Why moral followers quit: Examining the role of leader bottom-line mentality and unethical pro-leader behavior

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Journal of Business Ethics


Many business leaders vigorously and single-mindedly pursue bottom-line outcomes with the hope of producing superior results for themselves and their companies. Our study investigated two drawbacks of such leader bottom-line mentality (BLM, i.e., an exclusive focus on bottom-line outcomes at the expense of other priorities). First, based on leaders’ power over followers, we hypothesized that leader BLM promotes unethical pro-leader behaviors (UPLB, i.e., behaviors that are intended to benefit the leader, but violate ethical norms) among followers. Second, based on cognitive dissonance theory, we hypothesized that UPLB, and leader BLM via UPLB, increase turnover intention among employees with a strong moral identity. Data collected from 153 employees of various organizations supported our hypotheses. In particular, leader BLM was positively related to followers’ UPLB. Further, for employees with a stronger (rather than weaker) moral identity: (1) UPLB was positively related to turnover intention; and (2) leader BLM was related to turnover intention via UPLB.

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