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Ethical Leadership, Employee Well-Being, and Helping: The Moderating Role of Human Resource Management

  • Amsterdam Center for Integrity and Leadership

Abstract and Figures

In this multi-source study, we examined the link between ethical leadership, human resource management (HRM), employee well-being, and helping. Based on the Conservation of Resources Theory, we proposed a mediated moderation model linking ethical leadership to helping, which includes well-being as an intermediary variable and HRM as a contextual moderator. Results from 221 leader-employee dyads revealed that the relationship between ethical leadership and helping occurs through well-being only when HRM was low, but not when HRM was high. Job-related well-being fully mediated the relationship of the interaction between ethical leadership with HRM and employee helping.
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Original Article
Ethical Leadership, Employee
Well-Being, and Helping
The Moderating Role of Human Resource Management
Karianne Kalshoven
and Corine T. Boon
Ethics Institute, University of Utrecht, The Netherlands,
Business School, University of Amsterdam,
The Netherlands
Abstract. In this multi-source study, we examined the link between ethical leadership, human resource management (HRM), employee well-
being, and helping. Based on the Conservation of Resources Theory, we proposed a mediated moderation model linking ethical leadership to
helping, which includes well-being as an intermediary variable and HRM as a contextual moderator. Results from 221 leader-employee dyads
revealed that the relationship between ethical leadership and helping occurs through well-being only when HRM was low, but not when HRM
was high. Job-related well-being fully mediated the relationship of the interaction between ethical leadership with HRM and employee helping.
Keywords: ethical leadership, human resource management, well-being, helping, Conservation of Resources Theory
Ethical leaders are expected to use communication, rewards,
punishment, and modeling to influence employees to behave
in an ethical and positive manner (e.g., Brown & Trevin˜o,
2006). Research is starting to show the importance of ethical
leadership. For instance, ethical leadership positively relates
to in-role performance (Piccolo, Greenbaum, Den Hartog, &
Folger, 2010; Walumbwa et al., 2011) and helping
(Kalshoven, Den Hartog, & De Hoogh, 2011; Mayer,
Kuenzi, Greenbaum, Bardes, & Salvador, 2009). We extend
the current research by examining employee well-being as a
possible outcome of ethical leadership. Well-being is a com-
bination of arousal and pleasure and illustrates an affective
state (Warr, 1987). Poor well-being can negatively contrib-
ute to the organization (Danna & Griffin, 1999). According
to the Conservation of Resources (COR) Theory (Hobfoll,
1989) job resources enhance well-being (Salanova, Agut,
& Peiro, 2005). We argue that ethical leaders provide job
resources (e.g., role clarification or emotional support) and
therefore ethical leadership relates positively to employee
Furthermore, several scholars argue that the effectiveness
of leadership varies according to the situation (Podsakoff,
MacKenzie, & Bommer, 1996). Brown and Trevin˜o (2006)
stress the need to identify contextual variables that explain
when ethical leadership matters most and can enhance
employee well-being. Here, we study organizational
resources in the form of employee perceptions of human
resource management (HRM) that typically includes selec-
tion, training, teamwork, performance appraisal, and rewards
(Sun, Aryee, & Law, 2007). Based on COR and substitutes
for leadership theories (Kerr & Jermier, 1978), we expect
HRM to be a substitute for ethical leadership. Substitutes
for leadership replace the effect of leadership on employee
outcome. Specifically, facing low levels of ethical leadership,
employees receiving organizational resources are likely to
maintain their well-being. HRM provides resources on which
to draw and produces a felt obligation to reciprocate the orga-
nization and its members and thus we suggest that HRM
functions as a substitute for ethical leadership. We therefore
propose that ethical leadership is strongly related to well-
being when employees perceive low levels of HRM. We
are among the rst to combine perceptions of leadership
and HRM (Purcell & Hutchinson, 2007).
Finally, based on COR theory, we propose that the inter-
action of ethical leadership and HRM will relate to
employee helping via well-being, because employees who
experience high levels of well-being are expected to reinvest
their excess resources back into the organization by helping
colleagues (Hobfoll, 2001). In other words, we propose a
subsequent impact on helping in a mediated moderation
model. Although recent studies have started to increase
our understanding of the underlying processes by which eth-
ical leadership relates to organizational citizenship behaviors
(OCBs) (e.g., Walumbwa et al., 2011), research has not yet
examined well-being as a possible mediator. Overall, we add
to the ethical leadership literature by investigating HRM as a
moderator of the ethical leadership and well-being relation-
ship and subsequently on helping behavior. We apply COR
theory and propose that ethical leadership relates to
employee well-being. We include the organizational context
by arguing that perceptions of HRM influence the extent to
which ethical leaders affect employee well-being and pro-
pose a subsequent influence on helping. Figure 1 depicts
the research model.
Journal of Personnel Psychology 2012; Vol. 11(1):60–68
DOI: 10.1027/1866-5888/a000056
2012 Hogrefe Publishing - Thursday, September 10, 2015 2:43:10 AM - IP Address:
Ethical Leadership and Well-being
Brown, Trevin˜o, and Harrison (2005) define ethical leader-
ship as: ‘the demonstration of normatively appropriate con-
duct through personal actions and interpersonal relationships
and the promotion of such conduct to employees through
two-way communication, reinforcement and decision-
making’ (p. 120). Brown and colleagues (2005) investigate
ethical leadership from a social learning perspective and
view ethical leaders as role models of normatively appropri-
ate behaviors. Drawing on this, Brown et al. describe ethical
leaders as honest, trustworthy , fair, and caring. Particularly ,
ethical leaders treat employees with respect, keep promises,
allow employees to have input in decisions, and clarify
expectations and responsibilities (Kalshoven et al., 2011).
Previous research shows that ethical leadership is related
to but also clearly empirically distinguishable from, transfor-
mational or transactional leadership: It also explains addi-
tional variance in outcomes beyond these styles (cf.
Kalshoven et al., 2011).
So far, the current research focuses on the relationship
between ethical leadership and in-role performance or
OCBs: Positive relationships are found (e.g., Kalshoven
et al., 2011; Mayer et al., 2009; Piccolo et al., 2010;
Walumbwa et al., 201 1). We add to this literature by intro-
ducing employee well-being as a possible outcome. Longi-
tudinal research has shown that transformational leadership
influences employee well-being at work (Epitropaki &
Martin, 2005; Van Dierendonck, Haynes, Borrill, & Stride,
2004). This suggests that related leadership styles, such as
ethical leadership, could also affect employee well-being,
however, research on this topic is lacking.
Since the current study concerns the work context, we
focus on job-related affective well-being, which is defined
as the overall quality of an employees experience and func-
tioning at work, and includes elements such as satisfaction,
attachment, arousal, tension, and depression (Grebner,
Semmer, & Elfering, 2005; Warr, 1987). According to
COR theory (Hobfoll, 1989), people have a basic motivation
to obtain, retain, and protect what they value. Resources are
‘objects, personal characteristics, conditions, or energies
that are valued in their own right or that are valued because
they act as conduits to the achievements or protection of val-
ued resources’ (Hobfoll, 2001, p. 339). COR theory states
that resources, such as ethical leadership, help employees
to obtain more resources. This starts a positive spiral of
resources, which can positively influence well-being. We
suggest that ethical leaders are fair and honest and provide
their employees with a safety net to fall back on when they
experience low levels of well-being at work. Thus, employ-
ees receive help, care, and emotional support from their
leader (Kalshoven et al., 2011; Trevin˜o,Brown,&Hartman,
2003). Ethical leaders can therefore provide job resources by
successfully defending employees, protecting them from
unfairness, or mobilizing job resources, which positively
affect employee well-being. Thus, we hypothesize:
Hypothesis 1: Ethical leadership is positively related
to employee well-being.
The Moderating Role of HRM
Although many different views on HRM exist, often-used
conceptualizations include high-performance and high com-
mitment HRM, which aim to enhance performance through
increasing employee involvement and commitment (e.g.,
Boselie, Dietz, & Boon, 2005; Combs, Liu, Hall, & Ketchen,
2006). These types of HRM systems aim to build long-term
relationships with employees by combining HR practices that
enhance employees’ skills (i.e., training and development),
motivation (i.e., appraisal and rewards), and participation in
decision making (i.e., self-managed teams and participation)
(Appelbaum, Bailey, Berg, & Kalleberg, 2000). The current
study will focus on HRM as the associated practices which
function as an organization’s resources. HRM systems oper-
ate as signals of the organization that motivate employees to
show desired behaviors (Guzzo & Noonan, 1994), which
employees are likely to interpret in different ways (Den
Hartog, Boselie, & Paauwe, 2004). Therefore, employee per-
ceptions of HRM are important for explaining their attitudes
and behaviors (Purcell & Hutchinson, 2007).
COR theory states that resources may be located at the
level of the organization and refer to the organizational
aspects of a job that are functional in achieving work goals,
reduce job demands and associated physiological and psycho-
logical costs, and stimulate personal growth, learning, and
development (Demerouti, Bakker, Nachreiner, & Schaufeli,
2001). Support that comes from an organizational system
such as HRM, focusing on development and commitment,
can therefore be categorized as an organizational resource
(Wheeler, Halbesleben, & Shanine, in press).
COR theory suggests that a lost resource may be substi-
tuted by a second resource of generally equivalent value
from another resource domain (Hobfoll, 2001). We suggest
that perceptions of ethical leadership and HRM are substi-
tute resources. The substituted resource minimizes the other-
wise positive impact of the resource on the outcome. This
means that ethical leadership is more strongly related to
well-being when employees perceive low levels of HRM
than when employees perceive high levels of HRM. When
low HRM is perceived, few organizational resources are
provided. An ethical leader, however, can compensate this
lack of organizational resources by being helpful, treating
employees fairly, and providing emotional support, which
then has a relatively large influence on employee well-being.
In cases of high levels of HRM, employees are likely to
perceive the provided organizational resources, which
could make employees enthusiastic and positive about
their job, and compensate their investments. Under such
Ethical leadership
Figure 1. Research model.
K. Kalshoven & C. T. Boon: Ethical Leadership
2012 Hogrefe Publishing Journal of Personnel Psychology 2012; Vol. 11(1):60–68 - Thursday, September 10, 2015 2:43:10 AM - IP Address:
circumstances, well-being may be less strongly affected by
ethical leadership. Thus, faced with low levels of ethical
leadership, employees can substitute resources provided by
the organization in the form of HRM and may maintain their
motivation by experiencing well-being. The extra resources
provided by experiencing both high ethical leadership and
high HRM are not necessarily related to even higher well-
being, as a high level of resources increases the chance that
some resources are not useful or mismatched, leading to
some resources compensating others (Hobfoll, 2001). With
such a plethora of resources to pull from, these employees
do not need to focus on both and may choose one type of
resource over the other.
Similarly, substitutes for leadership’ theory suggests
that certain contextual variables, such as organizational cul-
ture and job characteristics, may neutralize the leader’s abil-
ity to af fect employee attitudes and performance (Podsakoff
et al., 1996). The basic assumption is that these contextual
variables directly affect subordinate behaviors or attitudes
and replace the effect of leadership (Kerr & Jermier,
1978). Podsakoff et al. (1996) studied substitute variables
for transformational leadership and found that organizational
rewards act as a substitute for the effect of such leadership
on satisfaction, such that transformational leadership is less
important for employees valuing organizational rewards. In
line with this, HRM can be seen as such a substitute for
leadership, and may play a ‘substituting’ role in the rela-
tionship between ethical leadership and well-being (Howell,
Bowen, Dorfman, Kerr, & Podsakoff, 1990). In other words,
ethical leadership might matter less when perceptions of
HRM are high and vice versa.
Hypothesis 2: HRM moderates the relationship
between ethical leadership and employee well-being,
such that the relationship between ethical leadership
and employee well-being is stronger when employees
perceive HRM as low than when employees perceive
HRM as high.
A Mediated Moderation Model
Besides expanding our knowledge of when ethical leadership
is most strongly related to employee well-being, our next aim
is to examine well-being as an intermediary mechanism
between the interaction of ethical leadership and HRM,
and employee helping. Helping is one of the most frequently
studied forms of OCB and a strong predictor of individual
performance (Organ, 1988; Podsakoff et al., 2000). Helping
involves employees voluntarily helping coworkers on work-
related problems or preventing the occurrence of such prob-
lems (Podsakoff et al., 2000). Previous studies show small
positive correlations between ethical leadership and helping
(ranging from .11 to .49; e.g., Kalshoven et al., 2011; Mayer
et al., 2009) which may indicate that possible moderators and
mediators are involved. These studies have not shown possi-
ble mediators or moderators yet.
Some researchers have looked at the link between well-
being and performance (e.g., Wright & Cropanzano, 2000)
and found that when well-being was high, performance
was also high. Performance is broader than performing on
core tasks and also includes elements of what is often
labeled contextual performance or citizenship (e.g., Rotundo
& Saket, 2002). Helping is a form of citizenship and thus we
argue that well-being may also relate to helping. Hobfoll
(2001, p. 349) proposed that ‘people must invest resources
in order to protect against resource loss, recover from losses,
and gain resources.’ Therefore, obtained resources are often
reinvested in the organization (Hobfoll, 2001). In line with
this, we expect that employees experiencing high levels of
well-being repay the benefits of the obtained resources via
persisting in investing effort by helping others (Hobfoll,
2001; Salanova et al., 2005).
We combine the arguments above in our proposed med-
iated moderation model. Our model suggests that well-being
mediates the relationship between the interaction of ethical
leadership and HRM, and employee helping. Based on
COR, we argue that ethical leadership and perceptions of
HRM represent resources offered to employees and substi-
tute each other. Either ethical leadership or perceptions of
HRM can enhance well-being, after which these employees,
who have high levels of well-being, invest their excess
resources back in the organization in the form of helping
others. Therefore, we expect:
Hypothesis 3: Well-being mediates the relationship
between the interaction of ethical leadership and
HRM, and employee helping.
Participants and Procedures
Data were requested from 493 employees and 247 managers
working in both profit and nonprofit sectors across countries
(e.g., the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, and Greece). Partic-
ipating managers were asked to select two employees to com-
plete a survey based on surnames last and first in the alphabet
to create a random sample. An accompanying letter explained
the research purpose, the voluntary nature of participation,
assured confidentiality, and provided the possibility to ask
questions. Surveys were returned anonymously and directly
to the university in pre-stamped envelopes. Managers rated
helping behavior of two employees, and employees rated eth-
ical leadership of their direct manager, HRM, and job-related
well-being. Matching codes were used to link the manager
and employee questionnaires. One hundred twenty seven
manager and 230 employee questionnaires were returned,
corresponding with response rates of 51% and 47%, respec-
tively. As we needed manager-employee dyads for testing
our hypotheses, two manager questionnaires and nine
employee questionnaires were removed from the dataset as
the matched questionnaire was missing. The matched sample
includes 221 dyads; 221 employees, rated by 125 direct man-
agers (on average, managers rated 1.8 employees). The aver-
age age of managers was 43 years (SD = 9.89); 33% were
women. The average age of employees was 34 years
62 K. Kalshoven & C. T. Boon: Ethical Leadership
Journal of Personnel Psychology 2012; Vol. 11(1):60–68 2012 Hogrefe Publishing - Thursday, September 10, 2015 2:43:10 AM - IP Address:
(SD = 9.81); 45% were women. For 73% of the participants
manager-employee tenure was over 6 months.
Unless otherwise stated, a 5-point Likert scale was used
ranging from 1 (strongly disagree)to5(strongly agree).
Ethical Leadership
We measured ethical leadership using the 10-item Ethical
Leadership Scale (Brown et al., 2005). A sample item is:
‘Listens to what employees have to say.’ Cronbach’s a
was .78.
Employee helping was assessed using five items developed
by Podsakoff et al. (1990). A sample item is: ‘Helps others
who have heavy work loads.’ Cronbach’s a was .83.
Employees completed the 22-item HPWS scale developed
by Lepak and Snell (2002). Employees were asked to assess
to what extent they perceived five HR practices in their
workplace (job design, recruitment and selection, training
and development, performance appraisal, and compensa-
tion). Sample items are: ‘Employees perform jobs that
empower them to make decisions’ and ‘Our training
activities for employees are comprehensive.’ Cronbach’s a
was .84.
Job-related affective well-being was assessed with the 12-
item scale developed by Warr (1990). Employees were
asked: ‘Thinking of the past few weeks, how much of the
time has your job made you feel each of the following’:
relaxed, worried, depressed, calm, contented, gloomy, opti-
mistic, tense, enthusiastic, cheerful, miserable, and uneasy.
Responses were given on a 6-point scale from 1 (never)
to6(all the time). Cronbach’s a was .86.
Control Variables
We controlled for gender and age of the employee, and ten-
ure with the manager and the organization.
Measurement Model
A measurement model with four latent factors (i.e., ethical
leadership, well-being, HRM, helping) was tested to verify
whether scale items were adequate indicators of their under-
lying construct. This model provided an acceptable fit to the
data v
(1044) = 1459.783; CFI = .904; RMSEA = .038;
SRMR = .070 (cf. Hu & Bentler, 1999). Conceivable alter-
native models with fewer factors fitted significantly worse
than the four-factor model.
The data were nested as each supervisor rated helping of
two employees, and required multilevel analyses. We used
hierarchical linear modeling to control for the potential non-
independence between observations by separating between-
group and within-group variance. The use of multilevel
analysis was supported, because significant between-group
variance existed for well-being (ICC = .24) and helping
(ICC = .23). Our model only included level-1 variables
which were grand-mean centered before performing the
analyses. Table 1 presents descriptives, intercorrelations,
and reliabilities of the scales. HRM, ethical leadership,
and well-being, as well as well-being and helping, are signif-
icantly correlated in the expected direction.
In line with Hypothesis 1, multilevel regression results in
Table 2 show a significant positive relationship between eth-
ical leadership and well-being (B = .21, SE =.10,p <.05).
Hypothesis 2 predicted that HRM moderates the relationship
between ethical leadership and employee well-being.
Controls, ethical leadership, HRM, and the interaction term
of ethical leadership and HRM (multiplying the centered
Table 1. Descriptives, correlations, and reliabilities of the study variables
Variable MSD 12345678
1. Age 33.72 9.80
2. Gender (male = 1, female = 2) 1.45 .50 .01
3. Tenure with leader 3.16 1.14 .28** .08
4. Tenure with organization 3.78 1.17 .49** .11 .64**
5. Ethical leadership 3.72 .52 .11 .05 .00 .06 (.84)
6. HRM 3.16 .46 .03 .12* .02 .04 .49** (.78)
7. Well-being 3.98 .95 .08 .04 .01 .08 .23** .07 (.86)
8. Helping 3.91 .58 .02 .21** .10 .05 .02 .11 .19** (.83)
Notes. N varies from 218 to 221 due to missing values; alphas are in parentheses; *p < .05. **p < .01.
K. Kalshoven & C. T. Boon: Ethical Leadership
2012 Hogrefe Publishing Journal of Personnel Psychology 2012; Vol. 11(1):60–68 - Thursday, September 10, 2015 2:43:10 AM - IP Address:
variables) were entered in subsequent steps in our analysis.
Table 2 (Step 4) shows that the interaction term was signif-
icant and negative (B = .19, SE =.05,p < .01). This sig-
nificant interaction is plotted in Figure 2 at one standard
deviation above and below the mean of HRM (Aiken &
West, 1991). The simple slope for the relationship between
ethical leadership and well-being was significantly positive
for low HRM (.47, t = 3.87, p < .01), and significantly posi-
tive, but weaker for high HRM (.25, t =2.19, p < .05),
which supports Hypothesis 2.
Hypothesis 3 stated that well-being mediates the interac-
tion between ethical leadership and HRM on helping, pro-
posing a ‘mediated moderation’ model. Mediated
moderation is demonstrated when the indirect effect of the
independent (ethical leadership) on the dependent variable
(helping), via the mediator (well-being), differs in strength
across low and high levels of the moderator (HRM)
(Edwards & Lambert, 2007). Conventional methods of treat-
ing mediation and moderation separately suffer from various
methodological problems thereby undermining accuracy and
utility (Edwards & Lambert, 2007; Preacher , Rucker, &
Hayes, 2007). Therefore, we examined mediation and mod-
eration simultaneously in one model using multilevel struc-
tural equation modeling. First, well-being was regressed on
ethical leadership, HRM, and their product to test the interac-
tion effect of ethical leadership and HRM on well-being.
Second, helping was regressed on ethical leadership, HRM,
their product, and well-being (see Table 3). Both regression
equations were simultaneously estimated in Mplus. Maxi-
mum-likelihood estimation was used. We report the chi-
square statistic, the comparative fit index (CFI), root mean
square error of approximation (RMSEA), and standardized
root mean square residual (SRMR). Well-fitting models were
defined as those that had a SRMR below .08 and met at least
one of the following criteria: RMSEA below .06 or CFI
above .95 (Hu & Bentler, 1999).
The hypothesized model fitted the data well,
(42) = 71.510; CFI = .912; RMSEA = .051; SRMR =
.056. To confirm the hypothesized structure of our model,
alternative models were tested. First, HRM was included
as a moderator in the path from well-being to helping
(i.e., second stage moderation). The coefficient for the mod-
erator variable (HRM · Well-Being) was not significant, and
this model did not fit the data better than our hypothesized
model, v
(51) = 81.613; CFI = .911; RMSEA = .047;
SRMR = .055. Second, a model including dummies for sec-
tor and country fitted worse to the data, v
(47) = 105.721;
CFI = .834; RMSEA = .068; SRMR = .046. Overall these
results support our model.
Results show that HRM acts as a moderator in the rela-
tionship between ethical leadership and well-being
(b = .27, p < .01). A similar interaction pattern occurs
Table 2. Multilevel regression results for well-being
Step 1 Age .01 (.01)
Gender .13 (.12)
Tenure with leader .02 (.07)
Tenure with organization .14 (.07)
Step 2 Age .01 (.31)
Gender .13 (.12)
Tenure with leader .00 (.07)
Tenure with organization .13 (.07)
Ethical leadership .21* (.10)
Step 3 Age .01 (.01)
Gender .12 (.12)
Tenure with leader .01 (.07)
Tenure with organization .14 (.07)
Ethical leadership .32** (.12)
HRM .23 (.13)
Step 4 Age .01 (.01)
Gender .11 (.12)
Tenure with leader .01 (.07)
Tenure with organization .12 (.07)
Ethical leadership .36** (.11)
HRM .10 (.13)
Ethical Leadership · HRM .19** (.05)
Notes. B-values are presented, standard errors in parentheses;
*p < .05. **p < .01.
High HRM
Low Ethical Leadership
High Ethical Leadership
Figure 2. The moderating role of HRM in the relationship
between ethical leadership and well-being.
Table 3. Results of multilevel path analysis
Well-being Helping
Age .18* .05
Gender .06 .23**
Tenure with leader .17 .28**
Tenure with organization .31** .11
Ethical leadership .25** .06
HRM .02 .06
Ethical Leadership · HRM .27** .26**
Well-being .15*
= .14** R
= .23**
Notes. Standardized coefficients are presented; *p < .05.
**p < .01.
64 K. Kalshoven & C. T. Boon: Ethical Leadership
Journal of Personnel Psychology 2012; Vol. 11(1):60–68 2012 Hogrefe Publishing - Thursday, September 10, 2015 2:43:10 AM - IP Address:
as for Hypothesis 2 (see Figure 2). For helping, results show
that both the interaction term of ethical leadership and HRM
(b = .26, p < .01) and well-being (b = .15, p <.05)are
significantly related to helping (see Table 3). Then, follow-
ing suggestions of Edwards and Lambert (2007) and
Preacher et al. (2007) we estimated conditional coefficients
(i.e., simple effects) for the first stage (path from ethical
leadership to well-being), second stage (path from well-
being to helping), direct (path from ethical leadership to
helping), indirect, and total effects across levels of HRM
(see Table 4). As hypothesized, Table 4 shows that the path
from ethical leadership to well-being is significant and posi-
tive for low to mean scores on HRM (HRM = 1: B =.96,
p <.01;HRM=2:B = .73, p <.01;HRM=3:B =.49,
p < .01), and nonsignificant for high scores on HRM
(HRM = 4: B = .25, ns;HRM=5:B = .01, ns). Further-
more, results show a significant indirect effect from ethical
leadership to helping via well-being for low HRM
(HRM = 1: B = .08, p <.05; HRM=2: B =.06,
p < .05), whereas no significant indirect effect is found for
the mean and high scores on HRM (HRM = 3: B =.04,
ns;HRM=4:B = .02, ns;HRM=5:B =.00,ns), in line
with Hypothesis 3. Interestingly, for HRM = 5, the direct
relationship between ethical leadership and helping becomes
significantly negative (B = .20, p < .05). Overall, results
support Hypothesis 3.
We used COR theory to examine how and when ethical
leadership affects helping, by examining HRM as a moder-
ator, and well-being as a mediator in this relationship. As
hypothesized, results showed that ethical leadership relates
to well-being when employees experience low levels of
HRM. In cases of high levels of HRM, no relationship
between ethical leadership and well-being was found. We
also found support for our mediated moderation model.
The interaction between ethical leadership and HRM related
to helping, via well-being.
Theoretical Implications
and Future Research
Our study represents a contribution to the ethical leadership
literature with a mediated moderation model. This model
responds to the call for more understanding of the interme-
diary mechanisms and context in which ethical leaders affect
employee behaviors (e.g., Brown & Trevin˜o, 2006). Our
results demonstrate that for low perceptions of HRM,
well-being mediated the relationship between ethical leader-
ship and helping, whereas for high perceptions of HRM,
well-being was significantly related to helping, but ethical
leadership was not significantly related to well-being. This
suggests a consistent relationship between well-being and
helping, not influenced by perceptions of HRM. Employees
with high well-being seem to ‘translate’ their excess
resources into helping, benefitting their coworkers and the
organization. We also found a direct relationship between
ethical leadership and well-being, which contributes to the
ethical leadership literature by expanding the linkages to
helping beyond OCBs and performance as outcomes of eth-
ical leadership. Also, we add to the well-being literature by
studying leadership as a job resource affecting well-being.
Our results provide empirical support for the application
of COR theory to ethical leadership. Based on COR, we
argued that ethical leadership and perceptions of HRM rep-
resent resources offered to employees. Either one of them
can enhance well-being, after which these employees who
have high levels of well-being invest their excess resources
back in the organization in the form of helping others.
The ‘substitutes for leadership’ theory (Kerr & Jermier,
1978) helps explain in which situations leaders have more
or less influence on employees. Results show that ethical lead-
ership has a stronger impact on well-being when employees
perceive low HRM. In that case employees may be motivated
and able to acquire sufficient resources from their ethical lea-
der. In contrast, once well-being is ensured through positive
perceptions of HRM, the impact of ethical leadership on
well-being is weakened, suggesting a substitution effect.
Although not hypothesized, it is interesting to note that
two potentially positive variables as HRM and ethical lead-
ership could produce a negative outcome in terms of a
decrease in well-being and helping. We apply the signaling
theory suggesting that both ethical leaders and HR practices
have a signaling function and communicate messages to
employees about desired behaviors and results (Connelly,
Certo, Ireland, & Reutzel, 2011). Signals communicated
from different sources should be consistent in order to
achieve desired results (Baron & Kreps, 1999). When
employees perceive both high ethical leadership and high
HRM, ethical leaders and HRM might signal conflicting
messages leading to a mismatch of the provided resources
(Hobfoll, 2001), which decreases the usefulness of resources
Table 4. Analyses of simple effects
Stage Effect
Moderator Value First Second Direct Indirect Total
HRM 1 .96** (.24) .09* (.04) .33* (.13) .08* (.04) .42** (.13)
2 .73** (.20) .09* (.04) .20 (.12) .06* (.03) .26* (.12)
3 .49** (.16) .09* (.04) .07 (.10) .04 (.02) .11 (.10)
4 .25 (.15) .09* (.04) .07 (.10) .02 (.02) .05 (.10)
5 .01 (.15) .09* (.04) .20* (.09) .00 (.01) .20* (.09)
Notes. B-values are presented, standard errors in parentheses; *p < .05. **p < .01.
K. Kalshoven & C. T. Boon: Ethical Leadership
2012 Hogrefe Publishing Journal of Personnel Psychology 2012; Vol. 11(1):60–68 - Thursday, September 10, 2015 2:43:10 AM - IP Address:
and increases stress. In turn, well-being and helping might
decrease. Future research could further examine the conse-
quences of a (mis)match between signals sent by ethical
leaders and HRM.
Seeing HR practices as resources implies a focus on both
the content of HRM and the process through which HRM is
implemented (e.g., Bowen & Ostroff, 2004). In order for
employees to perceive HR practices as useful resources, it
is important that HRM is implemented and communicated
clearly, consistently, and fairly, and employees feel sup-
ported. Also, so far, most HRM studies focus on intended
HRM and here we show that perceptions of HRM are an
important research subject, which might differ from intended
practices, as employees’ preferences and interests, and com-
munication of HRM are involved in forming perceptions
(Bowen & Ostroff, 2004; Den Hartog et al., 2004). Future
research could distinguish between HRM content and pro-
cess, and include both intended and perceived HRM to
examine differences in how they affect the relationship
between ethical leadership and outcomes. Here we examined
HRM focused on enhancing commitment and building rela-
tionships with employees, which likely include both content
and process perceptions. Future research could examine a
broader range, or different HR practices, and implementation
characteristics to establish a more complete understanding of
when these types of ‘substitutions’ are necessary.
Practical Implications
As employees with poor well-being may be less productive,
make lower-quality decisions, and be more absent from
work (Danna & Griffin, 1999), it seems important for orga-
nizations to focus on enhancing employee well-being. Our
study showed that both HRM and ethical leadership enhance
well-being, but not at the same time. Organizations could
either use HRM such as training, job security, and perfor-
mance appraisal, or ethical leadership, such as power shar-
ing, caring, and fairness in order to enhance employee
well-being. Ethical leadership seems to be most needed
when employees experience low levels of HRM, for exam-
ple, when HR practices are not consistently implemented in
the organization. In these situations, the ethical leader affects
employees’ well-being, and the extent to which they help
others. Ethical leaders set the tone for employee goals and
behavior (Mayer et al., 2009), therefore are often in a
position to control resources that affect employees (e.g.,
goal-setting, promotions, and appraisals). What ethical lead-
ers incentivize communicates what they value and motivates
employees to act in ways to achieve such rewards. In con-
trast, when close contact between leaders and employees
is absent, HR practices that focus on building employee
commitment and involvement could help enhance well-
being. This implies that organizations should pay attention
to the implementation process; consistent implementation
and communication of HRM to positively influence how
employees see HRM, and can make sure that HR practices
as designed are also perceived as they were intended.
Organizations have to be aware of this signaling function
of both ethical leadership and HRM. Our results suggest that
it might signal a conflicting message to employees if an
organization focuses on both ethical leader behavior and
HRM, since it was associated with lower well-being and
helping. Organizations should pay close attention to aligning
these messages communicated to employees to send a con-
sistent signal to employees about desired behavior and
results. Paying close attention to consistent implementation
and clear communication of HRM could also make sure that
it is implemented so that the intended effects of these HR
practices are utilized.
Although our study utilized multi-source data using different
raters for leader and employee behaviors (cf. Podsakoff
et al., 2003), the employee rated the mediator and indepen-
dent variables. Self-reports seem appropriate for measuring
affective states, though single source bias is a methodolog-
ical threat. It seems, however, unlikely that the interaction
between ethical leadership and HRM, one of the main
focuses of this study, is prone to common method bias.
Common method variance leads to attenuation of the inter-
action term, which makes interaction effects more difficult
to find (Epitropaki & Martin, 2005).
The cross-sectional nature of the study implies we can-
not test causal relationships. Where inferred, directionality
of relationships is based on and supported by existing liter-
ature. However, reversed causation may also be possible, for
example, employees who help each other may experience
well-being. We explored the plausibility of reversed relation-
ships in our data by testing a mediated moderation model
with helping as mediator and well-being as outcome. Results
show no significant indirect relationship for any of the val-
ues of HRM, so a revised model does not fit our data. How-
ever, future research is needed using longitudinal designs to
test causal relationships.
The small and nonsignificant correlations between the
perceptions of ethical leadership and employee helping
found in the present study deviate somewhat from previous
studies (Kalshoven et al., 2011; Mayer et al., 2009). As
highlighted before, correlations in these previous studies
are also not that strong. For example, Kalshoven et al.
(2011) report a correlation of .11 between ethical leadership
and altruism (helping). Who rates helping may also make a
difference. For example, peer ratings could also be used, as
the manager is not always the most relevant person to rate
Recognition of the limits of generalizability is important.
Our sample covered various industries and countries.
Respondents had different tasks and goals, which may have
affected the study variables. Although analyses showed no
significant effects for country and sector, future research
may use a more focused setting to replicate the findings.
Overall, our study shows the important role ethical lead-
ers play in employees experiencing high job well-being, and
66 K. Kalshoven & C. T. Boon: Ethical Leadership
Journal of Personnel Psychology 2012; Vol. 11(1):60–68 2012 Hogrefe Publishing - Thursday, September 10, 2015 2:43:10 AM - IP Address:
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an intermediary variable play a role in explaining the rela-
tionship between ethical leadership and helping. Our study
therefore contributes to clarifying the complex relationship
between ethical leadership and helping.
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Karianne Kalshoven
Ethics Institute
University of Utrecht
Janskerkhof 13a
Room 1.06
3512 BL Utrecht
The Netherlands
Tel. +31 6 4124-6743
68 K. Kalshoven & C. T. Boon: Ethical Leadership
Journal of Personnel Psychology 2012; Vol. 11(1):60–68 2012 Hogrefe Publishing - Thursday, September 10, 2015 2:43:10 AM - IP Address:
... Ethical leaders treat subordinates with respect, abide by promises, allow subordinates to participate in decisionmaking, and clearly define expectations and responsibilities (Kalshoven et al., 2011). Demonstrating normatively appropriate conduct like trustworthiness, honesty, fairness, and care through personal behavior and interpersonal relationships, ethical leaders (Brown & Treviño, 2006) protect subordinates from unfair treatment (Kalshoven & Boon, 2012) and meet their relatedness needs. Ethical leaders allow followers to have a voice and give them a lot of control over their decisions (Brown et al., 2005), and meet the autonomy need of the employees (De Hoogh & Den Hartog, 2008). ...
... Control Variables Literature shows that subordinate's gender, age, and tenure with the leader (Arnold et al., 2007;Kalshoven & Boon, 2012;Wilks & Neto, 2013) also influence employee well-being. Therefore, to reduce spurious results and increase accuracy, we included gender (1 = female, 2 = male), age (in years), and tenure with the leader (in years) as control variables in the model. ...
Full-text available
This study compared the direct relationships of transformational, ethical, empowering, and servant leadership with a multidimensional construct of employee well-being. Employee well-being is conceptualized as a higher-order construct composed of four lower-order constructs of job satisfaction (hedonic), job engagement (eudaimonic), job stress (negative), and sleep quality (physical). This study also examined the mediating role of leader-member exchange (LMX). Data was collected in a two-wave online survey from 560 middle-level managers working in private banking and insurance sector organizations. Structural equation modeling technique was employed to find out the direct and indirect association of leadership styles with employee well-being. Results validated the hierarchical structure of employee well-being and revealed that transformational, empowering, and servant leadership promotes employee well-being directly. Except for servant leadership, all other leadership styles were indirectly associated with employee well-being through LMX. Servant leadership only affected employee well-being directly. Findings highlight the theoretical and practical significance of leadership styles and LMX for employee well-being.
... The second plan includes the importance of assessing resources in their cultural context, stating that COR theory focuses on the fundamental principles determining how the employees respond to stress inside shared cultural norms and individual differences. Therefore, human resources management must establish organizational policies that encourage access to training and development while also providing performance appraisal and reward systems to employees [49]. ...
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Our study purpose is to analyze the tobacco industry’s sustainable practices by investigating how and when green human resources management (GHRM) practices influence the development of the organizational citizenship behavior for the environment (OCBE) at the individual level. Therefore, we focus on OCBE as a mediation mechanism (how) and green culture enablers as a serial mediation (when) for the nexuses between GRHM, OCBE, and organizational performance (OP). The employee behavior requires the support of managers (leadership), who serve as enablers to ensure long-term goals and increase organizational resources. Data from 410 respondents in the tobacco industry in Pakistan were analyzed using descriptive analysis, confirmatory factor analysis, and the PLS-SEM model. Our results proved that GHRM significantly increased OP. In practice, our findings are helpful for managers as guidelines for the decision-making process related to improving the organizational culture and employee green behavior to improve sustainability in the tobacco industry.
... Despite the increased emphasis on ethical leadership, WE, well-being, and IWB, studies focusing on these variables were rarely found. At the same time, the extant literature discusses the importance of ethical leadership, well-being, work engagement, and innovative work behavior [34][35][36]. Most of the researchers have focused on cases where employee well-being and innovative work behavior is exercised in developed countries such as Europe, USA, and Singapore. ...
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In this study, we investigate the relationship between ethical leadership (EL), work engagement (WE), well-being, and innovative work behavior (IWB). The significance of these variables has increased in the current era when the influence of technology is exponentially increasing in the education sector. We investigate the role of ethical leadership in determining innovative work behavior. Moreover, we investigate the moderating effect of WB in the relationship between EL and WE. We also examine the mediating impact of WE in the relationship between EL and IWB. We used a questionnaire survey approach to collect data. The target population of this study was the academic personnel, i.e., senior professors, lecturers, and supporting staff associated with the higher education sector located in Zhejiang Province, China. Data were collected in two phases. In the first phase, we sent 300 research questionnaires and received 251 responses. In the second phase, after a three-month interval, we sent 200 questionnaires and received 162 responses. However, over the two phases, we collected a total of 413 questionnaires; 43 were discarded. Therefore, for analysis, we used 370 questionnaires. The data were analyzed using the structural equation modeling through SmartPLS 3.2.2. First, in the direct relationship, results confirm that EL positively influences the IWB. Secondly, WB has a positive and moderating relationship between EL and IWB. Thirdly, we address the relationship between EL and WE. The outcome indicates that there is a positive and significant relationship. Fourth, the results of this study indicate that there is positive and significant relationship between WE and IWB. Finally, the outcomes imply that WE positively mediates between EL and IWB. Ethical leadership and well-being are important for innovative work behavior that supports managers in introducing a supportive workplace environment that promotes good interpersonal relationships with subordinates. Therefore, a good interpersonal relationship between managers and subordinates enhances the work quality. So, ethical leaders provide a supportive work environment to all subordinates regarding their work.
... Some insights come from the literature on business ethics, which reveals that ethical leaders have positive influences on subordinates and organizations (Brown & Mitchell, 2010;Eisenbeiß & Giessner, 2012;Kalshoven & Boon, 2012;Neubert et al., 2009;Stouten et al., 2012). For example, Stouten et al. (2010) and Avey et al. (2011) show that ethical leadership reduces employees' deviant behaviors (e.g., bullying) and disregard of organizational norms (Mayer et al., 2009;Newman et al., 2014;Piccolo et al., 2010). ...
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We use a lab experiment to examine whether and how leaders influence workers’ (un)ethical behavior through financial reporting choices. We randomly assign the role of leaders or workers to subjects, who can choose to report an outcome via automatic or self-reporting. Self-reporting allows for profitable and undetectable earnings manipulation. We vary the leaders’ ability to choose the reporting method and to punish workers. We show that workers are more likely to choose automatic reporting when their leader voluntarily does so and can assign punishment. Even workers who choose self-reporting tend to cheat less when their leader chooses automatic reporting. Nonetheless, most leaders do not opt for automatic reporting in the first place: they often choose self-reporting and punish workers who rather choose automatic reporting. Collectively, our results reveal a dual effect of leadership on ethical behaviors in organizations: workers behave more ethically if their leader makes ethical choices, but often leaders do not make ethical choices in the first place. Hence, leading by example can backfire.
... This result confirms several studies that proved ethical leadership at work and workplace well-being are significantly correlated [28]; [29]; [30]. Furthermore, the elements of ethical leadership at work such as people-orientation, fairness, powersharing, concerns for sustainability, ethical guidance, role clarification, and integrity are also the imperatives of workplace well-being. ...
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This study proposed that ethical leadership at work and workplace well-being are significantly related and that ethical leadership could also significantly influence workplace well-being. There was a total of 122 samples in this study, which included the rank and file workers and employees in a coal power plant, with the exclusion of the top management. The data were analyzed using descriptive and inferential statistics such as the mean and standard deviation, Pearson r, and multiple regression analysis. Results yielded high levels of ethical leadership at work and workplace well-being. Also, the correlation test revealed a significant relationship between the two variables in this study. In addition, the regression analysis revealed a significant influence of ethical leadership on workplace well-being. Finally, the regression models revealed that people-orientation is the best predictor for workplace well-being. The paper offers further discussion of the results. KEYWORDS: ethical leadership at work, workplace well-being, coal power plant, public administration,Philippines
... The extension of the application of ethical leadership is the development of an ethical character and the increased awareness of ethical issues that benefit an individual or a group (Langlois, 2014). Ethical leadership according to research seems to positively affect the well-being of employees and create positive motivation for their work (Kalshoven & Boon, 2012). ...
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The present work aims to approach the characteristics of ethical leadership and to detect the practices applied by the principals of secondary schools to support socially vulnerable groups. In this context, school leaders express views on the structure and "nature" of leadership, and in particular on ethical leadership. At the same time, emphasis is placed on capturing the implementation of actions for the educational support of the specific groups of the population as well as on the existing structure of the Greek educational system that operates restrictively for the undertaking of initiatives by them. It investigates whether the positive influences of ethical administration are not limited to the level of school units. In addition, the work seeks to identify the current problems that principals face in the performance of their duties. The analysis of the data from the 43 semi-structured interviews reveals important facts about the importance of ethical educational leadership and the benefits it can offer to the entire student population and to the operation of the school. In particular, the application of ethical leadership creates the right conditions to improve the learning performance of students, contributes positively to the socialization of vulnerable groups and finally creates a positive educational climate.
Studies that combine moderation and mediation are prevalent in basic and applied psychology research. Typically, these studies are framed in terms of moderated mediation or mediated moderation, both of which involve similar analytical approaches. Unfortunately, these approaches have important shortcomings that conceal the nature of the moderated and the mediated effects under investigation. This article presents a general analytical framework for combining moderation and mediation that integrates moderated regression analysis and path analysis. This framework clarifies how moderator variables influence the paths that constitute the direct, indirect, and total effects of mediated models. The authors empirically illustrate this framework and give step-by-step instructions for estimation and interpretation. They summarize the advantages of their framework over current approaches, explain how it subsumes moderated mediation and mediated moderation, and describe how it can accommodate additional moderator and mediator variables, curvilinear relationships, and structural equation models with latent variables.
Conservation of Resources Theory The Construct of PE Fit Theories of Multidimensional Fit PE Fit and COR The Nomological Network of PE Fit Time and PE Fit Levels of Analysis, Fit, and COR PEMisfit Benefits of COR View of PE Fit Conclusion References
Burnout has primarily been conceptualized as a result of chronic work stress in an environment with limited opportunities for renewal of resources. Present theoretical models focus on burnout symptoms but rarely on its causes or the developmental process. The Conservation of Resources Theory (COR theory) is being introduced. Following the COR theory, burnout is a continuous process caused by an ongoing, usually low-level, loss of resources. The development of burnout can be described as a spiral of resource losses which obtains its dynamic within the nexus of work stress and unsuccessful coping. Those who are burning out either find their resources threatened with loss, or actually lose resources, or failure to adequately gain fresh resources after significant resource investment. We discuss these basic tenets of the COR theory by reinterpreting recent empirical studies on burnout in educational and organizational settings.
The rapid growth of research on organizational citizenship behaviors (OCBs) has resulted in some conceptual confusion about the nature of the construct, and made it difficult for all but the most avid readers to keep up with developments in this domain. This paper critically examines the literature on organizational citizenship behavior and other, related constructs. More specifically, it: (a) explores the conceptual similarities and differences between the various forms of "citizenship" behavior constructs identified in the literature; (b) summarizes the empirical findings of both the antecedents and consequences of OCBs; and (c) identifies several interesting directions for future research.
Interest in the problem of method biases has a long history in the behavioral sciences. Despite this, a comprehensive summary of the potential sources of method biases and how to control for them does not exist. Therefore, the purpose of this article is to examine the extent to which method biases influence behavioral research results, identify potential sources of method biases, discuss the cognitive processes through which method biases influence responses to measures, evaluate the many different procedural and statistical techniques that can be used to control method biases, and provide recommendations for how to select appropriate procedural and statistical remedies for different types of research settings.