Here’s our latest pick of interesting articles considering the darker side of leadership.

Workplace Bullying: Considering the Interaction Between Individual and Work Environment
There has been increased interest in the “dark side” of organisational behaviour in recent decades. Workplace bullying, in particular, has received growing attention in the social sciences literature. However, this literature has lacked an integrated approach. More specifically, few studies have investigated causes at levels beyond the individual, such as the group or organisation.

Extending victim precipitation theory, Samnani and Singh present a conceptual model of workplace bullying incorporating factors at the individual-, dyadic-, group-, and organisational-levels.

Based on the authors’ theoretical model, a number of propositions are offered which emphasize an interactionist, multi-level approach. This approach provides a valuable stepping stone and framework to guide future empirical research. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.

Samnani, AK. & Singh, P. 2016.  Workplace Bullying: Considering the Interaction Between Individual and Work Environment.
Journal of Business Ethics, 139(3), 537–549.


Antecedents of Abusive Supervision: a Meta-analytic Review
Recent studies of organisational behaviour have witnessed a growing interest in unethical leadership, leading to the development of abusive supervision research. Given the increasing interest in the causes of abusive supervision, this study proposes an organizing framework for its antecedents and tests it using meta analysis.

Based on an analysis of effect sizes drawn from 74 studies, comprising 30,063 participants, the relationship between abusive supervision and different antecedent categories are examined. The results generally support expected relationships across the four categories of abusive antecedents, including: supervisor related antecedents, organisation related antecedents, subordinate related antecedents, and demographic characteristics of both supervisors and subordinates.

In addition, possible moderators that can also influence the relationships between abusive supervision and its antecedents are also examined. The significance and implications of different level factors in explaining abusive supervision are discussed.

Zhang, Y. & Bednall, T.C. 2016. Antecedents of Abusive Supervision: a Meta-analytic Review.
Journal of Business Ethics, 139(3), 455–471. 

Political Connectedness, Corporate Governance, and Firm Performance
In this paper, Domadenik and colleagues present and test a theory of how political connectedness (often linked to political corruption) affects corporate governance and productive efficiency of firms. Their model predicts that underdeveloped democratic institutions that do not punish political corruption result in political connectedness of firms that in turn has a negative effect on performance.

The researchers test this prediction on an almost complete population of Slovenian joint-stock companies with 100 or more employees. Using the data on supervisory board structure, together with balance sheet and income statement data for 2000–2010, the authors show that a higher share of politically connected supervisory board members leads to lower productivity.

Domadenik, P., Prašnikar, J. & Svejnar, J. Political Connectedness, Corporate Governance, and Firm Performance.
Journal of Business Ethics, 139(2), 411–428.


Team conflict, politics and employee performance in China
The present study expands on the growing literature concerning organisational politics (OP) by assessing the impact of team-level OP on employee performance outcomes as well as investigating the degree to which these effects are mediated by team conflict.

The results, based on multilevel structural equation modelling with a sample of 349 employees from 78 firms in China, lent support for a cross-level mediating role for team conflict between political climate and employee performance. Further, moderator analyses demonstrated that political climate acted as a condition for task conflict to trigger relationship conflict.

Thus, the results of this study contribute to both the political climate literature and the conflict literature by clarifying the processes by which climate can influence employee performance.

Bai, Y., Han, G.H. & Harms, P.D. Team Conflict Mediates the Effects of Organizational Politics on Employee Performance: A Cross-Level Analysis in China.
Journal of Business Ethics, 139(1), 95–109.


Fraud in sustainability departments? 
While sustainability is largely associated with do-gooders, this article discusses whether and how fraud might also be an issue in sustainability departments. More specifically, transferring the concept of the fraud triangle to sustainability departments the author discusses possible pressures/incentives, opportunities, and rationalisations/attitudes for sustainability managers to commit fraud.

Based on interviews with sustainability and forensic practitioners, the findings suggest that sustainability managers face mounting pressure and have opportunities to manipulate due to an immature control environment. Whether a presumably morality-driven attitude may prevent them from committing and easily rationalizing fraud remains controversial. Even though cases of fraud happening in sustainability departments are still widely unknown, the interview analysis reveals that sustainability fraud is likely to occur at least to some extent—and presumably remains undetected.

The study brings to light the importance of a clear commitment from executives to sustainability to prevent sustainability fraud and demonstrates adverse developments driven by external stakeholders, specifically the bonus relevancy of sustainability index scores. In particular, the study shows a lack of awareness for potential fraud in sustainability departments.

Steinmeier, M. 2016. Fraud in Sustainability Departments? An Exploratory Study.
Journal of Business Ethics, 138(3), 477–492.


Corporate Social Responsibility in a dysfunctional institutional environment
Drawing on institutional and signalling theories, this study examines how environmental corporate social responsibility (ECSR) affects firm performance in a dysfunctional institutional environment. The authors extend the ECSR literature by suggesting that ECSR indirectly influences firm performance through the mediating effects of business and political legitimacy.

Based on a dataset of 238 firms in China, they find that ECSR affects business and political legitimacy followed by firm performance. Moreover, legal incompleteness weakens and legal inefficiency strengthens the effects of ECSR on business and political legitimacy.

Wei, Z., Shen, H., Zhou, K.Z. et al. 2017. How Does Environmental Corporate Social Responsibility Matter in a Dysfunctional Institutional Environment? Evidence from China. 
Journal of Business Ethics, 140(2), 209–223.


Joy of another’s misfortune: Schadenfreude
Despite growing interest in emotions, organisational scholars have largely ignored the moral emotion of schadenfreude, which refers to pleasure felt in response to another’s misfortune. As a socially undesirable emotion, it might be assumed that individuals would be hesitant to share their schadenfreude. In two experimental studies involving emotional responses to unethical behaviours, the authors find evidence to the contrary.

Study 1 revealed that subjects experiencing schadenfreude were willing to share their feelings, especially if the misfortune was perceived to be deserved (i.e., resulting from unethical behaviours).

Study 2 extends this work by incorporating schadenfreude targets of different status (CEO versus employee). Consistent with the “tall poppy syndrome,” subjects were more willing to share schadenfreude concerning high status targets than low status targets when the perceived severity of the target’s misconduct was low.

This status effect disappeared at higher levels of perceived deservingness, however. Reported willingness to share schadenfreude was strongest at these levels but did not differ significantly between high and low status targets. These findings build on the social functional account of emotions, suggesting that sharing schadenfreude may signal normative cues to others regarding workplace behaviours that are deemed to be unethical.

Dasborough, M. & Harvey, P. 2017. Schadenfreude: The (not so) Secret Joy of Another’s Misfortune.
Journal of Business Ethics, 141(4), 693–707.