The Relationship Between Ethical Leadership and Unethical Pro-Organizational Behavior: Linear or Curvilinear Effects? [Book Review]

Journal of Business Ethics 116 (3):641-653 (2013)

Amber Newman-Clark
University of Sheffield
In this study, we examine the nature of the relationship between ethical leadership and unethical pro-organizational behavior (UPB), defined as unethical behavior conducted by employees with the aim of benefiting their organization, and whether the strength of the relationship differs between subordinates experiencing high and low identification with supervisor. Based on three-wave survey data obtained from 239 public sector employees in China, we find that ethical leadership has an inverted u-shaped (curvilinear) relationship with UPB. As the level of ethical leadership increases from low to moderate, UPB increases; as the level of ethical leadership increases from moderate to high, UPB decreases. Further, we find that the strength of this inverted u-curve relationship differs between subordinates with high and low identification with supervisor. That is to say, the inverted u-shaped relationship between ethical leadership and UPB was stronger when subordinates experienced high levels of identification with supervisor. The theoretical and managerial implications of our findings for understanding how to manage UPB in an organizational context are discussed
Keywords Curvilinear relationship  Ethical leadership  Identification with supervisor  Social exchange theory  Social learning theory  Unethical pro-organizational behavior
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DOI 10.1007/s10551-012-1504-2
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