Measuring and Differentiating Perceptions of Supervisor and Top Leader Ethics


We report the results of two studies that evaluated the perceptions of supervisor and top leader ethics. In our first study, we re-analyzed data from Pelletier and Bligh (J Bus Ethics 67:359–374, 2006) and found that the Perceptions of Ethical Leadership Scale from that study could be used to differentiate perceptions of supervisor and top leader ethics. In a second study with a different sample, we examined the relationships between (1) individual employees’ perceptions of top managers’ and immediate supervisors’ ethical tendencies, and (2) organizational climate, confidence in top leadership direction, commitment, and citizenship behavior. Results indicated that employee perceptions of top managers’ and supervisors’ ethics were significantly related to climate, top leadership direction, organizational commitment and the OCB dimension, civic virtue.

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  1. 1.

    A shorter, eight-item form is also available. See

  2. 2.

    Data were provided by the first author, Dr. Kathie Pelletier, ‘Rebounding from Corruption: Perceptions of Ethics Program Effectiveness in a Public Sector Organization’, Journal of Business Ethics 67(4), 359–374.

  3. 3.

    Of the 418 surveys returned, 119 were paper copies, 299 were online responses. As there were two modes of survey administration, t tests were conducted to determine if there was a significant difference between mode of survey administration for the PELS subscale scores. There was a difference (t = 3.17, df = 407, p = 0.002) for the immediate supervisor subscale; those who had returned a paper survey had a lower score (M = 4.68, SD = 1.61) than those who had completed the survey online (M = 5.21, SD = 1.47).

  4. 4.

    Because of the means of recruitment, response rate was not possible to calculate.

  5. 5.

    For sample 2, χ2 and Kruskal–Wallis tests revealed there were differences by survey administration method for several demographic characteristics. Respondents to the paper survey were more likely to be women, had shorter tenure, worked in smaller departments and companies, and were more likely to be in wholesale/retail and service industries than respondents from the web-based survey.

  6. 6.

    This scale was originally used by peers to rate others. We revised the scale for use as a self-report.


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Correspondence to Janet L. Kottke.

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Kottke, J.L., Pelletier, K.L. Measuring and Differentiating Perceptions of Supervisor and Top Leader Ethics. J Bus Ethics 113, 415–428 (2013) doi:10.1007/s10551-012-1312-8

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  • Immediate supervisor ethics
  • Top leader ethics
  • Organizational culture
  • Ethics measurement