Matthew Valle, Martha and Spencer Love Professor of Business and Professor of Management, and colleagues have published the results of their empirical research on the relationship between ethical leadership and outcomes via the mediating effect of frustration.
Matthew Valle, Martha and Spencer Love Professor of Business and Professor of Management, and colleagues Micki Kacmar of Texas State University, and Martha Andrews of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, have published an article that explores the effects of ethical leadership on outcomes (surface acting, positive mood, and affective commitment) via the mediating effect of employee frustration.
The authors also explored the moderating role of humor on the relationship between ethical leadership and frustration as well as its moderating effect on the mediational chain.
The research team looked at the long-term effects of working for an unethical leader. Job demands are the physical, psychological, social, or organizational aspects of a job that require sustained cognitive and emotional effort to manage and are therefore associated with certain negative behavioral and psychological outcomes. Chronic job demands, like those associated with working for an unethical leader, may deplete and/or exhaust employees’ mental and physical resources.
Although not all job demands are negative and lead to stress, the research team was interested in studying the sustained cognitive and emotional effort needed to manage job demands under an unethical leader. The depletion of resources in the face of the demands of unethical behavior may explain the higher incidence of frustration, and that relationship may presage negative outcomes. The team also tested the effect of humor on the relationship between unethical leadership and frustration.
Data were collected in two separate surveys from 156 individuals working full time. Data collections were separated by six weeks to reduce common method variance. The measurement model was confirmed before we tested the moderated mediation model.
Ethical leadership was found to be negatively related to employee frustration, and frustration mediated the relationships between ethical leadership and surface acting and positive mood (but not affective commitment). Humor moderated the relationship between ethical leadership and frustration such that when humor was low, the relationship was stronger.
There are strengths of this research that bear mentioning. First, this research advances theory by integrating a new mediator and moderator into the ethical leadership–outcome relationship. By confirming full mediation of ethical behavior on surface acting and positive mood through the influence of frustration, we offer support for frustration as a useful explanatory variable and call for more leadership research that includes this construct.
Further, this finding may indicate that individuals cognitively evaluate the level of ethicality in supervisory behaviors and develop a schema and behavioral scripts concerning future attitudes and behaviors as a result. Such perspectives may include an implicit determination that they must act more deliberately (surface act) when faced with a perceived break in the social contract. These results also encourage research into factors which may exacerbate or mitigate the effects of unethical leadership on outcomes.
Valle, M., Kacmar, K. M., & Andrews, M. A. (2018) “Ethical leadership, frustration, and humor: a moderated-mediation model”, Leadership & Organiztion Development Journal, Vol. 39 Issue: 5, pp.665-678, https://doi.org/10.1108/LODJ-02-2018-0083