Nightmare bosses! Read all about them in this week’s articles.
Corporate psychopath CEO
This longitudinal case study reports on a charity in the UK which gained a new CEO who was reported by two middle managers who worked in the charity, to embody (respectively) all or most of the ten characteristics within a measure of corporate psychopathy. The leadership of this CEO with a high corporate psychopathy score was reported to be so poor that the organisation was described as being one without leadership and as a lost organisation with no direction.
This paper outlines the resultant characteristics of the ensuing aimlessness and lack of drive of the organisation involved. Comparisons are made to a previous CEO in the same organisation, who was reportedly an authentic, effective and transformational leader. Outcomes under the CEO with a high corporate psychopathy score were related to bullying, staff withdrawal and turnover as effective employees stayed away from and/or left the organisation.
Outcomes also included a marked organisational decline in terms of revenue, employee commitment, creativity and organisational innovativeness. The paper makes a contribution to both leadership and to corporate psychopathy research as it appears to be the first reported study of a CEO with a high corporate psychopathy score.
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Clive R. Boddy. 2017. Psychopathic Leadership: A Case Study of a Corporate Psychopath CEO.
Journal of Business Ethics, 145(1), 141–156.
How nightmare bosses affect employees’ sleep, emotions and creativity
In the present study, the authors examine the process through which abusive supervision impacts employee creativity. Specifically, the researchers test whether abusive supervision is associated with lower levels of employee creativity and if this effect is mediated by employee sleep deprivation and emotional exhaustion.
Results showed that abusive supervision had an indirect negative relationship with employee creativity via its impact on employee sleep deprivation and emotional exhaustion. These findings contribute to a better understanding of the negative effects of abusive supervision on employee creativity and the processes by which they occur.
Guohong Helen Han, P. D. Harms & Yuntao Bai. 2017. Nightmare Bosses: The Impact of Abusive Supervision on Employees’ Sleep, Emotions, and Creativity.
Journal of Business Ethics, 145(1), 21–31.
The NHS: Sticking fingers in its ears, humming loudly
Evidence exists that the UK National Health Service (NHS) has had, over many years, persistent problems of negative and intimidating behaviour towards staff from other employees. The evidence also suggests the organisational responses to negative behaviour can be inadequate. A conceptual model of organisational dysfunction was proposed to assist in explaining those responses and the overall culture in the NHS (Pope and Burnes 2013). Through research this model has been tested.
Based upon the findings, an extended and developed model of organisational dysfunction is presented. A qualitative approach was taken to research the organisational responses to negative behaviour, and the reasons and motivations for those responses. Forty-three interviews and six focus groups were conducted. There seem to be “islands” and “pockets” with a positive culture; however, the generalised evidence suggests the NHS is systemically and institutionally deaf, bullying, defensive and dishonest, exhibiting a resistance to ‘knowing’, denial and “wilful blindness”; a dysfunctional, perverse and troubled organisation.
Totalitarian and Kafkaesque characteristics are identified. The NHS could also be described as a coercive bureaucracy and under certain definitions, a corrupt entity. The NHS appears to be an organisation with a heart of darkness; a “self perpetuating dysfunctional system”. There may be widespread “learned helplessness”. It seems to be a “good news factory”, rejecting and hiding any “bad news”; retreating from reality. The NHS appears to have “lost its way” and its focus/purpose as an institution. The dysfunctional organisational behaviours manifest in the NHS need to be addressed urgently as there is a detrimental, sometimes devastating, impact on the wellbeing of both staff and patients. The NHS needs to embrace an identity of being a listening, learning and honest organisation, with a culture of respect.
Rachael Pope. 2017. The NHS: Sticking Fingers in Its Ears, Humming Loudly.
Journal of Business Ethics, 145(3), 577–598.
Perceived negative leader behaviours in the French and British educational sectors
In this paper, the authors challenge the commonly held assumption that actors in the education sector are largely ethical, and that there is therefore little need to scrutinize leader behaviours in this sector. Authors Patel and Hamlin also overcome past scholars’ tendencies to either focus selectively on positive leader behaviours, or to stay content with categorizing leader behaviours into effective and ineffective (if at all they do focus on negative leader behaviours).
Using data (Critical Incidents) from three case studies previously conducted in eight British and French academic establishments, the researchers show that not only do negative leader behaviours abound in the education sector, but they can also be differentiated into three types: (1) behaviours emanating from leaders’ lack of functional skills i.e., ineffective behaviours,
(2) behaviours emanating from leaders’ insouciance toward harming the organisation and its members i.e., dysfunctional behaviours, and
(3) behaviours emanating from leaders’ lack of honesty, integrity, ethicality, and transparency i.e., unauthentic behaviours.
The authors enrich current understanding on ineffective, dysfunctional, and unauthentic leader behaviours, and offer a unified (yet differentiated) framework of negative leader behaviours in the academic sector. Since each type of negative behaviour emanates from different motivational drivers, different measures are required to curb them. These are also discussed.
A comparison of these findings with those from leadership studies in other sectors reveals that negative leader behaviours in the education sector are quite similar to those in other sectors.
Taran Patel & Robert G. Hamlin. 2017. Toward a Unified Framework of Perceived Negative Leader Behaviours Insights from French and British Educational Sectors.
Journal of Business Ethics, 145(1), 157–182.
Ethical leadership as a balance between opposing neural networks
In this article, Kylie Rochford and team explore the implications of opposing domains theory for developing ethical leaders. Opposing domains theory highlights a neurological tension between analytic reasoning and socioemotional reasoning. Specifically, when we engage in analytic reasoning (the task positive network), we suppress our ability to engage in socioemotional reasoning (the default mode network) and vice versa.
In this article, the authors bring together the domains of neuroscience, psychology, and ethics, to inform their theorizing around ethical leadership. They propose that a key issue for ethical leadership is achieving a healthy balance between analytic reasoning and socioemotional reasoning.
Rochford et al. argue that organisational culture often encourages too heavy a reliance on nonemotional forms of reasoning to arrive at moral judgments (i.e., the TPN). As a result, leaders run the risk of suppressing their ability to pay attention to the human side of moral dilemmas and, in doing so, dehumanise colleagues, particularly subordinates, and clients.
Kylie C. Rochford, Anthony I. Jack, Richard E. Boyatzis & Shannon E. French. 2017. Ethical Leadership as a Balance Between Opposing Neural Networks.
Journal of Business Ethics, 144(4), 755–770.
Cross-cultural student perceptions of leadership ethicality
The recent crisis in a prominent German car manufacturer generated by unethical leadership practices has brought into sharp focus, once again, the need for radical and fundamental ethical transformation among members of capitalism’s leadership elite. The divide between ethics and business needs to be closed and to do this effectively in a globalized world, cross-cultural aspects of moral sentiment need to be better understood.
The current paper contributes to the extant literature in this regard by describing and analyzing cross-cultural aspects of German and South African student’s ‘sympathy’ towards business ethical phenomena, using Adam Smith’s ‘Theory of Moral Sentiment’ as a theoretical framework and qualitative methods. The paper constructs a heuristic device based on Adam Smith’s theoretical framework and then proceeds to empirically analyse the theory by investigating German and South African student moral sentiments towards specific ethical leadership behaviours.
The study indicates that while there is general cross-cultural homogeneity in moral approbation among students for fundamental aspects of ethical leadership behaviour, nuanced custom-based differences emerge from the qualitative analysis. Following Adam Smith, fine grained differences in moral sentiment arising from ‘custom’ are evident.
Thus, although ethicality of specific leadership behaviour is found to be viewed similarly by both groups of students, significant nuanced differences arise in German students who emphasize intellectual autonomy over the conservatism favoured by their South African counterparts. Practical aspects of these findings are briefly discussed.
D. A. L. Coldwell. 2017. Custom and Moral Sentiment: Cross-Cultural Aspects of Postgraduate Student Perceptions of Leadership Ethicality.
Journal of Business Ethics, 145(1), 201–213.