Th-OR-S40-2 - When The Good Do Bad - The Moderating Effect Of Uncertainty On Subordinates' Reactions Toward Transgressive Behaviour By Ethical Leaders

Outcomes of constructive/destructive leadership
Oral Presentation
Part of:
15 minutes
GM Auditorium
Leadership and management
Outcomes of constructive/destructive leadership
When the good do bad – The moderating effect of uncertainty on subordinates’ reactions toward transgressive behaviour by ethical leaders
P. Müller 1,*, S. Lang 1
1Business Psychology, HFT University of Applied Sciences Stuttgart, Stuttgart, Germany
Content: Purpose
Ethical leadership style is often found to have positive effects on subordinates’ workplace behaviour. Less is known about reactions of subordinates towards a leader with an otherwise ethical leadership style who is showing an act of transgression. It also remains unclear which situational circumstances facilitate the effect of ethical leadership on subordinates’ behaviour. Uncertainty is a situational factor that strongly influences a person’s perceptions of other behaviours. We hypothesized that subordinates are more sensitive towards transgressive behaviours of leaders normally showing an ethical leadership style. However, the opposite should be true for uncertain situations. Here, subordinates should be less sensitive towards transgressions by ethical leaders than to transgressions by leaders showing no ethical leadership style. The proposed three-way interaction was tested in two studies.
In study 1, the hypothesis was tested in an experimental setup. Participants’ uncertainty salience (control vs uncertainty) was manipulated before they read a scenario about a leader (ethical leadership style vs. no ethical leadership style) acting in a certain manner (appropriate vs. inappropriate) towards an employee. Participants then rated how much deviant workplace behaviour they would show if they were the employee. Study 2 was a survey of German employees (without a leadership role) from different occupational backgrounds and organizations. The appropriateness of the current behaviour and the degree of ethical leadership style of their respective leader was assessed. As a measure of uncertainty, we used the perceived current commercial prospect of their company. Affective commitment served as dependent variable.
Both studies showed the proposed three-way interaction supporting the hypothesis.
Future research is needed to replicate the current findings in other situational settings and longitudinal designs. 
Research/Practical Implications
Results of both studies imply that effects of ethical leaders’ actual behaviour should be evaluated on the backdrop of the current situation, e.g. companies’ current commercial situation.
This study is the first to demonstrate how transgressions by leaders with ethical leadership style trigger different reactions in subordinates based on the current situation of their organization.


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