The influence of sales manager-salesperson communication characteristics upon salesperson role ambiguity, job satisfaction, and performance



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Texas Tech University


Communication underlies much business activity and consequently requires much of a manager's attention. However, the effects of supervisor-subordinate communication are unclear. Likert (1967) and Jablin (1979) suggest that communication directly and positively affects subordinate job outcomes such as job satisfaction and performance. Scehuler (1979) shows that communication directly and negatively affects subordinate ambiguity, that itself has been found to negatively affect job outcomes. Most studies of communication have only considered the amount of communication that occurs. As a result, the effects of additional communication characteristics are also not well understood.

Because salespeople are particularly susceptible to ambiguity, a better understanding of the effects of specific communication characteristics may help to alleviate some sources of salesperson ambiguity and contribute to increased job satisfaction and performance. This research reviews the relevant organizational communication and sales management literature and proposes a comprehensive model of communication's positive effects upon salesperson job outcomes and negative effects upon ambiguity. Competing models following the stmctures suggested by Likert (1967) and Jablin (1979) and by Sehuler (1979) were also developed. Using data gathered by means of the survey method, these three models were analyzed and compared.

The results indicate that the hypothesized model best describes the relations among communication, ambiguity, and salesperson job outcomes. Informal communication modality is found to positively affect salesperson job satisfaction. Indirect communication content is found to negatively affect salesperson ambiguity regarding ethical situations, other managers, and company promotion policies. Bidirectional communication is found to negatively affect salesperson ambiguity regarding supervisor support and customers. Salesperson ambiguity regarding ethical situations is found to positively affect salesperson job satisfaction. Salesperson ambiguity regarding other managers and customers is found to negatively affect salesperson job satisfaction. None of the communication or ambiguity characteristics are found to affect salesperson job performance.



Sales management, Communication in personnel management, Communication in management, Selling, Sales personnel