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Give and Take: Needed Updates to Social Exchange Theory

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 September 2018

Helena D. Cooper-Thomas*
Department of Management, Auckland University of Technology
Rachel L. Morrison
Department of Management, Auckland University of Technology
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Helena D. Cooper-Thomas, Auckland University of Technology, Management Department, 120 Mayoral Drive, Auckland 1142, New Zealand. E-mail:


In their focal article, Chernyak-Hai and Rabenu (2018) argue that social exchange theory (SET) needs an update, and in this they are aligned with Cropanzano, Anthony, Daniels, and Hall's (2017) recent critical review of SET. Drawing on Chernyak-Hai and Rabenu's research, we explore two issues in more depth: first, that work relationships are becoming more complex than can be represented by simple dyadic reciprocity; and second, that the context of work is changing rapidly, with implications for workplace relationships. In exploring the ideas put forward by Chernyak-Hai and Rabenu, we draw on Cropanzano et al.’s two-dimensional model of social exchange, with the first dimension being desirable (positive) resources contrasted with undesirable (negative) ones, and the additional dimension being active (exhibit) behavior versus passive (withdraw) behavior. The first valence-oriented dimension fits clearly with the four foci of Chernyak-Hai and Rabenu's research, which cover both positive constructs, namely leader–member exchange (LMX), perceived organizational support and loyalty, and organizational citizenship behaviors (OCB), as well as negative constructs of perceived organizational politics and counterproductive work behaviors (CWB). The second, behavioral dimension proposed by Cropanzano et al. adds useful theoretical specificity that may address Chernyak-Hai and Rabenu's contention that SET needs updating to account for changes in how employees work and how organizations function.

Copyright © Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology 2018 

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