Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Swortzel, Kirk A.

Committee Member

Parish, Jane

Committee Member

Peterson, Donna J.

Committee Member

Seal, Susan D.

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Agricultural Sciences

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)


College of Agriculture and Life Sciences


School of Human Sciences


The purpose of this study was to describe the relationship between Arkansas County Extension County staff morale and their perceived relationship county staff had with their County Staff Chair. The University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service (UAEX) can utilize the results from this research to identify individuals who have the capacity to build high-quality relationships with staff members, thereby promoting higher levels of morale within the organization. Administrators can use this study to identify current or future leaders within the organization by identifying those who can promote high-quality relationships with county-level staff. Results from this study may also be used to identify individuals needing training in developing high-quality relationships.

It utilized surveys to collect data. Therefore, Qualtrics was used to distribute the Leader-Member Exchange-7 (LMX-7) and the Staff Morale Questionnaire (SMQ) electronically through the UAEX email distribution list of county employees. Participants were asked to provide a numeric response (1-5) for the seven statements relating to the Leader-member exchange (LMX) on the LMX-7. Each statement had a different 5-point scale, but 1 represented the lowest rated response, 3 represented the average or neutral response, and 5 represented the highest rated response. In addition, participants were asked to provide a numeric response (1-4) where 1 = strongly disagree, 2 = disagree, 3 = agree, and 4 = strongly agree for the 27 statements relating to the three constructs (Leadership Synergy, Cohesive Pride, and Personal Challenge) of the SMQ. Overall, UAEX county employees reported moderate to high morale, which was directly related to their perceived quality of relationship with their County Staff Chair.

The implications of this study suggest that leader-member relationships can affect employee morale in all three constructs measured. The higher the quality of relationship employees perceive with their staff chair, the higher their morale will be. County staff had moderate to high level of morale in each of the three constructs as measured by the SMQ. County-level staff also felt united in striving to achieve the goals and mission of their county office and Extension as a whole.