Working with the same employees over an extended period of time can lead managers to establish strong relationships with their employees, but do managers go so far as to act territorial of their employees? A recent article published in Journal of Management, entitled “When Territoriality Meets Agency: An Examination of Employee Guarding as a Territorial Strategy,” from authors Timothy M. Gardner, Timothy P. Munyon, Peter W. Hom, and Rodger W. Griffeth finds that managers do engage in territorial behavior, using anticipatory defenses in particular to prevent employee defection. The abstract for the paper:
Do managers behave territorially toward their employees? Despite accumulating evidence demonstrating the prevalence of territoriality over nonagentic organizational resources, key questions remain regarding the extent to which psychological ownership and territorial behavior occur within supervisor-subordinate relationships. To explore this question, we drew on territoriality and mate-guarding theory to ascertain how and why managers might utilize one form of territoriality, anticipatory defenses, toward their employees. In a four-study investigation, we find that managers consistently engage in two forms of anticipatory defense tactics, persuasion and nurturing, that are intended to defend ownership claims over their employees and limit employee defection. Our results demonstrate a positive relationship between psychological ownership of subordinates and employee guarding directed toward those subordinates. We also find that managers engage in employee guarding more when they anticipate an employee is likely to defect, and they adapt guarding tactics in response to the subordinate’s general mental ability. Collectively, our results identify the motivations and conditions under which supervisors act territorially toward agentic subordinates, contributing to theory in territoriality and downward social influence.
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