Learned Helplessness Among Newly Hired Salespeople and the Influence of Leadership
Jeffrey Patrick Boichuk
University of Virginia - Darden School of Business
Florida State University
Zachary R Hall
Texas Christian University - M.J. Neeley School of Business
University of Houston - C.T. Bauer College of Business
William J. Zahn
St. Edward's University
Florida State University - Department of Marketing
January 1, 2014
Boichuk, Jeffrey P., Willy Bolander, Zachary R. Hall, Michael Ahearne, William J. Zahn, and Melissa Nieves (2014), "Learned Helplessness Among Newly Hired Salespeople and the Influence of Leadership," 78(1), 95-111.
This paper investigates the sales force socialization process, wherein newly hired salespeople often face failure-prone environments. Drawing from the learned helplessness paradigm, the authors hypothesize that cumulative periods of sales performance failure are associated with sales-oriented behavior intentions. Also, the authors examine the influence of leadership, expecting core transformational leadership to have a diminishing effect as instances of unmet sales goals accumulate. Study 1 finds support for these hypotheses based on panel survey data from 221 new hires and six months of a furniture retailer’s sales force socialization process. Then, aiming to uncover the underlying mechanism driving salesperson helplessness and a managerial approach that has a sustained impact, the authors conduct a scenario-based experiment focused on the business-to-business insurance industry. Study 2 finds that perceived task difficulty mediates the focal relationship discussed above and that error management enables core transformational leadership to have a lasting effect, such that sales-oriented behavior intentions are at their least when transformational sales managers encourage new hires to make errors during their interactions with customers and to actively learn from their failures.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 17
Keywords: core transformational leadership, error management, sales force socialization, sales-oriented behaviors, sales performance failure
Date posted: September 15, 2013 ; Last revised: January 17, 2014
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