In a multi-source study, we examine how frequent change interacts with ethical leadership to reduce turnover intentions. We argue that ethical leaders enhance employees’ state self-esteem, which explains the moderating effect of ethical leadership. Results from 124 employee-coworker-supervisor triads revealed that ethical leadership moderated the relationship between frequent change and turnover intention such that the relationship was positive only when ethical leadership was low. The moderating relationship could be shown to be mediated by employees’ state self-esteem.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Aguinis, H. (1995). Statistical power problems with moderated multiple regression in management research. Journal of Management Research, 21, 114–1158.
Allen, D. G., Bryant, P. C., & Vardaman, J. M. (2010). Retaining talent: Replacing misconceptions with evidence-based strategies. Academy of Management Perspectives, 24, 48–65.
Amiot, C. E., Terry, D. G., Jimmeson, N. L., & Callan, V. J. (2006). A longitudinal investigation of coping processes during a merger: Implications for job satisfaction and organizational identification. Journal of Management, 36(4), 552–574.
Ashford, S. J., Lee, C., & Bobko, P. (1989). Content, causes, and consequences of job insecurity: A theory-based measure and substantive test. Academy of Management Journal, 32, 803–829.
Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall.
Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall.
Bartunek, J. M., Rousseau, D. M., Rudolph, J. W., & DePalma, J. A. (2006). On the receiving end: Sensemaking, emotion, and assessments of an organizational change initiated by others. Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 42, 182–206.
Battilana, J., Gilmartin, M., Sengul, M., Pache, A., & Aleaxander, J. A. (2010). Leadership competencies for implementing planned organizational change. Leadership Quarterly, 21, 422–438.
Beach, L. R. (1990). Image theory: Decision making in personal and organizational contexts. Chichester: Wiley.
Bernerth, J. B., Walker, H. J., & Harris, S. G. (2011). Change fatigue: Development and initial validation of a new measure. Work & Stress, 25(4), 321–337.
Blau, P. M. (1964). Exchange and power in social life. New York: Academic Press.
Bluedorn, A. C. (1982). A unified model of turnover from organizations. Human Relations, 35, 135–153.
Bowden, T. (2002). An investigation into psychological predictors of work family conflict and turnover intention in an organizational context. Working paper, University of Kent, Canterbury.
Brocker, J. (1988). Self-esteem at work: Theory, research and practice. Lexington: Lexington Books.
Brockner, J., Heuer, L., Siegel, P. A., Wiesenfeld, B., Martin, C., Grover, S., et al. (1998). The moderating effect of self-esteem in reaction to voice: Converging evidence from five studies. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 394–407.
Brown, J. D., & Marshall, M. A. (2006). The three faces of self-esteem. In M. Kennis (Ed.), Self-esteem: Issues and answers (pp. 4–9). New York: Psychology Press.
Brown, M. E., & Treviño, L. K. (2006). Ethical leadership: A review and future directions. The Leadership Quarterly, 17, 595–616.
Brown, M. E., Treviño, L. K., & Harrison, D. (2005). Ethical leadership: A social learning perspective for construct development and testing. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 97, 117–134.
Burnes, B., & By, R. T. (2012). Leadership and change: The case for greater ethical clarity. Journal of Business Ethics, 108(2), 239–252.
Chen, G., Polyhart, R. E., Cooper Thomas, H., & Bliese, P. D. (2011). The power of momentum: A new model of dynamic relationships between job satisfaction change and turnover intentions. Academy of Management Journal, 54, 159–181.
Coyle-Shapiro, J. A. M., & Marrow, P. C. (2003). The role of individual differences in employee adoption of TQM orientation. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 62, 320–340.
Cunningham, C. E., Woodward, C. A., Shannon, H. S., Maclntosh, J., Lendrum, B., Rosenbloom, D., et al. (2002). Readiness for organizational change: A longitudinal study of workplace, psychological and behavioral correlates. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 75, 377–392.
Daly, J. P., & Geyer, P. D. (1994). The role of fairness in implementing large-scale change: Employee evaluations of process and outcome in seven facility relocations. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 15, 623–638.
De Hoogh, A., & Den Hartog, D. (2008). Ethical and despotic leadership, relationships with leader’s social responsibility, top management team effectiveness and subordinates’ optimism: A multi-method approach. The Leadership Quarterly, 19, 297–311.
Eby, L. T., Adams, D. M., Russell, J. E. A., & Gaby, S. H. (2000). Perception of organizational readiness for change: Factors related to employees’ reactions to the implementation of team-based selling. Human Relations, 53, 419–442.
Edwards, J. R., & Lambert, L. S. (2007). Methods for integrating moderation and mediation: A general analytical framework using moderated path analysis. Psychological Methods, 12, 1–22.
Elvira, M. M., & Cohen, L. E. (2001). Location Matters: A cross-level analysis of the effects of organizational sex composition on turnover. Academy of Management Journal, 44, 591–605.
Epitropaki, O., & Martin, R. (2005). From ideal to real: A longitudinal study if implicit leadership theories, leadership member exchanges, and employee outcomes. Journal of Applied Psychology, 90, 659–676.
Flynn, G. (2008). The virtuous manager: A vision for leadership in business. Journal of Business Ethics, 78, 359–372.
Fugate, M., Prussia, G. E., & Kinicki, A. J. (2012). Managing employee withdrawal during change: The role of threat appraisal. Journal of Management, 38(3), 890–914.
Gardner, D. G., & Pierce, J. L. (2001). Self-esteem and self-efficacy within the organizational context: A replication. Journal of Management Systems, 13, 31–48.
Gini, A. (1997). Moral leadership: An overview. Journal of Business Ethics, 16, 323–330.
Gini, A. (1998). Moral leadership and business ethics. In J. B. Ciulla (Ed.), Ethics, the heart of leadership (pp. 27–45). Westport: Quorum Books.
Glebbeck, A. C., & Bax, E. H. (2004). Is high turnover really harmful? An empirical test using company records. Academy of Management Journal, 47, 277–286.
Glick, W. G., Huber, G. P., Miller, C. C., Harold, D., & Sutcliffe, K. M. (1995). Studying changes in organizational design and effectiveness: Retrospective event histories and periodic assessments. In G. P. Huber & A. H. Van de Ven (Eds.), Longitudinal field research methods: Studying processes of organizational change (pp. 126–154). Thousand Oaks: Sage.
Gouldner, A. W. (1960). The psychology of behavioral exchange. Reading: Addison-Wesley.
Griffeth, R. W., Hom, P. W., & Gaertner, S. (2000). A meta-analysis of antecedents and correlates of employee turnover: update, moderator tests, and research implications for the next millennium. Journal of Management, 26, 463–488.
Griffeth, R. W., & Hom, P. W. (2001). Retaining valued employees. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Hancock, J., Allen, D., Bosco, F., McDaniel, K., & Pearce, C. (2013). Meta-analytic review of employee turnover as a predictor of firm performance. Journal of Management, 39, 573–603.
Harman, W. S., Lee, T. W., Mitchell, T. R., Felps, W., & Owens, B. P. (2007). The psychology of voluntary employee turnover. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 16, 51–54.
Heatherton, T. F., & Polivy, J. (1991). Development and validation of a scale of measuring state self-esteem. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60, 895–920.
Hom, P. W., Griffeth, R. W., & Sellaro, C. L. (1984). The validity of Mobley’s (1977) model of employee turnover. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 34, 141–175.
Hom, P. W., Caranikas-Walker, F., Prussia, G. E., & Griffeth, R. W. (1992). A meta-analytical structural equations analysis of a model of employee turnover. Journal of Applied Psychology, 77(6), 890–909.
Hom, P. W., Mitchell, T. R., Lee, T. W., & Griffeth, R. W. (2012). Reviewing employee turnover: Focusing on proximal withdrawal states and an expanded criterion. Psychological Bulletin, 138, 831–858.
Howell, J. M., & Avolio, B. J. (1992). The ethics of charismatic leadership: submission or liberation? Academy of Management Executive, 6, 43–54.
Iverson, R. (1996). Employee acceptance of organizational change: The role of organizational commitment. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 7, 122–149.
Kalshoven, K., Den Hartog, D. N., & de Hoogh, A. H. B. (2011). Ethical leadership at work questionnaires (ELW): Development and validation of a multidimensional measure. Leadership Quarterly, 22, 51–69.
Kanungo, R. N. (2001). Ethical values of transactional and transformational leaders. Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences, 18, 257–265.
Kelloway, E. K., Gottlieb, B. H., & Barham, L. (1999). The source, nature, and direction of work and family conflict: A longitudinal investigation. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 4, 337–346.
Kernis, M. H. (2005). Measuring self-esteem in context: The importance of stability of self-esteem in psychological functioning. Journal of Personality, 73, 1569–1605.
Lam, S. K., & Schaubroek, J. (2000). A field experiment testing frontline opinion leaders as change agents. Journal of Applied Psychology, 85, 987–995.
Lazarus, R. S., & Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, appraisal, and coping. New York: Springer.
Lee, T. W., & Mitchell, T. R. (1994). An alternative approach: The unfolding model of voluntary turnover. Academy of Management Review, 19, 51–89.
Lee, T. W., Mitchell, T. R., Wise, L., & Fireman, S. (1996). An unfolding model of voluntary turnover. Academy of Management Journal, 39, 5–36.
Martin, A. J., Jones, E. S., & Callan, V. J. (2005). The role of psychological climate in facilitating employee adjustment during organizational change. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 14, 263–289.
Mayer, D., Kuenzi, M., Greenbaum, R., Bardes, M., & Salvador, M. R. (2009). How does ethical leadership flow? Test of a trickle-down model. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 108, 1–13.
Meyer, J. P., Stanley, D. J., Herscovitch, L., & Topolnytsky, L. (2002). Affective, continuance, and normative commitment to the organization: A meta-analysis of antecedents, correlates, and consequences. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 61, 20–52.
Mitchell, T. R., & Lee, T. W. (2001). The unfolding model of voluntary turnover and job embeddedness: foundations for a comprehensive theory of attachment. Research in Organizational Behavior, 23, 198–246.
Mitchell, T., Holtom, B., Lee, T., Sablynski, C., & Erez, M. (2001). Why people stay: Using job embeddedness to predict voluntary turnover. Academy of Management Journal, 44, 1102–1121.
Mobley, W. H. (1977). Intermediate linkages in the relationship between job satisfaction and employee turnover. Journal of Applied Psychology, 62, 237–240.
Monge, P. R. (1995). Theoretical and analytical issues in studying organizational processes. In G. P. Huber & A. H. Van de Ven (Eds.), Longitudinal field research methods: Studying processes of organizational change (pp. 267–298). Thousand Oaks: Stage.
Moyle, P., & Parkes, K. (1999). The effects of transition stress: A relocation study. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 20, 625–646.
Mulki, J. P., Jaramillo, F., & Locander, W. B. (2006). Effects of ethical climate and supervisory trust on salesperson’s job attitudes and intentions to quit. Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, 26, 19–26.
Muller, D., Judd, C. M., & Yzerbyt, V. Y. (2005). When moderation is mediated and mediation is moderated. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89, 852–863.
Podsakoff, P. M., Mackenzie, S. B., Lee, J. Y., & Podsakoff, N. P. (2003). Common method biases in behavioral research: A critical review of the literature and recommended remedies. Journal of Applied Psychology, 5, 879–903.
Preacher, K. J., & Hayes, A. F. (2004). SPPS and SAS procedures for estimating indirect effects in simple indirect effects in simple mediation models. Behavior Research Methods, Instructments, and Computers, 36, 717–731.
Preacher, K. J., & Hayes, A. F. (2008). Asymptotic and resampling strategies for assessing and comparing indirect effects in multiple mediator models. Behavior Research Methods, 40, 879–891.
Preacher, K. J., Rucker, D. D., & Hayes, A. F. (2007). Addressing moderated mediation hypotheses: Theory, methods, and prescriptions. Multivariate Behavioral Research, 42, 185–227.
Rafferty, A. E., & Griffin, M. A. (2006). Perceptions of organizational change: A stress and coping perspective. Journal of Applied Psychology, 91, 1154–1162.
Riordan, C. M., Weatherly, E. W., Vandenberg, R. J., & Self, R. M. (2001). The effects of pre-entry experiences and socialization tactics on newcomer attitudes and turnover. Journal of Management Issues, 13, 159–177.
Seo, M. G., Taylor, M. S., Hill, N. S., Zhang, X., Tesluk, P. E., & Lorinkova, N. M. (2012). The role of affect and leadership during organizational change. Personal Psychology, 65, 121–165.
Shrout, P., & Bolger, N. (2002). Mediation in experimental and nonexperimental studies: new procedures and recommendations. Psychological Methods, 7, 422–445.
Spreitzer, G. M., & Mishra, A. K. (2002). To stay or to go: Voluntary survivor turnover following an organizational downsizing. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 23, 707–729.
Tett, R. P., & Meyer, J. P. (1993). Job satisfaction, organizational commitment, turnover intention, and turnover: Path analyses based on meta-analytic findings. Personnel Psychology, 46, 259–293.
Treviño, L. K. (1986). Ethical decision making in organizations: A person-situation interactionist model. Academy of Management Review, 11, 601–617.
Treviño, L. K., Hartman, L. P., & Brown, M. (2000). Moral person and moral manager: How executives develop a reputation for ethical leadership. California Management Review, 42, 128–142.
Treviño, L. K., Brown, M., & Hartman, L. P. (2003). A qualitative investigation of perceived executive ethical leadership: Perceptions from inside and outside the executive suite. Human Relations, 55, 5–37.
Treviño, L. K., Weaver, G. R., & Reynolds, S. J. (2006). Behavioral ethics in organizations: A review. Journal of Management, 32, 951–990.
Tyler, T. R. (1997). The psychology of legitimacy: A relational perspective on voluntary deference to authorities. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 1, 323–345.
Tyler, T. R., & Blader, S. L. (2003). The group engagement model: Procedural justice, social identity, and cooperative behavior. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 7, 349–361.
Tyler, T. R., & Smith, H. J. (1999). Justice, social identity and group processes. In T. R. Tyler, R. M. Kramer, & O. P. John (Eds.), The psychology of social self (pp. 223–264). Mahaw: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc.
Vandenberg, R. J., Richardson, H., & Eastman, L. (1999). High involvement organizations: Their antecedents and consequences. Group and Organization Management, 24, 300–339.
Walumbwa, F. O., Avolio, B. J., Gardner, W. L., Wernsing, T. S., & Peterson, S. J. (2008). Authentic leadership: Development and validation of a theory-based measure. Journal of Management, 34, 89–126.
Walumbwa, F. O., Mayer, D. M., Wang, P., Wang, H., Workman, K., & Christensen, A. L. (2011). Linking ethical leadership to employee performance: The role of leader-member exchange, self-efficacy, and organizational identification. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 115, 204–213.
Weaver, G. R., Treviño, L. K., & Agle, B. (2005). Somebody I look up to: Ethical role models in organizations. Organizational Dynamics, 34, 313–330.
Wiesenfeld, B. M., Brockner, J., & Thibault, V. (2000). Procedural fairness, managers’ self-esteem and managerial behaviors following a layoff. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 83, 1–32.
Wright, T. A., & Bonett, D. G. (2007). Job satisfaction and psychological well-being as nonadditive predictors of workplace turnover. Journal of Management, 33(2), 141–160.
About this article
Cite this article
Babalola, M.T., Stouten, J. & Euwema, M. Frequent Change and Turnover Intention: The Moderating Role of Ethical Leadership. J Bus Ethics 134, 311–322 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-014-2433-z
- Ethical leadership
- Frequent change
- State self-esteem
- Turnover intention