Fostering Constructive Deviance by Leader Moral Humility: The Mediating Role of Employee Moral Identity and Moderating Role of Normative Conflict

Journal of Business Ethics 180 (2):731-746 (2022)
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Constructive deviance, rule-breaking to benefit the organization, is an emerging topic in the scholarly research and is considered to be an ethical decision. Despite the value of guiding constructive deviance in organizations, the effect of ethics-oriented leadership on employees’ constructive deviance remains unclear. This research identifies leader moral humility as a new antecedent of constructive deviance and examines how and when leader moral humility influences employee constructive deviance. Drawing on social–cognitive theory, we propose that leader moral humility fosters employee moral identity, which in turn triggers employees to exhibit constructive deviance. Moreover, the mediating effect of moral identity is more pronounced when normative conflict with organizational rules is high, as this conflict inspires identity-driven behavior. Two studies with scenario-based experimental and time-lagged field methods provided general support for our hypotheses. Study 1 reveals that leader moral humility positively affects constructive deviance via employee moral identity. Study 2 replicates and extends Study 1 to support the moderating role of normative conflict. These findings enrich the understanding of constructive deviance by shedding light on the moral cognitive process in the relationship between leader moral humility and employee constructive deviance and by identifying the boundary condition for the relationship.



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