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
Date Written: January 1, 2014
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
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