Geoff Thomas

Geoff Thomas

Professor of Organisational Psychology



I'm Professor of Organisational Psychology in the Surrey Business School, University of Surrey. Prior to joining the University of Surrey, I held a lectureship at Cardiff University and a senior lectureship at Aston Business School. My current research interests focus on two main areas. First, the study of judgment accuracy and bias, empathy (everyday mind-reading), emotional intelligence and emotions in decision making, across both work and family contexts. Second, the study of leadership, and in particular how relationship science can help inform our understanding of why, when and how relationship-based leadership influences important work outcomes.

My research has been published in leading international psychology and management publications including the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Personnel Psychology, Harvard Business Review, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Personality and Social Psychology Review, The Leadership Quarterly, Journal of Occupational and Organisational Psychology, Journal of Organizational Behavior.

Before becoming an academic I worked as a management consultant (consulting to organisations on range of important decisions such as personnel recruitment and selection decisions; team and leadership development), and have continued to conduct evidence-based executive training and development (e.g., leadership, leadership development, organisational change, evidence-based management) on an ongoing basis alongside my academic career.

Research interests

  • Leadership, including relationship based leadership; LMX; social psychological approaches to leadership
  • Judgement accuracy/bias; empathic accuracy
  • Relationship science; relationship conflict; relationship maintenance and development; work-family interface


MBA Leadership (Full time & Executive)

My publications


Lee A, Martin R, Thomas G, Guillaume Y, Maio GR (2015) Conceptualizing leadership perceptions as attitudes: Using attitude theory to further understand the leadership process, LEADERSHIP QUARTERLY 26 (6) pp. 910-934 ELSEVIER SCIENCE INC
Leadership is one of the most examined factors in relation to understanding employee well-being and performance. While there are disparate approaches to studying leadership, they share a common assumption that perceptions of a leader's behavior determine reactions to the leader. The concept of leadership perception is poorly understood in most theoretical approaches. To address this, we propose that there are many benefits from examining leadership perceptions as an attitude towards the leader. In this review, we show how research examining a number of aspects of attitudes (content, structure and function) can advance understanding of leadership perceptions and how these affect work-related outcomes. Such a perspective provides a more multi-faceted understanding of leadership perceptions than previously envisaged and this can provide a more detailed understanding of how such perceptions affect outcomes. In addition, we examine some of the main theoretical and methodological implications of viewing leadership perceptions as attitudes to the wider leadership area. The cross-fertilization of research from the attitudes literature to understanding leadership perceptions provides new insights into leadership processes and potential avenues for further research.
Martin R, Guillaume Y, Thomas G, Lee A, Epitropaki O (2015) Leader-Member Exchange (LMX) and Performance: A Meta-Analytic Review, Personnel Psychology 69 (1) pp. 67-121 Wiley
This paper reports a meta-analysis that examines the relationship between leader-member exchange (LMX) relationship quality and a multidimensional model of work performance (task, citizenship, and counterproductive performance). The results show a positive relationship between LMX and task performance (146 samples, Á = .30) as well as citizenship performance (97 samples, Á = .34), and negatively with counterproductive performance (19 samples, Á = -.24). Of note, there was a positive relationship between LMX and objective task performance (20 samples, Á = .24). Trust, motivation, empowerment, and job satisfaction mediated the relationship between LMX and task and citizenship performance with trust in the leader having the largest effect. There was no difference due to LMX measurement instrument (e.g., LMX7, LMX-MDM). Overall, the relationship between LMX and performance was weaker when (a) measures were obtained from a different source or method and (b) LMX was measured by the follower than the leader (with common source- and method-biased effects stronger for leader-rated LMX quality). Finally, there was evidence for LMX leading to task performance but not for reverse or reciprocal directions of effects.
Cropley M, Plans D, Morelli D, Sütterlin S, Inceoglu I, Thomas G, Chu C (2017) The Association between Work-Related Rumination and Heart Rate Variability: A Field Study, Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 11 27 Frontiers Media
The objective of this study was to examine the association between perseverative cognition in the form of work-related rumination, and heart rate variability (HRV). We tested the hypothesis that high ruminators would show lower vagally mediated HRV relative to low ruminators during their leisure time. Individuals were classified as being low (n = 17) or high ruminators (n = 19), using the affective scale on the work-related rumination measure. HRV was assessed using a wrist sensor band (Microsoft Band 2). HRV was sampled between 8 pm and 10 pm over three workday evenings (Monday to Wednesday) while individuals carried out their normal evening routines. Compared to the low ruminators, high affective ruminators demonstrated lower HRV in the form of root mean square successive differences (RMSSDs), relative to the low ruminators, indicating lower parasympathetic activity. There was no significant difference in heart rate, or activity levels between the two groups during the recording periods. The current findings of this study may have implications for the design and delivery of interventions to help individuals unwind post work and to manage stress more effectively. Limitations and implications for future research are discussed.
Martin R, Thomas Geoff, Legood A, Dello Russo S (2017) Leader-Member Exchange (LMX) Differentiation and Work Outcomes: Conceptual Clarification and Critical Review, Journal of Organizational Behavior 39 (2) pp. 151-168 Wiley
According to Leader-member Exchange (LMX) theory, leaders develop different quality relationships with followers in their team (termed LMX differentiation). An important theoretical question concerns how different LMX relationships within a team affect followers? work outcomes. This paper provides a critical review of the concept of LMX differentiation. We propose that the LMX differentiation process leads to patterns of LMX relationships that can be captured by three properties (central tendency, variation, and relative position). We describe a taxonomy illustrating the different ways these properties have been conceptualized and measured. We identify two approaches to LMX differentiation as being a ?perspective of the team? (that are shared amongst team members) or a ?perspective of the follower? (subjective perceptions unique to each follower). These perspectives lead to different types of measures that predict different outcomes at the individual and team levels. We describe theoretical models employed to explain the effects of LMX differentiation (justice, social comparison and social identity theories). Generally, the lower the within-team variation in LMX or the more a team member?s LMX is higher than the mean team LMX, the better are the work outcomes, but many moderators condition these effects. Finally, we identify some key areas for future research.
Legood A, Thomas G, Sacramento C (2016) Leader trustworthy behavior and organizational trust: The role of the immediate manager for cultivating trust, Journal of Applied Social Psychology 46 (12) pp. 673-686 Wiley
Drawing from both trust-building theory and interpersonal trust literature, we investigate how trust between a leader and follower may be leveraged to influence organizational trust. We also explore the mediating mechanisms of this link and test a potential moderator. A cross-sectional, multi-foci design was adopted and participants were 201 employees within a public sector organization. Leader trustworthy behavior was found to predict organizational trust, mediated by trustworthiness perceptions and trust in the leader. Support for the boundary condition was found; namely, when leaders were more senior, the relationship between trustworthy behavior and organizational trust was stronger. The findings suggest that leaders can meaningfully influence organizational trust perceptions through the enactment of trustworthy behavior, although the strength of this effect varied as a function of their position.
Lee Allan, Thomas Geoff, Martin Robin, Guillaume Yves (2017) Leader-Member Exchange (LMX) Ambivalence and Task Performance: The Cross-Domain Buffering Role of Social Support, Journal of Management SAGE Publications
Leader-member exchange (LMX) theory proposes that leaders develop different quality relationships with those they manage and this is predictive of work performance. While LMX quality has been viewed as univalent (ranging from low to high quality), this paper proposes that it can also be bivalent in nature (i.e., coexisting positive and negative thoughts towards the relationship), which we refer to as LMX ambivalence. A survey measure of LMX ambivalence is developed, and through three validation and two main studies, it is shown to have construct, discriminant, and incremental predictive validity beyond that of LMX quality. Hypotheses concerning LMX ambivalence and task performance are tested in two main studies and show that (1) LMX ambivalence is negatively related to performance regardless of LMX quality, (2) high levels of perceived support from the organization (Study 1) or coworkers (Study 2) nullify the negative association between LMX ambivalence and performance, and (3) high LMX ambivalence leads to more negative affect and in turn lower task performance, but only when coworker support is low (Study 2). These results show the importance of viewing LMX quality not only in terms of its absolute level (low vs. high quality) but also as a bivalent construct where both positive and negative cognitions can coexist. They also demonstrate the value of social support in buffering the negative effects of LMX ambivalence. Furthermore, our findings extend a central tenet of LMX theory by implying that LMX quality varies not only within groups (i.e., LMX differentiation) but also within leader-follower dyads.
Inceoglu Ilke, Thomas Geoff, Chu Chris Wai Lung, Plans David, Gerbasi Alexandra (2018) Leadership behavior and employee well-being: An integrated review and a future research agenda, The Leadership Quarterly 29 (1) pp. 179-202 Elsevier
Leadership behavior has a significant impact on employee behavior, performance and well-being. Extant theory and research on leadership behavior, however, has predominantly focused on employee performance, treating employee well-being (typically measured as job satisfaction) as a secondary outcome variable related to performance, rather than as an important outcome in and of itself. This qualitative state of the science review examines the process by which leadership behavior (i.e., change, relational, task, passive) affects employee well-being. We identify five mediator groupings (social-cognitive, motivational, affective, relational, identification), extend the criterion space for conceptualizing employee well-being (i.e., psychological: hedonic, eudaimonic, negative; and physical), examine the limited evidence for differential processes that underlie the leader behavior-employee well-being relationship and discuss theoretical and methodological problems inherent to the literature. We conclude by proposing a theoretical framework to guide a future research agenda on how, why and when leadership behavior impacts employee well-being.
Martin Robin, Thomas Geoff, Hewstone Miles, Gardikiotis Antonis (2018) When leaders are in the numerical majority or minority: Differential effects on problem-solving, Journal of Social Issues 74 (1) pp. 93-111 Wiley
Two experiments examined the effect a leader has when supported by a numerical majority or minority. In both experiments participants read a team problem-solving scenario where a solution was supported by either a numerical majority or minority of the team. In some conditions the team leader also supported the same solution as the majority or minority in other conditions the leader did not. When the leader was supported by the majority, its solution was rated as more favorable by participants than when supported by either the leader or majority on its own. When the leader was supported by the minority, its solution was rated as either less favorable or equally favorable than when supported by the leader or minority on its own. However, when the leader was supported by the minority participants rated an alternative (better) solution that was not discussed by the leader, as more favorable. These findings indicate that leadership endorsement results in greater compliance to a majority-endorsed position but to more elaboration, and better decision-making, to a minority-endorsed position. The policy implications of this research for the role of leaders in team decision-making are discussed.
This thesis reports on research into employee engagement and engagement crossover in the workplace. Employee engagement is ?a positive, fulfilling, work-related state of mind that is characterised by vigour, dedication, and absorption?, (Schaufeli et al., 2002, p. 74). When engaged, employees employ their hand, head, and heart to excel in their performance. On the other hand, engagement crossover is an inter-individual, dyadic process where certain functional and affective aspects of the work context, quantify the transfer of engagement from one employee to his or her co-workers.
The research commenced with a general proposition that engagement can crossover from one employee to his/her co-worker in the workplace. However, the thesis postulated that there are functional and affective aspects of the work context, such as task and outcome interdependence, and workplace friendship, which create a specific condition for engagement crossover in the workplace. To investigate these propositions two research questions and five hypotheses were raised: ?To what extent does employee engagement crossover from one employee to his/her co-worker in the workplace?? Relatedly, ?what are the potential factors that determine the extent of this crossover??
To empirically test the research hypotheses, two independent studies were conducted. Study 1 (N=528) forms the first phase of this research and investigated engagement crossover among employees working in five different sectors. To build further on the first phase of the research, Study 2 (N=250) was conducted among employees of the petrochemical sector of the Iranian gas and oil industry. While the findings of each study were identical and replicated in the next one, each phase evolved from the previous one until the research matured into a comprehensive test of engagement crossover.
Failure of previous studies to give compelling evidence for engagement crossover in the workplace provided a good opportunity for the thesis to contribute to employee engagement and crossover literature. Hence, two lines of research from crossover and engagement were brought together to justify engagement crossover in the workplace. The findings of both studies were confirmatory of the research questions. The thesis established that employee engagement can crossover from one employee to his/her co-worker, even after the spurious variance from demographic variables such as age, gender, hours spent with co-workers, tenure, and education levels, individual differences such as affect and personality (Big Five) and employees? shared stimuli such as job demands and resources and job characteristics were controlled in the model.
The findings of the thesis developed new insights into crossover literature. Firstly, the thesis provided an empirical test of the empathy process in the two studies and showed that neither empathic concern nor perspective taking strengthen engagement crossover between two interdependent employees. These findings are novel and contribute to crossover research by empirically proving that Westman?s (2001) proposition for the direct transfer of positive psychological states via empathy cannot be substantiated to the crossover of employee engagement in the workplace.
The thesis further contributed to crossover research by extending Westman?s (2001) initial model to the workplace and identifying specific indirect mechanisms of engagement crossover through the functional and affective role of task and outcome interdependence and workplace friendship. Thus, the objective of the thesis were met. Finally, the main theoretical contribution of the thesis is the engagement crossover model, which is underpinned by social interdependence theory (not role theory). Not only did the proposed model empirically test the three mechanisms of crossover concurrently in two independent studies, but also, it identified specific indirect mechanisms for the crossover of employee engagement in the workplace. Therefor
Lee Allan, Thomas Geoff, Martin Robin, Guillaume Yves, Marstand Anders F. (2019) Beyond relationship quality: The role of leader?member exchange importance in leader?follower dyads, Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology Wiley
In this paper, we introduce a novel construct, leader?member exchange (LMX) importance, which we position as a meta?perception indicating whether followers view their LMX relationship as personally important or valuable to them. Based on social exchange theory, we examine the extent to which the obligation followers feel towards their leader depends jointly on the quality and the importance of the LMX relationship. We examine how LMX importance influences the process through which LMX quality affects employees? level of organizational citizenship behaviour (OCB) by focusing on felt obligation (a measure of followers? reciprocity obligation in the social exchange process) as a mediating variable. Across two studies, we found that high levels of both LMX quality and LMX importance interacted to engender a greater feeling of obligation in followers to repay the perceived favourable exchanges with their leader. Felt obligation predicted leader?rated OCB, demonstrating support for our hypothesized moderated mediation model. However, psychological empowerment, when included alongside felt obligation (in Study 2), did not mediate the LMX?OCB relationship. Overall, our findings extend the focus of LMX theory beyond the confines of LMX quality to incorporate the importance of the LMX relationship.

Additional publications