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The linkage between individual interpersonal relationship and work performance in the South African retail sector.

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A partial or non-recognition of the effect of interpersonal relationships may hinder the success of retail business diffusion and growth, especially among the South African retailers taking advantage of the retail revolution in Africa. Interpersonal relationships in the workplace between supervisors and subordinates could be considered an imperative factor that may affect organisational wellbeing, psychological working conditions, individual differences and culture of both the individual and the entire organisation. Interpersonal relationships are perceived as behavioural traits that employees demonstrate at work in the process of interaction. In day-today business life, almost all activities occur in the settings of relationships which are the centre of organisations. Scholars rightly observe that the attention of researchers should not be focused only on tasks, functions or hierarchies, but also on how workplaces organise their relationships. This thesis examines the influence of negative and positive individual interpersonal relationships using interpersonal conflicts and social support as predictors of employee basic performance at work. A mixed method approach was adopted and questionnaire was administered to supervisors and subordinates of selected retail companies that participated in the study. Quantitative data was collected as follows: The Interpersonal Conflict at Work Scale (ICAWS) designed by Frone (2000) was used to measure interpersonal conflict; while the Social Support Scale (SSS) designed by Sarason, Basham, Levine and Sarason, (1983) was used to measure social support. The Employee Basic Work Performance Scale (EBWPS) designed by Uhl-Bien and Graen (1995) was used to measure employee work performance, while the Leader-member Exchange Scale (LMX) designed by Tsui, Pearce Porter and Tripoli (1997) was used to measure the interpersonal relationship between supervisors and subordinates. Four open-ended questions were designed to elicit qualitative data. From the four retail companies in South Africa, a total sample of 400 employees was selected but 310 (inclusive of 163 supervisors and 147 subordinates) responded to the survey. Quantitative data was analysed by the use of SPSS (version 22) to test for bivariate connections among the variables as well as the validity and reliability of the measurements. Content analysis was adopted in analysing collected qualitative data. No significant connection between social support and employee performance was observed from the result of the quantitative data for subordinates. Similarly, the interpersonal conflict and interpersonal relationships showed no significant connection among the data from subordinates. Moreover, the outcome of the quantitative data collected from the supervisors revealed that there was no significant relationship between social support, interpersonal conflict and employee performance in the South African retail sector. On the other hand, the result of the analysis of interpersonal relationships and employee performance showed a positive connection to the retail sector in South Africa. The qualitative data explained the reasons behind the non-significance among the various variables. Alternate explanations for these results are considered in the study. The study recommended that Human Resource units should equip employees with communication, listening, sharing of information skills through constant on the job training. It is suggested that employees be taught the mechanisms of handling relationships at work. These measures are necessary in order to improve on the present level of employee relationships in the South African retail sector.


Doctor of Philosophy in Management. University of KwaZulu-Natal. Durban, 2015.