Hooijberg & Quinn, 1992). More precisely, behavioral complexity is “the ability to exhibit contrary or
opposing behaviors (as appropriate or necessary) while still retaining some measure of integrity, credibility,
and direction” (Denison, Hoijberg, & Quinn, 1995, p. 526). The concept of behavioral complexity implies that
Federico R. León, Andrés Burga-León and Oswaldo Morales
it is possible for a leader to transcend the CVF paradoxes. A behaviorally complex leader would both
maintain continuity and lead change; likewise, a behaviorally complex leader would transcend the paradox of
results versus relationships.
Figure 1: The four cultures of the Competing Values Framework
Lawrence et al. (2009) developed the 36-item CVF Managerial Behavior Instrument (CVFMBI) and
reported significant correlations between behavioral complexity and the job performance of 407 managers of
an international service firm operating in diverse countries around the globe. Their results were based on self-
ratings and ratings from supervisors, subordinates, peers, and internal customers and were cross-validated
among 123 participants entering an elite executive MBA course in North America. Perceived behavioral
complexity has also been found related to the internal and external effectiveness of non-governmental
organizations in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (Mussallam, 2011). On the other hand, in a state
university in Turkey, the strongest predictor of faculty leadership effectiveness was the create leadership
function (Akbulut, Seggie, & rkan, 2015) and Robinson (2016) has reported that behavioral complexity
does not operate according to theoretical expectations in virtual environments.
The literature has not addressed the effectiveness of managers’ behavioral complexity in an
organizational context in which research suggests that non-complex leader behaviors are needed, as is the
case of the call center. Moreover, the outcomes of the behavioral complexity variable have been assessed
considering achievements of the manager, not in terms of specific subordinate behaviors which hinder
organizational effectiveness, such as worker absenteeism. In the research presented in this article we evaluate
in a specific organizational context - that of the call center the validity evidences related to the predictive
capabilities of the behavioral complexity concept.
Hypothesis 1. Call center supervisor’s behavioral complexity is associated with reduced turnover
intention and absenteeism of call center personnel.
Turnover and absenteeism are forms of withdrawal behaviors in organizations which also include
lateness. Whereas movement ease and desirability were the mechanisms which explained turnover in March
and Simon’s (1958) highly formalized model, Mobley (1977) conceived elaborate mechanisms linking
affects, mainly job satisfaction, to quits. More recently, Hom, Mitchell, Lee, & Griffeth (2012) have focused
on proximal withdrawal states derived from desired employment status (whether employees want to stay or
leave) and perceived volitional control (whether quit or stay decisions are completely up to them or at least
partially under external regulation); as a result, enthusiastic leavers and stayers and reluctant leavers and
stayers can be identified. It has been shown that the strongest determinants of employee turnover are job
satisfaction, organizational commitment, job search, comparison of alternatives, withdrawal cognitions, and
quit intentions (Griffeth, Hom, & Gartner, 2000). Effective leaders reduce employeesturnover intentions
(Elci, Sener, Aksoy, & Alpkan, 2012), apparently because leadership behavior and leader-follower
relationships are significant determinants of stress and burnout in subordinates (Harms, Credé, Tynan, Leon,
& Jeung, 2017). As for absenteeism, researchers early noticed the fact that it is more frequent among women
Int. Journal of Business Science and Applied Management /
than men, which they attributed to the demands of being a wife and mother, and identified also other objective
sources, such as transportation problems (Mowday, Porter, & Steers, 1982). The main focus, however, has
been on its relationships with job attitudes, mainly job satisfaction (e.g., Hacket, 1989). For example, in a
study which controlled for very detailed demographic, job, and firm characteristics (including workplace
practices), dissatisfaction with contracted hours was shown to be a significant determinant of absence (Dionne
& Dostie, 2007). Different leadership styles are associated with differing levels of employee absenteeism
(Elshout, Scherp, E., & van der Feltz-Cornelis, 2013), but an encompassing theory of the relationship between
the two variables is lacking. Thus, the research has targeted isolated determinants (e.g., Mayfield & Mayfield,
1.2 The call center context and hypothesis 2 and 3
By the end of the past century, the call center servicing clients was a new form of work organization
which grew rapidly thanks to the combination of improved computer technology and reduced
telecommunications costs. Whereas in-house call centers are a specific unit within a larger organization
focusing on other core business (manufacturing, retail, etc.), outsourced call centers are run by firms that
specialize in providing inbound and outbound communication services. In the call center, client service
representatives (CSRs) are expected to meet certain standards regarding the time they take to call a client
and/or resolve a client’s query, which includes a talking-time and a holding-time, and provide a solution to the
client at first call. In each call, the CSR must ensure not only that the customer’s inquire is correctly answered
but also that he/she is speaking to a known customer and the details of the call are correctly captured in the
system. Call centers use standardized procedures and processes based on information technology software
such as implementing recorded messages, letting the customer interact with the information system via
telephone keys, and enabling two-way communication between the computer and the customer using
synthetic speech messages (Schalk & van Rijckevorsel, 2007). High levels of stress amongst CSRs are a
common feature because the work tasks and the interactions with customers impose role overload and role
conflict (Cordes & Dougherty, 1993; Kleemann & Matuschek, 2002; Singh, Goolsby, & Rhoads, 1994: Witt,
Andrews, & Carlson, 2004). Wegge, van Dick, Fisher, West, and Dawson (2006) described the specific
challenges posed by the organization of work (working in shifts, postures, computer malfunctioning, high
noise level) and divided attention consuming demands (listening and speaking, inputting data and reading
from the screen). Role conflict arises from the demands to be quick and simultaneously provide a service of
high quality; hence, customer satisfaction and customer throughput often collide. Conflict also arises between
the negative emotions that surge when a customer has a complaint and the obligation to express positive
feelings (Deery, Iverson, & Walsh, 2002, 2010; Grandey, Dickter, & Sin, 2004; Marcoux, 2012). In addition,
the intensity of automated performance monitoring increases emotional labor (Holman, Chissick, &
Totterdell, 2002) and its perceived purpose affects job satisfaction (Welles, Moorman, & Werner, 2007).
Thus, it is the rule to find high levels of lateness, absenteeism and turnover in the call center industry
(Hutchinson, Purcell, & Kinnie, 2000; Kleemann & Matuschek, 2002; Malhotra & Mukherjee, 2004; Rose,
2002; Schalk & van Rijckevorsel, 2007); and psychological and physical symptoms frequently mediate the
job strain-absence connection (Darr & Johns, 2008). On the other hand, the relationship between emotional
labor and job performance is not simple (Hülsheger & Schewe, 2011) and adaptive performance yields higher
overall performance in call centers (Shoss, Witt, & Vera, 2011).
The history of call centers suggests a quest for the adequate leadership style. Early research focused on
the coercive employment systems that were adopted by call centers (Kinnie, Hutchinson, & Purcell, 2000);
these were characterized as an ‘assembly line in the head’ (Taylor & Bain, 1999) and likened to a
‘panopticon’ that controlled virtually every aspect of employee behavior (Fernie & Metcalf, 1998). During a
time, call centers seemed obsessed with control. Yet, along with organizations that emphasized a mass
production model typified by a set of repetitive, routinized and highly scripted tasks, call centers characterized
by a professional service model that maximized the discretion and autonomy of the employees emerged (Batt
& Moynihan, 2002). Since then a number of studies have supported the benefits accruing from the
implementation of high commitment management practices (see Clark, 2007; D’Cruz & Noronha, 2011;
Harney & Jordan, 2008; Malhotra & Mukherjee, 2007; Schalk and Van Rijckevorsel, 2007; Schawfeli,
Bakker, & van Rehnen, 2009) coupled with the creation of state-of-the-art workplaces seeking to
communicate ‘people values’ in mass-production call centers (Barnes, 2007). Using a nationally
representative sample of call centers in the USA, Batt (2002) found that quit rates were lower in
establishments that emphasized employee participation in decision making and in teams. Supervisor coaching
(Liu & Batt, 2010) and support (Liaw, Chi, & Chuang, 2010) positively influence employee performance in
Federico R. León, Andrés Burga-León and Oswaldo Morales
call centers and supervisor support moderates in a complex way the relationship between call center worker
burnout and his/her turnover intention (Choi, Cheong, & Feinberg, 2012). Finally, research has demonstrated
the importance of the employee’s psychological contract with the supervisor as different from the
psychological contract with the call center (Chambel, 2012) and that employee emotional exhaustion relates
negatively to his/her perception of the supervisor among permanent but not temporary call center workers
(Van der Elst, Van den Broeck, De Cuyper, & De Witte, 2014).
Hence, in the CVF perspective, what seems to be the supervisory style adequate for call centers is
person-oriented leadership, that is, one that motivates people by tending to their emotional needs. Since the
call center literature suggests that people-oriented leadership is the relevant supervisory variable in this
industry, the present study tested:
Hypothesis 2. Call center supervisor’s people-oriented leadership is associated with reduced
subordinate’s turnover intention and absenteeism.
Lawrence et al. (2009) postulated the effectiveness of leader behavioral complexity across situations.
Since behavioral complexity is implicitly defined as a sum of people-oriented leadership and other leadership
orientations, it can be assumed that part of the variance of people-oriented leadership is shared with the other
leadership orientations (non-specific people-oriented leadership) whereas another part is not (specific people-
oriented leadership). Thus, we tested:
Hypothesis 3. Call center supervisor’s specific people-oriented leadership is associated with reduced
subordinate’s turnover intention and absenteeism.
2.1 Organizational context
The organization studied (Org) is part of an international service conglomerate that ranks second in the
world and has 15% of the Latin American market of call centers. Org has operated in Peru during more than
10 years providing employment for more than 5,000 workers in Metropolitan Lima. These are divided into a
Foreign Mobiles division dedicated to attend a foreign phone company and a division that has clients in
various fields (banking, insurance, government, etc.). The Foreign Mobiles division has an average
absenteeism of 7.9% which represents a loss of 5.5% of its income. The majority of employees at Org are
women; with few country exceptions, women prevail in call centers across nations (Holman, Batt, &
Holtgrewe, 2007).
2.2 Participants
The 728 CSRs of Org’s Foreign Mobiles division were invited to participate in an online survey. All of
them had responsibilities entailing calling clients and responding to them. Their employee ID served to link
their responses to their personal and work data in personnel files.
2.3 Measures
2.3.1 Absenteeism
Org measures its employees’ absenteeism using an attendance marker, vacations control, and
administration of medical dispenses. The indicator refers to uncertified absence. Whereas lateness is counted
in hours and minutes, absenteeism is measured in days.
2.3.2 Turnover intention
The following items were translated into Spanish by Alarco (2010): “Lately, I have many wishes to
abandon this organization”, “Despite the obligations I have with this enterprise, I want to abandon my job”, “I
would like to remain in this organization as long as I could” (inverse scoring), and “If I could, I would leave
this job today”. Respondents used a five-point Likert scale.
2.3.3 Behavioral complexity and its components
Lawrence et al. (2009)´s analyses of the CVFMBI items yielded four factors that matched the four CVF
quadrants and, in turn, were defined by three sub-factors each. Encouraging participation, developing people,
and acknowledging personal needs define the people-oriented leadership called for by the cooperation culture.
Int. Journal of Business Science and Applied Management /
Anticipating customer needs, initiating significant change, and inspiring people to exceed expectations define
the change-oriented leadership required by the creation culture. Focusing on competition, showing a hard
work ethic, and emphasizing speed define the results-oriented leadership required by the competition culture.
And clarifying policies, expecting accurate work, and controlling projects define the process-oriented
leadership required by the control culture. A Spanish version of the CVFMBI was obtained for this research
through forward-back translation of its 36 items, at the rate of 9 items per leadership orientation.
2.3.4 Other Variables
Other variables measured included gender (1 = female, 2 = male), age, education (1= secondary, 2 =
university), number of children, number of hours worked per day by each employee, employee’s time at Org,
and working shift (1 = morning; 2 = afternoon/night).
Table 1 summarizes the measures employed in the study.
2.4 Analytic strategy
Confirmatory factor analysis was applied to obtain validity evidences related to the internal structure of
the CVFMBI, the Lavaan (2012) package in R (R Core Team, 2015) being the analytic tool. Absence data in
Org were highly skewed to the right and not normally distributed. The five leadership measurement scales
were non-normal, too. Hence, we used bootstrapping with 1,000 samples in the analyses.
Table 1: Measures used in the study
of items
Uncertified absences
Target organization
Turnover intention
Desire to quit
Alarco (2010)
Behavioral complexity
Sum of four leader
Lawrence et al. (2009)
Focus on personnel welfare
Lawrence et al. (2009)
Focus on adaptation and
Lawrence et al. (2009)
Focus on outcomes
Lawrence et al. (2009)
Focus on tasks
Lawrence et al. (2009)
Male or female
Years lived
Secondary, university
Number of children
Hours worked
Number of hours
Time in Org
Work shift
Morning, afternoon/night
Federico R. León, Andrés Burga-León and Oswaldo Morales
Table 2: Descriptive statistics and intercorrelations
Age (years)
Educational level
Number of children
Hours worked
Time in Org (months)
Working shift
Behavioral complexity
People orientation
Change orientation
Process orientation
Results orientation
Turnover intention
Note: N = 379 for variables 1-12, N = 728 for variable 13, N = 268 for variable 14
*p < .05, **p < .01, ***p < .001.
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3.1 Preliminary analyses
All of the 728 CSRs had information on absenteeism, 379 filled-in the CVFMBI in full, and 268
completed the turnover questionnaire, which reflects the order of presentation of the topics in the
questionnaires. Hence, the response rate for all the questionnaires was only 37%. SCRs who did not respond
to the CVFMBI (Non-responders) presented greater absenteeism (Mean = .0494) than responders (Mean =
.0427), a significant difference (t = -2.118, p = .035). Similarly, non-responders to the employability and
turnover sections of the questionnaire presented greater absenteeism (Mean = .052) than responders (Mean =
.038), a significant difference (t = -2.515, p = .013). The internal-consistency reliability of the CVFMBI
ranged from .94 to .97 across leadership orientations, whereas the α for the total scale was .98. The internal-
consistency reliability of the turnover intention scale reached .78.
Table 2 shows the means, standard deviations, and correlations between study variables. A majority of
the employees were women (65%), average age was 24 years, 10% of the personnel had some university
education, few had children (0.39 children was the average), and the mean number of hours worked per day
was 7.84. The mean SCRs’ 14.26 months with Org (Median = 12 months) reveals a huge level of turnover.
All the leadership scores were highly inter-correlated and did not importantly correlate with the other
variables, except negatively with turnover intention. It can be seen that absenteeism negatively correlates with
age, number of hours worked, and time in Org, whereas turnover intention increases with education, time in
Org, and in the abnormal (afternoon and night) shifts. Education positively influences employability. We
replicated Lawrence et al.’s (2009) hierarchical confirmatory factor analysis (Figure 2), which sought to
render three first-order factors and four second-order factors. The indicators of model adjustment were good
(Tucker-Lewis Index = 0.965) or very good (RMSEA = 0.018; SRMR = 0.028) according to conventional
standards (Schreiber, Stage, King, Notra, & Barlow, 2006).
Figure 2: Replication of Lawrence et al.’s (2009) factor analysis. The names of the second-order factors
used by Lawrence et al. correspond to people-, change-, results-, and process-oriented leadership
Federico R. León, Andrés Burga-León and Oswaldo Morales
Table 3: Standardized coefficients from the regression of turnover intentions and absenteeism on raw leadership scores and other study variables, per
regression model
_________Turnover Intention__________
Model 1
Model 2
Model 3
Model 1
Model 2
Model 3
Leader behavioral complexity
Person-oriented leadership
Other leadership orientations
Educational level
Number of children
Hours worked
Time in Org
Working shift
Corrected R
Note. The number of variables in this table is not 14, as in tables 1 and 2, because change-oriented, results-oriented, and process-oriented leadership are part of Other leadership
*p < .05, **p < .01, ***p < .001 (after bootstrapping).
Federico R. León, Andrés Burga-León and Oswaldo Morales
3.2 Hypothesis testing
Hypothesis 1 was upheld only in part. The results shown in Table 2 indicate that supervisor’s
behavioral complexity is associated with subordinate’s turnover intention but not with absenteeism. In
contrast, Hypothesis 2 was fully upheld: person-oriented leadership is associated with both variables. In
turn, the regression coefficients stemming from the model into which both person-oriented leadership
and the sum of the three other leadership orientations were entered supported Hypothesis 3 regarding
absenteeism. Whereas both variables failed to reach significance in the prediction of turnover, person-
oriented leadership achieved significance predicting absenteeism. This strongly suggests that turnover
intention is affected by what person-oriented leadership and the other three leadership orientations have
in common while absenteeism is affected by something that is specific to person-oriented leadership.
Paradoxically, time in Org was associated with increased turnover intention and decreased absenteeism.
On the other hand, whereas education and working shift affected turnover intention, the number of
hours worked affected absenteeism.
The main finding of the study is that what is specific to people-oriented leadership predicts the
absenteeism of call-center employees, a subordinate behavior with important financial implications for
call centers. The findings strongly suggest that, at least in the call-center context and at the front-line
supervisory level, the leader behavioral complexity is irrelevant to achieve a positive, corrective
influence on employee absenteeism. In deciding whether to attend or not, the worker probably weights
the consequences of two behavioral options: to attend or not to attend, the option to attend being
probably more attractive, i.e., positively charged in affective terms, to the extent that the work climate
is defined by a people-oriented supervisor who reduces the stress associated with the CSR’s tasks.
Whether the supervisor is oriented to change, results, or processes may be irrelevant to this decisional
context. Behavioral complexity may be useful in other types of organizations. There are organizations
with inherent complexity. To perform on a superior performance level, companies must respond with
internal complexity to extant external complexities; thus Schott, Horstmann, and Bodendorff (2015)
have identified 37 complexity drivers that determine corporate complexity and a number of complexity
management methods. A leader with high behavioral complexity may be required by a complex
organization, but this does not appear to be the case of call centers, at least at the service platform level.
But, why leader behavioral complexity, which failed to predict absenteeism, predicted turnover
intention? A number of studies have shown that the two withdrawal behaviors are differently related to
organizational variables (e.g., Cohen & Golan, 2007). Turnover is more easily predictable than
absenteeism from Fishbein’s attitude-behavior model (Newman, 1974), which suggests that the former
responds to principles of rationality to a greater extent than the latter. Thus, research findings from a
field study concerned with perceived inequity within organizations led Geurts, Schaufeli, and Rutte
(1999, p. 263) to the conclusion that “reporting sick is a rather uncomplicated way of coping
immediately with an inequitable situation, whereas developing thoughts about leaving the organization
involves a long-term process of re-evaluating one’s attachment to the organization, gaining emotional
distance and making a major decision to actually leave.” Similarly, Albion, Fogarty, Machin, and
Patrick (2008) reported from a study of 1097 hospital employees that psychological states mediated the
relationship between organizational climate and intention to leave but not the relationship between
organizational climate and absenteeism. In call centers, job demands are the most important predictors
of absenteeism, through their relationship with exhaustion and health problems, whereas job resources
are the most important predictors of turnover intention, through their relation with organizational
commitment and dedication (Bakker, Demerouti, & Schaufeli, 2003). The main difference between
these two variables is that one constitutes a concrete behavior and the other an abstract attitude. In
responding the questions on job turnover, the employee must make an effort of abstraction of the
attributes of the organization. How is this judgment affected by the supervisor’s behavioral
complexity? Discounting people-oriented leadership, behavioral complexity appears to basically refer
to a preoccupation of the supervisor with getting the core tasks done. We surmise that, if the supervisor
emphasizes aspects of the job in his/her daily behavior, they become salient at the moment of
producing a judgment on the value of the evaluated organization. The call-center employee under a
supervisor with high behavioral complexity may come to recognize that his/her core tasks are
important. Call centers offer low-wage, low skill jobs that attract mainly women and youngsters
(Holman, Batt, & Holtgrewe, 2007). Behaviorally complex supervisors may have a positive impact on
the call-center employee’s identity as a worker who performs valued tasks. This may lift their self-
esteem as workers and the value of being part of the organization. Whereas these interpretive
hypotheses are highly speculative, they are testable.
Federico R. León, Andrés Burga-León and Oswaldo Morales
4.1 Theoretical and practical contributions
Situational leadership theories, which propose that effective management requires a specific
leadership style for a specific type of situation are out of fashion. Hershey and Blanchard (1969),
addressing the traditional leadership concepts of “initiating structure” and “consideration” (Hemphill &
Coons, 1957), postulated that some situations require of the leader to prioritize defining the role for
followers, giving definite instructions, creating organizational patterns, and establishing formal
channels of communication, while other situations require more emphasis on the display of concern for
others, attempts to reduce emotional conflicts, efforts to seek harmonious relations, and effective
regulation of equal participation. The level of professional and psychological maturity of employees
would determine the correct leadership style. This theory’s empirical failures (Bass, 2008; Thompson
& Vechio, 2009) have led to stagnation of research on situational leadership effectiveness. Nonetheless,
the consideration and initiating structure concepts and the situational approach have in some way re-
emerged as part of the CVF and our findings, demonstrating the relevance of call center supervisor’s
people-oriented leadership, have the potential to revitalize situational approaches to leadership
The study results indicate boundary conditions for the concept of behavioral complexity. It has
been shown in Romania that a single managerial competency, team management, is relevant to
managerial performance among line managers, whereas a number of competencies are relevant to
middle and top management performance (Bucur, 2013). Since this suggests that leader behavioral
complexity may be less relevant at lower management levels, front-line supervisors may not need
behavioral complexity at all in order to affect subordinate absenteeism.
Call centers can learn some lessons from our findings. Absenteeism was the first problem in the
list of top headaches for call center management according to a recent survey (ICMI, 2012) and the
solutions suggested included offering a buy-back program for unused sick-days, move pay-days from
Friday to Monday, bring agents into the planning process to ensure that they understand what the
service level goals are and reach them, and others; supervision oriented to improve worker emotional
status was not mentioned. If people-oriented leadership reduces subordinate absenteeism, it should be
promoted through recognition and strengthened through training.
4.2 Limitations and future research
The main limitation of this study is its poor questionnaire response rate. Only 37% of the SCRs of
the Foreign Mobiles division responded to the study questionnaire in full. Moreover, non-responders
presented greater absenteeism than non- responders; this suggests that it is possible that more clear-cut,
sharper results confirming the trends observed would have been obtained from a more representative
sample. A second limitation is that job stress was assumed to moderate the relationship between
people-oriented leadership and employee’s absenteeism but was not measured in the study. The
implicit tenet is that people-oriented supervision would not be equally successful in preventing
absenteeism in the absence of job stress. While this type of situation may be impossible to observe in
call centers, individual differences in job stress and burnout can be observed to test whether these
variables, in fact, moderate the relationship between person-oriented leadership and worker
absenteeism. There is evidence that personality variables, especially Neuroticism, determine individual
differences in the extent to which persons respond to stressful labor (e.g., Kokkinos, 2007; McManus,
Keeling, & Paice, 2004). Testing the hypotheses in a different organizational setting may be needed to
strengthen the generalizability of the findings; for example, the study could be replicated in the garment
industry, where high levels of stress are present (e.g., Ganster, Kiersch, Marsh, & Bowen, 2011;
Steinisch, Yusuf, Li, Rahman, Ashraf, Strümpell, Fishcer, & Loerbroks, 2013). The study also leaves
open other questions. Is call center supervisor’s people-oriented leadership relevant in other areas
beyond absenteeism? It appears likely that it may also ameliorate lateness and turnover but, does it
promote a work of better quality? The literature suggests that it does, but this has not yet been
demonstrated using the people-oriented leadership scale of the CVFMBI. Research is needed also to
establish the specific levels of management at which the behavioral complexity concept may be
relevant; different levels of behavioral complexity may be required at different levels of management
considering the diverse number of competencies that are relevant to low, middle and top managerial
positions (Bucur, 2013).
4.3 Conclusion
The findings reported in this article significantly advance our understanding of leadership
processes in organizations. Important boundaries were demonstrated with respect to the theory that
leader behavioral complexity is good for all organizational situations and levels. Whereas behavioral
Int. Journal of Business Science and Applied Management /
complexity was associated with turnover intentions in a call center, it did not predict employee
absenteeism; since the former is a mere abstract attitude whereas absenteeism is a concrete behavior
with very important performance consequences for organizations, this should be regarded as an
important limitation of the leader’s behavioral complexity concept. Future research should determine
whether behavioral complexity is not effective at lower managerial positions in settings other than the
call center service platform, and/or whether specific organizational conditions, such as intense job
stress, limit its effectiveness. The research showed that, at call centers, a specific supervision style,
people-oriented leadership, ameliorates subordinate turnover intentions and absenteeism. Future
research which incorporates measurement of individual differences in job stress and is replicated in
other organizational settings, such as the garment industry, is needed to determine whether job stress in
fact moderates the relationship between person-oriented leadership and absenteeism and the targeted
set of relationships transcends the specificity of the call center setting.
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