Learned Helplessness Among Newly Hired Salespeople and the Influence of Leadership

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.

17 Pages Posted: 15 Sep 2013 Last revised: 17 Jan 2014

Jeffrey Patrick Boichuk

University of Virginia - McIntire School of Commerce

Willy Bolander

Florida State University

Zachary R Hall

Texas Christian University - M.J. Neeley School of Business

Michael Ahearne

University of Houston - C.T. Bauer College of Business

William J. Zahn

St. Edward's University

Melissa Nieves

Florida State University - Department of Marketing

Date Written: January 1, 2014

Abstract

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.

Keywords: core transformational leadership, error management, sales force socialization, sales-oriented behaviors, sales performance failure

Suggested Citation

Boichuk, Jeffrey Patrick and Bolander, Willy and Hall, Zachary R and Ahearne, Michael and Zahn, William J. and Nieves, Melissa, Learned Helplessness Among Newly Hired Salespeople and the Influence of Leadership (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.. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2325575

Jeffrey Patrick Boichuk

University of Virginia - McIntire School of Commerce ( email )

P.O. Box 400173
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4173
United States

Willy Bolander

Florida State University ( email )

Tallahasse, FL 32306
United States

Zachary R. Hall

Texas Christian University - M.J. Neeley School of Business ( email )

Fort Worth, TX 76129
United States

Michael Ahearne (Contact Author)

University of Houston - C.T. Bauer College of Business ( email )

334 Melcher Hall
Houston, TX 77204-6021
United States
713-743-4155 (Phone)
713-743-4572 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.bauer.uh.edu/Directory/profile.asp?firstname=Michael&lastname=Ahearne

William J. Zahn

St. Edward's University ( email )

3001 South Congress Avenue
Austin, TX 78704
United States
5124281295 (Phone)

Melissa Nieves

Florida State University - Department of Marketing ( email )

United States

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