Why Moral Followers Quit: Examining the Role of Leader Bottom-Line Mentality and Unethical Pro-Leader Behavior

  • Salar Mesdaghinia
  • Anushri Rawat
  • Shiva Nadavulakere
Original Paper


Many business leaders vigorously and single-mindedly pursue bottom-line outcomes with the hope of producing superior results for themselves and their companies. Our study investigated two drawbacks of such leader bottom-line mentality (BLM, i.e., an exclusive focus on bottom-line outcomes at the expense of other priorities). First, based on leaders’ power over followers, we hypothesized that leader BLM promotes unethical pro-leader behaviors (UPLB, i.e., behaviors that are intended to benefit the leader, but violate ethical norms) among followers. Second, based on cognitive dissonance theory, we hypothesized that UPLB, and leader BLM via UPLB, increase turnover intention among employees with a strong moral identity. Data collected from 153 employees of various organizations supported our hypotheses. In particular, leader BLM was positively related to followers’ UPLB. Further, for employees with a stronger (rather than weaker) moral identity: (1) UPLB was positively related to turnover intention; and (2) leader BLM was related to turnover intention via UPLB.


Leader bottom-line mentality Moral identity Unethical pro-leader behavior (UPLB) Turnover intention 



Bottom-line mentality


Unethical pro-leader behavior


Unethical pro-organizational behavior



We would like to thank John Waltman for his helpful comments on different versions of the paper.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

Salar Mesdaghinia, Anushri Rawat, and Shiva Nadavulakere declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Salar Mesdaghinia
    • 1
  • Anushri Rawat
    • 2
  • Shiva Nadavulakere
    • 3
  1. 1.College of Business, 512 Gary Owen BuildingEastern Michigan UniversityYpsilantiUSA
  2. 2.College of Business, 507 Gary Owen BuildingEastern Michigan UniversityYpsilantiUSA
  3. 3.College of Business and ManagementSaginaw Valley State UniversityUniversity CenterUSA

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