Matthew Quade, Baylor: Ethical
leadership can have negative consequences
February 7, 2018
management experts say. But ethical leadership can have negative
consequences, too, according to new research from management faculty in
Baylor University's Hankamer School of Business.
A new Baylor study published in the Journal of Business Ethics reveals
that ethical leadership compounded by job-hindrance stress and
supervisor-induced stress can lead to employee deviance and turnover.
The research reflects the thoughts of 609 employees who were surveyed
across two studies.
"If someone is an ethical leader but induces stress, our research shows
that his or her employees will feel less support," said lead author
Matthew Quade, Ph.D., assistant professor of management. "Thus,
employees who do not feel supported are more likely to consider leaving
their jobs or engage in workplace deviance - things like arriving late
to work, daydreaming, not following instructions or failing to be as
productive as they could be."
Quade said that ethical leadership is a good thing and often beneficial
in terms of employee resources. An example would be a trusted supervisor
who listens to her employees and has her employees' best interests in
The trouble comes, he said, when supervisor-induced stress or
job-hindrance stress enters the picture.
"When those stressors are added, there is a depletion of resources,"
Quade explained. "Many of the gains or benefits from ethical leadership
What does stress-inducing ethical leadership look like?
Quade said it could be as simple as supervisors setting expectations too
high or, in the interest of "following all the rules," not allowing for
any deviation from a process, even if a shortcut, still within the
bounds of behaving ethically, would deliver a desired result.
The researchers wrote: "Ethical leadership can be an exacting process of
sustaining high ethical standards, ensuring careful practice and
enforcement of all rules and meeting leaders' lofty expectations, all of
which can consume time and energy and be perceived by employees as
overly demanding or an obstacle to job performance."
As part of the study, those surveyed were asked to what extent they
agreed or disagreed with the following statements:
•My supervisor makes it so that I
have to go through a lot of red tape to get my job done.
•Working with my supervisor makes it
hard to understand what is expected of me.
•I receive conflicting requests from
•My supervisor creates many hassles
to go through to get projects/assignments done.
•Working with him/her thwarts my
personal growth and well-being.
•In general, I feel that my
supervisor hinders my personal accomplishment.
•I feel that my supervisor constrains
my achievement of personal goals and development.
Quade said his team in no way wants to discourage ethical leadership.
Research consistently shows such leadership is very beneficial, he said.
But this new research shows that there are boundaries to those benefits.
"This places quite an onus on appropriately managing the stress that
comes from the leader and the job, in efforts to most fully realize the
potential of ethical leadership," the researchers wrote.
The study listed some tips and takeaways for organizations and leaders.
a balance between promoting ethical behavior and providing resources to
help employees meet those standards.
•Encourage employees in word and deed
by reducing ambiguity in ethical dilemmas that might otherwise drain
•Model fair and ethical behavior.
•Communicate efficient methods to
meet standards and reduce unnecessary steps or procedures.
•Equip and train leaders to balance
the demands of leading ethically while not overburdening their