Sa-OR-S134-4 - Ethics Is Only Good When Useful To Us: Reassessing Ethical Behavior Considering The Leader's Group Membership

Outcomes of constructive/destructive leadership
Oral Presentation
Part of:
Saturday May 20   12:15 PM to 12:30 PM (15 minutes)
GM Auditorium
Leadership and management
Outcomes of constructive/destructive leadership
Ethics is only good when useful to us: Reassessing ethical behavior considering the leader’s group membership
C. Morais 1,*, G. Randsley de Moura 1, A. Leite 2, D. Abrams 1
1Psychology, University of Kent, Canterbury, 2Psychology, University of Roehampton, London, United Kingdom
Content: Brown and colleagues (2005) suggested that the ethical conduct of followers is shaped by the ethical or unethical behavior of the leader because they are seen as role models, due to the central role that leaders occupy within the organization (Hogg, 2001). Unethical leaders have not received much attention, but previous research has shown that ingroup leaders that break the rules are granted a transgression credit, that is, an implicit license to break the rules (Abrams et al, 2013). We aimed to extend these findings to organizations by understanding how it impacts perceptions of team effectiveness and optimism about the organization. In a series of between-participants experiments, we manipulated whether people judged an ethical vs unethical leader, leader’s group membership (ingroup vs outgroup), and leader’s motivation to behave (self-promoted vs group promoted). Ethical leaders were judged more favorably and positively influenced participants’ optimism and perceptions of team effectiveness, especially in the outgroup condition. The impact of unethical leaders was less negative in the ingroup condition, suggesting that attributions for leaders’ ethical behavior and its consequences differs depending on group membership. The results also revealed that the motivation for behavior perceived by followers impacts such attributions. However, further research is needed to explore the nature of the attributions and to understand whether the same standards are applied to co-workers. Nevertheless, our research provides experimental evidence to support the argument that ethical leaders reinforce followers’ perceptions of effectiveness and optimism about the organization and, simultaneously, could reduce undesirable behaviors towards it.

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