This week’s research tidbits considers the role of morality in relationships between employees and with their employer.
Employee – organisation relationships and unethical pro-organisational behaviour
Prior research on employee–organisation relationships (EORs) has exclusively focused on the positive consequences of high-inducement EORs (i.e., mutual- and over-investment EORs). Drawing from social exchange theory , the authors develop a model theorising employee unethical pro-organisational behaviour (UPB) as one potential negative outcome of high-inducement EORs, as mediated by high-quality social exchange relationship between the employee and the employer.
Empirical findings from two field studies provided convergent support to the mediation relationship between mutual-investment EORs and employee UPB via perceived social exchange. Moreover, the results in Study 2 further revealed that the relationship was less significant among employees with higher levels of moral identity, because the positive relationship between perceived social exchange and employee UPB was weakened by high moral identity. The theoretical and managerial implications were discussed.
Taolin Wang, Lirong Long, Yong Zhang & Wei He. 2019. A Social Exchange Perspective of Employee–Organization Relationships and Employee Unethical Pro-organizational Behavior: The Moderating Role of Individual Moral Identity.
Journal of Business Ethics, 159(2), 473–489.
Why moral followers quit
Many business leaders vigorously and single-mindedly pursue bottom-line outcomes with the hope of producing superior results for themselves and their companies. The study investigated two drawbacks of such leader bottom-line mentality (BLM, i.e., an exclusive focus on bottom-line outcomes at the expense of other priorities).
First, based on leaders’ power over followers, the authors hypothesised that leader BLM promotes unethical pro-leader behaviours (UPLB, i.e., behaviours that are intended to benefit the leader, but violate ethical norms) among followers. Second, based on cognitive dissonance theory, the authors hypothesised that UPLB, and leader BLM via UPLB, increase turnover intention among employees with a strong moral identity.
Data collected from 153 employees of various organisations supported the hypotheses. In particular, leader BLM was positively related to followers’ UPLB. Further, for employees with a stronger (rather than weaker) moral identity: (1) UPLB was positively related to turnover intention; and (2) leader BLM was related to turnover intention via UPLB.
Salar Mesdaghinia, Anushri Rawat & Shiva Nadavulakere. 2019. Why Moral Followers Quit: Examining the Role of Leader Bottom-Line Mentality and Unethical Pro-Leader Behaviour.
Journal of Business Ethics, 159(2), 491–505.
To help my unethical supervisor
Under some circumstances, individuals are willing to engage in unethical behaviours that benefit another entity. In this research the authors advance the unethical pro-organisational behaviour construct by showing that individuals also have the potential to behave unethically to benefit their supervisors.
Previous research has not examined if employees engage in unethical acts to benefit an entity that is separate from oneself and if they will conduct these acts to benefit a supervisor. This research helps to address these gaps. The authors also demonstrate that unethical behaviour to benefit a supervisor, what the authors term unethical pro-supervisor behaviour, is more likely to occur if individuals are more (versus less) identified with their organisation or supervisor.
That is, feeling a sense of oneness with one’s organisation or supervisor can result in employees engaging in unethical behaviour to help their supervisor. Further, this positive relationship is weakened if the employee possesses higher levels of moral identity. The authors test the hypotheses with a two-part laboratory study, a field study, and a time-lagged field study. Theoretical and practical implications of this work are discussed.
Hana Huang Johnson & Elizabeth E. Umphress. 2019. To Help My Supervisor: Identification, Moral Identity, and Unethical Pro-supervisor Behavior.
Journal of Business Ethics, 159(2), 519–534.
“If only my coworker was more ethical”
Drawing on social comparison theory, the authors investigate employees’ ethical and performance comparisons relative to a similar coworker and subsequent emotional and behavioural responses.
The authors test the theoretically driven hypotheses across two studies.
Study 1, a cross-sectional field study (N = 310 employee–coworker dyads), reveals that employees who perceive they are more ethical than their coworkers (i.e., more ethical comparison) experience negative emotions toward the comparison coworkers and those feelings are even stronger when the employees perceive they are lower performers than their coworkers (i.e., lower-performance comparison).
Results also reveal that negative emotions mediate the indirect relationship between being more ethical than a coworker, but also being a lower performer than that coworker onto (a) social undermining and (b) ostracism.
Study 2, a 2 × 2 between-subjects experimental design (N = 121), provides further support for the moderated mediation model. Results reveal that participants experience negative emotions when they receive information that they are more ethical than a comparison participant. Negative emotions are amplified if the participant is told they were a lower performer than the comparison participant. Those participants indicate their desire to mistreat and ignore the comparison participant if given the opportunity. Thus, the authors find support for their hypotheses using a multi-method design.
Matthew J. Quade, Rebecca L. Greenbaum & Mary B. Mawritz. 2019. “If Only My Coworker Was More Ethical”: When Ethical and Performance Comparisons Lead to Negative Emotions, Social Undermining, and Ostracism.
Journal of Business Ethics, 159(2), 567–586.
Job satisfaction and voluntary workplace green behaviour
Building on the broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions and on social role theory, this research investigates the linkages among prior job satisfaction, voluntary workplace green behaviour (VWGB), and subsequent job satisfaction as dependent on work group gender composition.
With a multi-source, multi-time dataset, a random coefficient modelling demonstrated that job satisfaction positively predicts VWGB and that this pattern is more salient in work groups with more females. In addition, while VWGB does not yield job satisfaction in a subsequent time period, this positive linkage occurs in work groups with fewer females.
This research offers theoretical implications for understanding the internal states and personal benefits of voluntary green performers as well as for the role of work group gender diversity on the linkages between prior job satisfaction and VWGB and between VWGB and subsequent job satisfaction. The findings also illuminate the practical benefits of environmentally sustainable organisations.
Andrea Kim, Youngsang Kim & Kyongji Han. 2019. A Cross Level Investigation on the Linkage Between Job Satisfaction and Voluntary Workplace Green Behavior.
Journal of Business Ethics,159(4), 1199–1214.
Is organisational wrongdoing always intentional?
In terms of reversal theory, both dominant and alternative explanations of the initiation of organisational wrongdoing assume that its perpetrators act in a telic state of mind. This leaves us with explanations of organisational wrongdoing that are insufficiently appreciative of the agent’s experience.
The human mind can be creative and imaginative, too, and people can fully immerse in their activity. The authors suggest that the paratelic state of mind is relevant for the phenomenological understanding of the initiation of original, creative, daring courses of action, and that the paratelic state of mind may originate courses of action that social control agents, at a later moment in time, may label as organisational wrongdoing.
This proposal is especially relevant when organisational agents are on a course of exploration, facing uncertainty, complexity, and unavailability of information.
Mikko Vesa, Frank den Hond and J. Tuomas Harviainen. 2019. On the Possibility of a Paratelic Initiation of Organizational Wrongdoing.
Journal of Business Ethics, 160(1), 1–15.
An ethical analysis of emotional labour
Our understanding of emotional labour, while conceptually and empirically substantial, is normatively impoverished: very little has been said or written expressly about its ethical dimensions or ramifications. Emotional labour refers to efforts undertaken by employees to make their private feelings and/or public emotion displays consistent with job and organisational requirements.
The authors formally define emotional labour, briefly summarise research in organisational behaviour and social psychology on the causes and consequences of emotional labour, and present a normative analysis of its moral limits focused on conditional rights and duties of employers and employees.
The focus is on three points of conflict involving rights and duties as they apply to the performance of emotional labour: when employees’ and organisations’ rights conflict, when employees’ rights conflict with their duties, and when organisations’ rights conflict with their duties. We discuss implications for future inquiry as well as managerial practice.
Bruce Barry, Mara Olekalns and Laura Rees. 2019. An Ethical Analysis of Emotional Labor.
Journal of Business Ethics, 160(1), 17–34.