Boundary Conditions of Ethical Leadership: Exploring Supervisor-Induced and Job Hindrance Stress as Potential Inhibitors

Abstract

It is widely accepted that ethical leadership is beneficial for the organization, the leader, and followers. Yet, little has been said about potential limitations of ethical leadership, particularly boundary conditions involving the same person perceived to display ethical leadership. Drawing on conservation of resources theory, we argue that supervisor-induced hindrance stress and job hindrance stress are factors linked to the supervisor and work environment that may limit the positive impact of ethical leadership on employee deviance and turnover intentions. Specifically, we expect that high levels of hindrance stress drain resources, specifically perceptions of social support, by inhibiting the completion of work, particularly in combination with the high expectations of ethical leaders. We test our model across two time-lagged field studies (N = 310 and N = 299). Our results demonstrate that supervisor-induced hindrance stress mitigates some of the beneficial impact of ethical leadership and that job hindrance stress further strains these relationships. Overall, our results suggest that both forms of hindrance stress jointly impact the effectiveness of ethical leadership on important outcomes, and do so partly because of their influence on perceived social support. We discuss theoretical contributions to the ethical leadership and stress bodies of literature, as well as practical implications for managers and organizations wishing to develop ethical leaders.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported in part by funds from the Baylor University Research Committee and the Vice Provost for Research. This funding source had no involvement with this research beyond the funding of the data collections.

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Correspondence to Matthew J. Quade.

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Quade, M.J., Perry, S.J. & Hunter, E.M. Boundary Conditions of Ethical Leadership: Exploring Supervisor-Induced and Job Hindrance Stress as Potential Inhibitors. J Bus Ethics 158, 1165–1184 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-017-3771-4

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Keywords

  • Ethical leadership
  • Supervisor-induced hindrance stress
  • Job hindrance stress
  • Organizational deviance
  • Turnover intentions
  • Conservation of resources theory
  • Social support