Nav: Home

Ethical leadership can have negative consequences, Baylor University researchers say

February 06, 2018

WACO, Texas (Feb. 6, 2018) - Ethical leadership is a good thing, right?

Certainly, management experts say. But ethical leadership can have negative consequences, too, according to new research from management faculty in Baylor University's Hankamer School of Business.

A new Baylor study published in the Journal of Business Ethics reveals that ethical leadership compounded by job-hindrance stress and supervisor-induced stress can lead to employee deviance and turnover. The research reflects the thoughts of 609 employees who were surveyed across two studies.

"If someone is an ethical leader but induces stress, our research shows that his or her employees will feel less support," said lead author Matthew Quade, Ph.D., assistant professor of management. "Thus, employees who do not feel supported are more likely to consider leaving their jobs or engage in workplace deviance - things like arriving late to work, daydreaming, not following instructions or failing to be as productive as they could be."

Quade said that ethical leadership is a good thing and often beneficial in terms of employee resources. An example would be a trusted supervisor who listens to her employees and has her employees' best interests in mind.

The trouble comes, he said, when supervisor-induced stress or job-hindrance stress enters the picture.

"When those stressors are added, there is a depletion of resources," Quade explained. "Many of the gains or benefits from ethical leadership are negated."

What does stress-inducing ethical leadership look like?

Quade said it could be as simple as supervisors setting expectations too high or, in the interest of "following all the rules," not allowing for any deviation from a process, even if a shortcut, still within the bounds of behaving ethically, would deliver a desired result.

The researchers wrote: "Ethical leadership can be an exacting process of sustaining high ethical standards, ensuring careful practice and enforcement of all rules and meeting leaders' lofty expectations, all of which can consume time and energy and be perceived by employees as overly demanding or an obstacle to job performance."

As part of the study, those surveyed were asked to what extent they agreed or disagreed with the following statements:
  • My supervisor makes it so that I have to go through a lot of red tape to get my job done.
  • Working with my supervisor makes it hard to understand what is expected of me.
  • I receive conflicting requests from my supervisor.
  • My supervisor creates many hassles to go through to get projects/assignments done.
  • Working with him/her thwarts my personal growth and well-being.
  • In general, I feel that my supervisor hinders my personal accomplishment.
  • I feel that my supervisor constrains my achievement of personal goals and development.
Quade said his team in no way wants to discourage ethical leadership. Research consistently shows such leadership is very beneficial, he said. But this new research shows that there are boundaries to those benefits.

"This places quite an onus on appropriately managing the stress that comes from the leader and the job, in efforts to most fully realize the potential of ethical leadership," the researchers wrote.

The study listed some tips and takeaways for organizations and leaders. They include:
  • Strike a balance between promoting ethical behavior and providing resources to help employees meet those standards.
  • Encourage employees in word and deed by reducing ambiguity in ethical dilemmas that might otherwise drain resources.
  • Model fair and ethical behavior.
  • Communicate efficient methods to meet standards and reduce unnecessary steps or procedures.
  • Equip and train leaders to balance the demands of leading ethically while not overburdening their employees.
-end-
ABOUT THE STUDY

"Boundary Conditions of Ethical Leadership: Exploring Supervisor-Induced and Job Hindrance Stress as Potential Inhibitors" is published in the Journal of Business Ethics. Study authors are Baylor University Hankamer School of Business faculty members Matthew Quade, Ph.D., assistant professor of management; Sara Perry, Ph.D., assistant professor of management; and Emily Hunter, Ph.D., associate professor of management.

ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY

Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 17,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.

ABOUT HANKAMER SCHOOL OF BUSINESS

Baylor University's Hankamer School of Business provides a rigorous academic experience, consisting of classroom and hands-on learning, guided by Christian commitment and a global perspective. Recognized nationally for several programs, including Entrepreneurship and Accounting, the school offers 24 undergraduate and 13 graduate areas of study. Visit http://www.baylor.edu/businessand follow on Twitter at twitter.com/Baylor_Business.

Baylor University

Related Stress Articles:

Red light for stress
Researchers from the Institute of Industrial Science at The University of Tokyo have created a biphasic luminescent material that changes color when exposed to mechanical stress.
How do our cells respond to stress?
Molecular biologists reverse-engineer a complex cellular structure that is associated with neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS
How stress remodels the brain
Stress restructures the brain by halting the production of crucial ion channel proteins, according to research in mice recently published in JNeurosci.
Why stress doesn't always cause depression
Rats susceptible to anhedonia, a core symptom of depression, possess more serotonin neurons after being exposed to chronic stress, but the effect can be reversed through amygdala activation, according to new research in JNeurosci.
How plants handle stress
Plants get stressed too. Drought or too much salt disrupt their physiology.
Stress in the powerhouse of the cell
University of Freiburg researchers discover a new principle -- how cells protect themselves from mitochondrial defects.
Measuring stress around cells
Tissues and organs in the human body are shaped through forces generated by cells, that push and pull, to ''sculpt'' biological structures.
Cellular stress at the movies
For the first time, biological imaging experts have used a custom fluorescence microscope and a novel antibody tagging tool to watch living cells undergoing stress.
Maternal stress at conception linked to children's stress response at age 11
A new study published in the Journal of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease finds that mothers' stress levels at the moment they conceive their children are linked to the way children respond to life challenges at age 11.
A new way to see stress -- using supercomputers
Supercomputer simulations show that at the atomic level, material stress doesn't behave symmetrically.
More Stress News and Stress Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Meditations on Loneliness
Original broadcast date: April 24, 2020. We're a social species now living in isolation. But loneliness was a problem well before this era of social distancing. This hour, TED speakers explore how we can live and make peace with loneliness. Guests on the show include author and illustrator Jonny Sun, psychologist Susan Pinker, architect Grace Kim, and writer Suleika Jaouad.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#565 The Great Wide Indoors
We're all spending a bit more time indoors this summer than we probably figured. But did you ever stop to think about why the places we live and work as designed the way they are? And how they could be designed better? We're talking with Emily Anthes about her new book "The Great Indoors: The Surprising Science of how Buildings Shape our Behavior, Health and Happiness".
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Third. A TED Talk.
Jad gives a TED talk about his life as a journalist and how Radiolab has evolved over the years. Here's how TED described it:How do you end a story? Host of Radiolab Jad Abumrad tells how his search for an answer led him home to the mountains of Tennessee, where he met an unexpected teacher: Dolly Parton.Jad Nicholas Abumrad is a Lebanese-American radio host, composer and producer. He is the founder of the syndicated public radio program Radiolab, which is broadcast on over 600 radio stations nationwide and is downloaded more than 120 million times a year as a podcast. He also created More Perfect, a podcast that tells the stories behind the Supreme Court's most famous decisions. And most recently, Dolly Parton's America, a nine-episode podcast exploring the life and times of the iconic country music star. Abumrad has received three Peabody Awards and was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2011.