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Journal of Management

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Industrial psychology, Organizational effectiveness, Organizational behavior


Employees with disability-related communication impairment often experience isolation from professional connections that can negatively affect their careers. Management research suggests that having lower quality leader relationships can be an obstacle to the development of professional connections for employees with disabilities. However, in this paper we suggest that lower quality leader–member exchange (LMX) relationships may not be a uniform hurdle for the professional isolation of employees with disability-related communication impairment. Drawing on psychological disengagement theory, we predict that employees with more severe, rather than less severe, communication impairment develop resilience to challenges in lower quality LMX relationships by psychologically disengaging from professional connections and, in turn, bear fewer negative consequences of professional isolation on career outcomes. In two studies of deaf and hard of hearing employees, we find that in lower quality LMX relationships employees with more severe communication impairment perceive being less isolated than employees with less severe communication impairment, and, in turn, report better career outcomes. Overall, our findings suggest that employees with more severe communication impairment may develop effective coping strategies to manage challenges of perceived professional isolation for career outcomes when in lower quality LMX relationships.


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