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How Lack of Integrity and Tyrannical Leadership of Managers Influence Employee Improvement-Oriented Behaviors


This study investigates how lack of perceived organizational integrity (POI) by managers negatively affects bottom-up improvement-oriented behaviors at lower hierarchical levels (supervisors, employees). It is expected that expressions of tyrannical leadership by the manager, a self-serving type of leadership, will mediate the relation between POI and job improvement behaviors. Further, this study investigates the role of mimicry of manager behaviors (e.g., supervisor tyrannical leadership) and of other supervisor’s responses (e.g., intent to quit, improvement-oriented behaviors) to understand how manager tyrannical leadership effect is carried through to the lowest level. Our initial postulate is that non-mimicry provides complex social cues for employees. Following social information processing theory, we expect that incoherent cues increase the salience and negative effects of managers’ tyrannical leadership on job improvement. A three-level study was conducted following a questionnaire survey in a large public safety organization. Participants included 34 managers (level 3), 129 supervisors (level 2), and 620 employees (level 1). Results of multilevel analyses revealed that lack of perceived integrity and tyrannical leadership at the managerial level have far-reaching effects on job improvement at the lowest level. Further, it indicates that the supervisors’ responses at the intermediate level are important mechanisms to understand how the negative effects from the managerial level are transmitted to the employee level.

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This study was made possible by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC 435-2012-1086).

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Correspondence to Jean-Sébastien Boudrias.

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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 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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

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Boudrias, JS., Rousseau, V. & Lajoie, D. How Lack of Integrity and Tyrannical Leadership of Managers Influence Employee Improvement-Oriented Behaviors. J Bus Ethics 172, 487–502 (2021).

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  • Organizational integrity
  • Tyrannical leadership
  • Job improvement
  • Multilevel study