Leadership Studies Ed.D. Dissertations


The Effects of Virtual Leadership Communication on Employee Engagement

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


Leadership Studies

First Advisor

Chris Willis (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Raymond Schuck (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Matthew Lavery (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Judy Jackson May (Committee Member)

Fifth Advisor

Elizabeth Williams (Committee Member)


Research on employee engagement has found that it can both positively and negatively affect organizational performance, including recruitment, retention, customer service, and profitability. Hence, businesses are investigating how to increase engagement and in turn their bottom line. Several studies have concluded that effective organizational communication practices can enhance employee engagement. However, the way that information is distributed within organizations is now becoming increasingly complex with globalization. This has led to the increase use of information communication technologies (ICTs) to communicate since leaders and employees are not often in the same location. While ICTs are more efficient and cost effective, they can lead to miscommunication and lack of engagement when used to communicate important information. Based on the link between leadership communication and engagement and the increased use of ICTs in organizations, this quantitative study attempted to measure employee engagement and what, if any, relationship exists frequency of communication, richness of communication channels, quality of leader-member exchange relationship, and perceived satisfaction with organizational communication. In order to examine the relationship between these variables, 265 full-time employees completed a survey made of four instruments— Dennis Communication Climate Inventory (1974), Leader-Member Exchange-7 (1984), Communication Channel Instrument (1999), and the Schaufeli and Bakker’s (2003) Utrecht Work Engagement Scale (UWES).

The results of this study revealed that perceived organizational communication satisfaction has the most significant relationship with employee engagement, followed by the quality of leader-member exchange relationship. However, the frequency of lean, moderate, and rich communication channels did not have a significant impact on employee engagement. This includes ICTs categorized within these three channels. The frequent use of the virtual technologies also did not have a significant relationship with employee engagement. However, the regression data revealed that rich face-to-face communication channels does affect organizational communication satisfaction. Finally, one of the most surprising results of the study was that being collocated with one’s manager did not affect employee engagement or organizational communication satisfaction. Therefore, as employees continue to be spatially distributed, this will not affect employee engagement compared to perceived organizational communication satisfaction and LMX.