Unethical behavior in organizations has attracted much attention among researchers, yet we know little about when and why unethical behavior conducted by leaders that is intended to benefit the organization-or leader unethical pro-organizational behavior (UPB)-might translate into employee unethical behavior. Drawing on a social-learning-of-principle perspective, which proposes that people can learn the principles that govern observed behaviors, we propose that employees, especially those with a high power distance orientation, can abstract and learn a moral disengagement behavioral principle by observing leader UPB. This learned moral disengagement behavioral principle then enables them to engage in unethical behaviors that may be intended to benefit or harm their organizations. In two multiwave field studies with data collected from real estate agents, we found overall support for our theoretical model but the moderating effect of power distance orientation. We discuss some key theoretical and practical implications of these findings.
leader unethical pro-organizational behavior
79th Academy of Management Annual Meeting
Abusive supervision, manifesting in nonphysical forms of hostility from supervisors toward subordinates (Tepper, 2000), has been found to cause serious harms to subordinates and organizations, such as diminishing subordinates’ well-being, proactive behaviors, and job performance (for reviews, see Mackey, Frieder, Brees, & Martinko, 2017; Martinko, Harvey, Brees, & Mackey, 2013; Tepper, 2007; Tepper, Simon, & Park, 2017). A number of theoretical perspectives have been used to understand abusive supervision, including a social construction perspective (Tepper, 2000; Tepper et al., 2017), a self-control theory perspective (Lian, Brown, Ferris, Liang, Keeping, & Morrison, 2014; Lian, Ferris, Morrison, & Brown, 2014), and a mixed relationship perspective (Duffy, Ganster, & Pagon, 2002). However, questions remain to be answered with these theoretical perspectives. For example, although a social construction perspective suggests that abusive supervision reflects subordinates’ perception (Tepper, 2000), it is unclear what factors may affect subordinates’ perceptions of supervisors’ behaviors and thus affect subordinates’ experiences of and reactions to abusive supervision. Moreover, a self-control theory perspective suggests that organizations can benefit greatly from selecting individuals with high self-control because supervisors with high self-control are less likely to engage in abusive supervision and subordinates with high self-control are less likely to retaliate against abusive supervisors. However, considering the downside of high self-control as suggested by recent development in self-control theory, is it likely that high self-control may promote abusive supervision among supervisors or bring in negative outcomes for subordinates who refrain from retaliating against abusive supervisors? Finally, a mixed relationship perspective suggests that supervisors may engage in both abusive and supportive supervision and abusive supervision is more detrimental when it occurs in combination with supportive supervision. However, it is unclear why supervisors switch between abusive and supportive supervision and if a combination of abusive and supportive supervision is always worse. In this symposium, we provide rich theoretical and empirical accounts of the mechanisms and boundary conditions to address these unanswered questions. The four papers included in this symposium adopt different methodologies including a multi-wave survey design, an experience sampling design, and latent profile analyses. Participants of this symposium are form different countries including USA, China, Canada, and Singapore. We believe that these different backgrounds and approaches will not only allow us to collide our views and thus generate new understandings of abusive supervision, but also enable us to better understand how to manage and reduce abusive supervision in the workplace. When Critical Supervisory Feedback is Perceived as Abusive Supervision: Social Hierarchy Perspective Presenter: Jo K. Oh; U. of Connecticut Presenter: Hun Whee Lee; Michigan State U. Too Much Self-Control? The Case of Abusive Supervision and Employee Job Tension Presenter: Lindie Hanyu Liang; Wilfrid Laurier U. Presenter: Douglas J. Brown; U. of Waterloo Presenter: Dan Ni; School of Economics and Management Tsinghua U. Presenter: Xiaoming Zheng; Tsinghua U. Impulsive and Strategic Abuse: An Actor-Centric Model with a Self- Regulation Perspective Presenter: Mingyun Huai; Tongji U. Presenter: Huiwen Lian; U. of Kentucky Presenter: Jiing-Lih Farh; China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) Presenter: Haijiang Wang; School of Management, Huazhong U. of Science and Technology Worse Together? A Latent Profile Analysis of Abusive and Supportive Supervisory Behaviors Presenter: Lingtao Yu; U. of British Columbia