What Is the Least-Preferred Coworker Scale?

The least-preferred coworker scale, developed by American scholar Fred Fiedler, identifies whether an individual's leadership style is either relationship-oriented or task-oriented.

The least preferred coworker (LPC) scale requires a person to rate the one individual they would least want to work with—the least-preferred coworker—using a range of 18 to 25 bipolar (positive or negative) adjectives, with ratings from 1 to 8. The LPC score is then computed by totaling all the ratings. A high LPC score indicates that the individual is a relationship-oriented leader, while a low LPC score suggests a task-oriented leader.

Key Takeaways

  • The least-preferred coworker scale (LPC) is a management heuristic that assigns an individual's leadership style as either task-oriented or relationship-oriented.
  • The scale utilizes a subjective evaluation of an individual's attitudes toward their least favorable coworker.
  • By seeing how one responds to evaluating the one person they'd least prefer to work with, overall management style can be inferred.

How the Least-Preferred Coworker Scale Works

A typical set of bipolar adjectives used in the LPC scale would include pleasant or unpleasant, friendly or unfriendly, supportive or hostile, and so on. The responses are graded from 1 for the least favorable attribute (for example, unpleasant or unfriendly), to 8 for the most favorable one (pleasant or friendly).

The LPC scale assumes that people whose leadership style is relationship-oriented tend to describe their least preferred coworkers in a more positive manner, while those whose style is task-oriented rate them more negatively.

Applying the Least Preferred Coworker Scale

The model presented by the scale presents the notion that no single leadership style is perfect or ideal, as the needs change depending on circumstances and context. For instance, a team that is comprised of veteran professionals who are well-versed in their tasks may be served best by a relationship-oriented style of leadership. The team does not require the heavy-handed approach that a less experienced team might, which could include strict guidelines in order to ensure the task is accomplished.

Similarly, a veteran team might need task-oriented leadership if there is a short deadline to complete the objectives or if the goals include sensitive milestones that will be difficult to achieve. If the team is made up of both veteran professionals and untrained staff, the situational needs of the objective and could mean leadership styles may change based on the moment or the individuals who need guidance.

The situational favorableness also plays a role in the leadership style adopted. The leadership-member relationship is a barometer of how much influence and trust exists between the team and its leader. If this bond is weak, the leader can be said to hold a weak position in this regard. This can be swayed by the leader’s position of power in the organization. The amount of power and authority a leader has to direct the team who works for them might be described as strong, meaning they have clear control to see their mandates are followed. If that power is weak, they have less control over the team to ensure the action that is taken.