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Relationships Among Employee Perception of Their Manager’s Behavioral Integrity, Moral Distress, and Employee Attitudes and Well-Being


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Hypothesized relationships among reports by employees of moral distress, their perceptions of their manager’s behavioral integrity (BI), and employee reports of job satisfaction, stress, job engagement, turnover likelihood, absenteeism, work-to-family conflict, health, and life satisfaction were tested using data from the 2008 National Study of the Changing Workforce (n = 2,679). BI was positively related to job satisfaction, job engagement, health, and life satisfaction and negatively to stress, turnover likelihood, and work-to-family conflict, while moral distress was inversely related to those outcomes. The magnitudes of relationships with job satisfaction, job engagement, and life satisfaction were greater with BI than with moral distress. Moral distress mediated the relationships between BI and the employee outcomes, supporting the view that employee’s perceptions of their manager’s BI might influence the employee’s behaviors as well as their attitudes.
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Relationships Among Employee Perception of Their Manager’s
Behavioral Integrity, Moral Distress, and Employee Attitudes
and Well-Being
David J. Prottas
Received: 30 September 2011 / Accepted: 7 March 2012 / Published online: 31 March 2012
Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012
Abstract Hypothesized relationships among reports by
employees of moral distress, their perceptions of their man-
ager’s behavioral integrity (BI), and employee reports of job
satisfaction, stress, job engagement, turnover likelihood,
absenteeism, work-to-family conflict, health, and life satis-
faction were tested using data from the 2008 National Study
of the Changing Workforce (n=2,679). BI was positively
related to job satisfaction, job engagement, health, and life
satisfaction and negatively to stress, turnover likelihood, and
work-to-family conflict, while moral distress was inversely
related to those outcomes. The magnitudes of relationships
with job satisfaction, job engagement, and life satisfaction
were greater with BI than with moral distress. Moral distress
mediated the relationships between BI and the employee
outcomes, supporting the view that employee’s perceptions of
their manager’s BI might influence the employee’s behaviors
as well as their attitudes.
Keywords Behavioral integrity Employee attitudes
Job satisfaction Job engagement Managerial ethics
Moral distress Person–environment fit Stress
In recent decades, there have been episodic financial and
economic debacles which were attributable, in part, to the
ethical and legal lapses by top managers of publicly traded
corporations: the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s
(including the failures of Lincoln Savings & Loan and
Silverado Savings & Loan), the dotcom bubble of the
1990s (including the failures of Global Crossing and
WorldCom), the Enron bankruptcy of 2001, and the sub-
prime mortgage crisis that became evident in 2008 with the
collapses of Lehman Brothers and Countrywide Savings.
The damage inflicted on investors, employees, and tax-
payers makes it apparent that ‘‘bad ethics’ can lead to
catastrophic outcomes and reinforced arguments that
‘good ethics’’ is also ‘good business.’
A number of moral leadership theories emphasizing the
importance of the moral or ethical aspects of leaders’
character and behaviors emerged during this period: per-
sonal integrity, authentic leadership, ethical leadership,
servant leadership, spiritual leadership, transformational
leadership, and virtual leadership (Cameron 2011; Cro-
panzano and Walumbwa 2010). Although the conceptual-
izations differ, they share at least two characteristics. First,
their constructs include a dimension related to integrity
(Palanski and Yammarino 2007,2009; Reed et al. 2011).
Second, the exercise of those leadership qualities and
behaviors, including integrity, should lead to superior
performance for organizations as well as positive outcomes
(satisfaction, performance, and growth) for employees
(Cropanzano and Walumbwa 2010).
There is a substantial organizational level empirical
research about the relationships between corporate social/
environmental performance and corporate financial per-
formance (Orlitzky et al. 2003), but relatively little work on
relationships between moral leadership and organizational
or employees outcomes. The current research extends prior
research on perceived behavioral integrity (BI) and
employee attitudes and outcomes. First, it examines rela-
tions between BI and two additional variables: work
engagement and work-to-family conflict. Second, and more
importantly, it proposes a model whereby BI is seen as
acting indirectly on employee outcomes through a medi-
ating construct: moral distress.
D. J. Prottas (&)
School of Business, Adelphi University, One South Avenue,
Garden City, NY 11530, USA
J Bus Ethics (2013) 113:51–60
DOI 10.1007/s10551-012-1280-z
Prior Literature
There are various definitions and meanings given to the
term BI in the literature (Palanski and Yammarino 2007).
BI is conceptualized herein as the ‘‘perceived pattern of
alignment between an actor’s words and deeds. It entails
both the perceived fit between espoused and enacted val-
ues, and perceived promise-keeping. BI is the extent to
which employees believe that a manager ‘walks her talk’,
and, conversely, it reflects the extent to which they see her
as ‘talking her walk’’ (Simons 2002, p. 19). This definition
is consistent as well with Palanski and Yammarino’s
(2007) conclusion that it is the consistency between words
and actions which best distinguishes ‘integrity’’ from other
related constructs (such as personal wholeness or virtue).
As Simons emphasizes (1999,2002), the construct does not
require that the manager must espouse ethical beliefs or
ascribe to any particular norms; it simply calls for there to
be congruence of agreement between the stated values and
the actions taken. For example, there are recordings of
Enron energy traders laughing as they related to each other
how they were cheating the system and misleading their
companies to make outsized trading profits (McLean and
Elkin 2003). Many Enron managers expressed such beliefs
themselves and rewarded rather than sanctioned the
unethical behaviors. Accordingly, those managers would
likely be viewed as exhibiting higher BI. A manager who
read the words in Enron’s Code of Ethics, ‘‘Integrity: We
work with customers and prospects openly, honestly, and
sincerely. When we say we will do something, we will do
it; when we say we cannot or will not do something, then
we won’t do it’ (Lay 2000, p. 3) but rewarded the overtly
unscrupulous traders should be rated as having little BI.
The construct also relates to the congruency between the
actor’s words and deeds from the perspective of the
employee. The perceptions of congruency may not reflect
the reality but it is the perceptions rather than the reality
which should impact employees’ attitudes and subsequent
Behavioral integrity (with other forms of moral leader-
ship that encompassed integrity) is posited to be related to
organizational performance as employees’ trust in their
leader would positively influence employee attitudes such
as job satisfaction, organizational commitment, willingness
to promote and implement espoused changed and job
engagement and subsequent behaviors such as organiza-
tional citizenship behaviors (OCB) and in-role job perfor-
mance. There is indeed evidence that honesty/integrity is
related to leader effectiveness; Hoffman et al.’s (2011)
meta-analysis reports q=.29 (k=11, n=3,123)
between honesty/integrity and leader effectiveness. Simons
further suggests that the difference between espoused and
actual values and goals may dissipate employee effort,
because the employee might not feel they know what it is
the manager actually wants. Low PBI might then lead to
role ambiguity and ineffective goal setting. Research
indicates that role ambiguity is negatively related to job
satisfaction, in-role performance, and OCB (Eatough et al.
Prottas (2008) also discusses the impact of BI primarily
on its effects through employee attitudes. He suggests that
while BI itself did not necessitate that espoused values and
goals were necessarily ethical, it would be most common
for managers to espouse socially acceptable and normative
values of the type embodied in the Enron Code of Ethics.
Managerial statements would be more likely to avow
adherence to principles of distributive and procedural jus-
tice and promise that individuals who work hard and
honestly to meet organizational objectives are likely to be
rewarded. The failure to award rewards commensurate with
performance would, according to equity (Adams 1963) and
expectancy (Vroom 1964) theories, lead to dissatisfaction
with outcomes and a reduction of effort. Prottas (2008) also
suggests that stakeholder theory (Jones 1995) would be
applicable as employees who distrusted their manager
would expend a portion of their time and energy on mon-
itoring and attempting to enforce their manager’s compli-
ance with their stated ‘contract.’’
Behavioral integrity should be related to employees
perceiving violations of principles of both distributive and
procedural justice. Leaders with low BI are unlikely to
allocate rewards and punishments within the work setting
according to stated criteria while following stated proce-
dures. There is ample evidence that violations of both
forms of justice are negatively related to desirable out-
comes such as job satisfaction, outcome satisfaction,
evaluation of authority, trust, compliance, organizational
commitment, OCB, and work performance and positively
related to undesirable outcomes such as withdrawal and
turnover intentions (Cohen-Charash and Spector 2001;
Colquitt et al. 2001). Additionally, Robbins et al.’s (2011)
meta-analysis finds that perceptions of justice were related
to indicators of employees’ physical and mental health.
Finally, most employees are likely to view themselves
as being trustworthy and having integrity. If such
employees perceive their manager as lacking integrity,
there would be incongruence with respect to person–
supervisor fit. Research finds that lack of person–supervisor
fit is negatively related to job satisfaction and supervisor
satisfaction (Kristof-Brown et al. 2005). Further, the
supervisors’ values likely influence the employees’ per-
ceptions of the organization’s values. Person–organization
value-based incongruence has been found to be negatively
related to job satisfaction and organizational commitment
and positively to turnover intent (Kristof-Brown et al.
2005; Verquer et al. 2003).
52 D. J. Prottas
There is growing evidence that BI is related to employee
attitudes. Davis and Rothstein (2006) conducted a meta-anal-
ysis on 12 empiricalstudies of therelationship between BI and
employee attitudes (with a combined nof 3,026) and reported
that BI is positively related to employees’ attitudes. The effect
size almost reaches Cohen’s (1992) threshold for ‘large’’: BI’s
uncorrected correlation with job satisfaction is .50 (the
uncorrected correlation of BI was .48 against a wider variety of
positive job-related attitudes including job satisfaction, orga-
nizational, satisfaction with leader). Subsequent studiesreport
similar results: Prottas (2008) reports a correlation of .44
between BI and job satisfaction using a US representative
sample of workers (n=2,820) and Simons et al. (2007)
reports correlations of .64 and .54 between BI and job satis-
faction and organizational commitment in an international
sample of employees of a single hotel company (n=1,944).
Prottas (2008) further finds that BI was positively related to life
satisfaction and negatively to stress and poor health.
There is more limited evidence about the relationship
between BI and behavioral intentions. Prottas (2008)
reports BI was significantly and negatively related to
absenteeism but the effect size does not reach Cohen’s
(1992) threshold for ‘small,’’ while Johnson and O’Leary-
Kelley (2003) find that breach of psychological contract
(i.e., breaking promises) is related to absenteeism and in-
role behaviors but not to OCBs. Simons et al. (2007) report
BI is negatively related to turnover intention (r=.44) and
Simons (2009) finds BI is positively related to affective
commitment and trust in managers (paths coefficients of
.61 and .82, respectively).
There is some evidence of a relation between BI and
organizational performance. Simons (2009) tests a model of
the impact of BI on employee attitudes and organizational
performance in a study of employees of an international hotel
chain. He proposes that BI ?trust in management ?
employee commitment ?discretionary service behav-
ior ?guest satisfaction ?profits (his model also includes
employee commitment ?turnover ?profits). Using path
analysis, he finds BI is directly related to hotel profitability
with additional indirect and positive effects through trust in
manager and affective commitment which ?discretionary
service behavior ?guest satisfaction ?hotel profitability.
Affective commitment also ?employee turnover which ?
hotel profitability. In a series of studies, Palanski and
Yammarino (2011) also find evidence that the effect of
BI on performance is primarily indirect, with trust as a
There is no research on BI and its relationship to job
engagement and work-to-family conflict. Job engagement
is an attitudinal variable whose antecedents include per-
ceptions of procedural and distributive justice and super-
visor support and which is viewed as an antecedent of job
satisfaction, organizational commitment, intention to quit,
job performance, and OCB (Christian et al. 2011; Saks
2006). Work-to-family conflict relates to the negative
consequences of individuals attempting to actively partic-
ipate in work roles as employees and in home-related roles
as parents and spouses. Supervisor support appears to be
negatively related to work-to-family conflict as an ante-
cedent (Mesmer-Magnus and Viswesvaran 2006), and
work-to-family conflict seems to be negatively related to
outcomes such as job satisfaction and organizational
commitment, and OCB and positively to turnover likeli-
hood (Amstad et al. 2011).
In summary, there are a number of theories and ample
empirical evidence that suggests employees’ perceptions of
the BI of their managers will influence their attitudes
toward the job as well as other outcomes. Accordingly, I
hypothesize that:
Hypotheses 1a–g BI will be related to job satisfaction,
stress, job engagement, turnover likelihood, work-to-fam-
ily conflict, health, and life satisfaction.
Employees have emotional and cognitive reactions to their
own lack of BI. Employees who engage in actions and
behaviors which contradict their stated values tend to feel
anxiety, stress, and a sense of self-rejection (Festinger 1957;
Kaplan 1983;Hobfoll1989). To the extent they believe they
acted against their values because of environmental or situa-
tional influences, they would likely feel dissatisfied with the
environment and want to leave it. Healthcare practitioners and
academics have labeled the ‘phenomenon in which one
knows the right action to take, but is constrained from taking
it’ as moral distress (Jameton 1984; Schluter et al. 2008;
Suhonen et al. 2011). Moral distress is associated with stress,
anger, depression, reduction of effort, and turnover among
nurses (Rittenmeyer and Huffman 2009). Accordingly, I
hypothesize that:
Hypotheses 2a–g Moral distress will be negatively
related to job satisfaction, stress, job engagement, turnover
likelihood, work-to-family conflict, health, and life
The attitudes and behaviors of managers also influence
their subordinates’ behaviors. A manager with lower ethi-
cal standards than their employees might cause those
employees to act in ways that violate the employee’s own
value systems (Vardi and Weitz 2004). One function of
managers is to model behaviors that are expected to be
replicated by employees. Social learning theory (Bandura
1986) suggests that the extent to which subordinates view
their managers as having BI influences their own levels of
BI. Managers also allocate institutional rewards such as
pay and promotions (Dineen et al. 2006). A manager with
low BI is more likely to reward a subordinate who exhibits
low BI than an employee who displays greater BI (Palanski
Behavioral Integrity and Moral Distress 53
and Yammarino 2007,2011). A reward system influences
behaviors of subordinates. Palanski and Yammarino (2011)
reported that followers’ BI was related to their leaders’ BI.
In other words, a person with a manager lacking integrity
would be more likely to engage in behaviors that violate
their own conscience. Therefore, I hypothesize that:
Hypothesis 3 Individuals’ feelings of moral distress will
be related to their perceptions of the BI of their managers.
Prior research has focused on the direct relationships
between managers’ PB and employees’ attitudes. Managers’
PB may also influence employees’ behaviors. Managers with
low PB may influence their subordinates to engage in
behaviors that cause the employees to violate their own stated
values. The resulting moral distress would influence the
employees’ attitudes. Accordingly, I hypothesize that:
Hypothesis 4 Moral distress will mediate the relation-
ships between BI and the variables.
This study used data from the 2008 National Study of the
Changing Workforce (2008 NSCW) (Families and Work
Institute, 2008). The 2008 NSCW survey was conducted by
Harris Interactive, Inc. using a questionnaire developed by
the Families and Work Institute. A total of 3,502 interviews
were completed with a nationwide cross-section of
employed adults from November 2007 to April 2008.
Telephone interviews averaged 50 minute in duration. In
this research, I used unweighted data from the subsample
(n=2,679) of wage and salary workers (i.e., excluding
self-employed). FWI estimates a response rate of 55 % of
potentially eligible households.
Demographic information included gender, age, and edu-
cation level (less than high school diploma, high school or
GED, some college, no degree, associate degree, 4-year
college degree). Educational level was treated as an ordinal
variable in the analysis.
Perceived BI was assessed by two items: ‘‘I can trust
what managers say in my organization’’ and ‘managers in
my organization behave honestly and ethically when
dealing with employees and clients or customers’’ with
four Likert-type response options from strongly agree to
strongly disagree. Responses were averaged and scored so
that higher meant higher BI. The Cronbach alpha (a)
measure of internal reliability was .83.
Moral distress was assessed by a single item: ‘On my
job, I have to do some things that really go against
my conscience’ with the above four response options.
Responses were scored such that higher values represented
more moral distress.
Job satisfaction was assessed by three items including
‘All in all, how satisfied are you with your job’’ (with the
above four response options), and one item, ‘Knowing
what you know now, if you had to decide all over again
whether to take the same job you now have, what would
you decide?’ with three Likert-type response options
(decide without any hesitation to take the same job to
decide definitely not to take the same job). Responses were
standardized and averaged with higher scores indicating
greater satisfaction (a=.78).
Job engagement was assessed by seven items: five items
asked the extent to which participants agreed with state-
ments such as ‘When I’m at work, time passes very
quickly’ (four response options from strongly agree to
strongly disagree), one item asking ‘How much effort do
you put into your job beyond what is required’ (four
response options from a lot to none) and one item asking
‘How often do you think about good things related to your
job when you’re busy doing something else?’’ with five
response options from very often to never). Items were
standardized and scored so that higher values represented
greater engagement (a=.69).
Turnover likelihood was assessed by a single item,
‘Taking everything into consideration, how likely is it that
you will make a genuine effort to find a new job within the
next year?’ with three response options from very likely to
not at all likely. Responses were scored so that higher
values meant higher likelihood.
Stress & strain was assessed by 10 items. Seven items
asked participants how often in the last month they had
suffered from symptoms such as feeling nervous or having
problems sleeping (five response options from never to
very often); two items asked whether they had been both-
ered in the past month by feeling down, depressed or
helpless and whether in the past month they had felt little
pleasure in doing things (yes or no); one item asked ‘Not
thinking about work, how stressful has your personal and
family life been in recent months?’ with five response
options from extremely stressful to not stressful at all.
Items were standardized and averaged with higher scores
indicating greater stress (a=.83).
Health was assessed by a single item: ‘How would you
rate your current state of health?’ with four response
options (excellent to poor). Responses were scored so that
higher values indicated better health.
Work-to-family conflict was assessed by five items such
as ‘How often have you not had the energy to do things
with your family or other important people in your life
54 D. J. Prottas
because of your job?’ with five response options from very
often to never. Responses were averaged and scored such
that higher values indicated more conflict (a=.86).
Absenteeism was assessed by a single item: ‘‘thinking
back over the past three months, how many times have you
missed any work either part days or full days that were
NOT scheduled in advance with the approval of your
supervisor or manager?’
A slight majority of the 2,679 participants were female
(54.7 %) and almost half (44.5 %) had an associate or a
4-year college degree. Their average age was 45.9 years
(SD =12.3). Basic statistics and correlations are shown in
Table 1. The large sample size provided for statistical
power to detect effect sizes that were statistically but not
practically significant. Accordingly, this research will dis-
cuss only relationships that were statistically significant
and exceeded Cohen’s (1992) thresholds for small: .10 for
correlations (.30 for medium and .50 for large) and .02 for
for regression (.15 for medium and .35 for large). As
hierarchical regression is being used in the analysis, the
effect size for any variable will be Df
/(1 -DR
Using these criteria, the demographic variables were
unrelated to either BI or moral distress. This is consistent to
prior studies which showed no relationship between gender
and BI (Davis and Rothstein 2006; Prottas 2008; Simons
et al. 2007) and no relationship between age and BI
(Prottas 2008; Simons et al. 2007).
The zero-order correlations between BI, moral distress,
and each of the dependent variables are shown in Table 1.
BI and moral distress were similarly related to the other
variables but the directions of relationships were reversed.
For example, job satisfaction was positively related to BI
and negatively to moral distress, and stress was negatively
related to BI and positively to moral distress. I tested for
differences with respect to the strengths of the relationship.
As the correlations were dependent rather than indepen-
dent, I calculated Steiger’s Zto determine if the differences
in the absolute values were statistically significant. As
shown in Table 2, the correlations between BI and three
of the variables were stronger than their corresponding
correlations with moral distress: job satisfaction, work
engagement, and life satisfaction (although the difference
between the correlation coefficients with respect to life
satisfaction did not quite reach the .10 threshold for small).
To test my hypotheses, I performed a series of hierar-
chical regressions. I regressed each of the dependent
variables on BI, after controlling for age, gender, and
education level (Model 1a). I also regressed each of the
dependent variables on moral distress, after controlling for
age, gender, and educational level (Model 1b). I then
conducted a three-step regression of each of the dependent
variables with step 1 entering the demographic variables,
Table 1 Basic statistics and correlations
Variable MSD n1234 56 7 8 910111213
1. Age 45.93 12.33 2,730
2. Gender 1.55 .50 2,769 .06
3. Education 3.44 1.27 2,260 .05 .02
4. BI 3.13 .87 2,766 -.00 .02 .05 (.83)
5. Moral distress 1.52 .87 2,764 .01 -.01 -.07 -.35
6. Job
.00 .83 2,769 .07 .05 .01 .53 -.31 (.78)
7. Stress & strain .01 .63 2,769 -.14 .11 -.11 -.24 .20 -.34 (.83)
8. Job
-.03 .60 2,769 .10 .06 .01 .47 -.20 .59 -.26 (.69)
9. Turnover 1.46 .72 2,764 -.22 -.04 -.05 -.23 .17 -.43 .27 -.29
10. Absenteeism 1.17 2.88 2,738 -.04 .03 -.02 -.06 .01 -.07 .16 -.05 .02
11. W-to-F
2.54 .87 2,768 -.12 -.00 .05 -.30 .25 -.38 .47 -.26 .20 .10 (.86)
12. Health 1.92 .73 2,765 .03 .02 -.13 -.16 .13 -.18 .38 -.15 .09 .14 .21
13. Life
3.29 .72 2,764 .07 -.01 .08 .24 -.15 .37 -.60 .31 -.26 -.10 -.32 -.32
Note Gender (1 =male, 2 =female). Education (1 =less than high school diploma, 2 =high school or GED, some college, 3 =no degree,
4=associate degree, 5 =four year college degree). Educational level was treated as an ordinal variable in the analysis. BI perceived behavioral
integrity, W-to-F conflict work-to-family conflict. Correlations C.08, significant at p\.001, two-tailed; C.06, significant at p\.01, two-tailed;
C.04, significant at p\.05, two-tailed
Behavioral Integrity and Moral Distress 55
step 2 entering BI, and step 3 entering moral distress
(Model 2). The results of the regressions are shown in
Tables 3,4, and 5. In order to save space, in Tables 3,4,
and 5, I present the results of second and final step for
Models 1a and Models 1b and the results of third and final
steps only for Models 2.
To test for mediation I first regressed the proposed
mediator (moral distress) on BI after controlling for age,
gender, and education. I then regressed each of the
dependent variables on BI and the proposed mediator
(moral distress). I calculated the Sobel test statistics using
an on-line interactive calculator that required us to input
betas and standard errors from the above regressions
(Preacher and Leonardelli 2010). The results of those
analyses are also shown in Tables 3,4, and 5.
My hypotheses 2a–g were supported as the beta coeffi-
cients for BI (Tables 3,4,5—Models 1a) were significant
when BI was entered as a second step (after control vari-
ables of age, gender, and education) against dependent
variables of job satisfaction, stress, work engagement,
work-to-family conflict, overall health, and life satisfac-
tion. The effect sizes of the relationships with the work-
related attitudes (Df
=.37 and .27 for job satisfaction and
job engagement) were larger than those with work-oriented
behavioral intention or inter-domain conflict (Df
and .10 for turnover likelihood and work-to-family con-
flict) or non-work attitudes (Df
=.05, .02, and .05 stress,
overall health, and life satisfaction). Given Prottas’ (2008)
prior findings using data from the 2002 NSCW, I made no
hypothesis with respect to absenteeism and found no
My hypotheses 3a–g were largely supported as the beta
coefficients for moral distress (Tables 3,4,5—Models 1b)
were significant when moral distress was entered as a
second step (after control variables of age, gender, and
education) against dependent variables of job satisfaction,
Table 2 Differences between correlations with behavioral integrity
and moral distress
Variable BI rminus moral
distress r
tdf Steiger’s
Job satisfaction .22 11.92 2758 11.48**
Stress & strain .04 2.10 2758 2.09*
Job engagement .27 13.99 2758 13.43**
.06 2.94 2753 2.93**
Absenteeism .04 1.98 2727 1.98*
.04 2.10 2757 2.08*
Health .03 1.54 2754 1.54
Life satisfaction .09 4.38 2753 4.35**
*p\.05, two-tailed; ** p\.01, two-tailed
Table 3 Hierarchical regressions and results of Sobel test of mediation
Dependent variables Dependent variables
Job satisfaction Stress & strain
Model 1a Model 1b Model 2 Model 1a Model 1b Model 2
Step 2 Step 2 Step 3 Step 2 Step 2 Step 3
Age .07*** .06** .07*** -.14*** -.14*** -.14***
Gender .04* .06** .04* .13*** .12*** .13***
Education -.02 -.01 -.03 -.09*** -.09*** -.08***
BI .52*** .48*** -.23*** -.20***
Moral distress -.30*** -.14*** .17*** .11***
.28 .10 .30 .10 .07 .11
F213.30*** 58.51*** 185.40*** 58.80*** 43.55*** 52.76***
df 4, 2216 4, 2219 5, 2215 4, 2216 4, 2219 5, 2215
.27 .09 .02 .05 .03 .01
.37 .10 .02 .05 .03 .01
DF828.68*** 214.35*** 53.56*** 131.31*** 72.46*** 25.95***
Sobel test of moral distress as mediator of relationship of BI and the dependent variables
Statistic 6.61*** -4.56***
Note Gender (1 =male, 2 =female). Education (1 =less than high school diploma, 2 =high school or GED, some college, 3 =no degree,
4=associate degree, 5 =four year college degree). Educational level was treated as an ordinal variable in the analysis. BI perceived behavioral
*p\.05, two-tailed; ** p\.01, two-tailed; *** p\.001, two-tailed
56 D. J. Prottas
stress, job engagement, work-to-family conflict, overall
health, and life satisfaction. The effect size of the rela-
tionship with job satisfaction (Df
=.10) was somewhat
larger than those for the other dependent variables: job
engagement, .04; stress & strain, .03; work-to-family
conflict, .07; turnover likelihood, .03; and life satisfaction,
.02. The effect size with respect to health did not reach the
threshold for small, and moral distress was not related to
Hypothesis 3 was supported as BI, and moral distress
were negatively correlated (r=.35, p\.001); when BI
was entered in the second step of a hierarchical regression
(after age, gender, and educational level) with moral
distress, its beta coefficient was negative and significant
(-.33, p\.001) with DR
of .11 (f
I conducted the three-step hierarchical regressions to
determine whether moral distress explained additional
variance after the control variables and BI. The results are
Table 4 Hierarchical regressions and results of Sobel test of mediation (cont.)
Dependent variables Dependent variables
Job engagement Turnover likelihood Absenteeism
Model 1a Model 1b Model 2 Model 1a Model b Model 2 Model 1a Model 1b Model 2
Step 2 Step 2 Step 3 Step 2 Step 2 Step 3 Step 2 Step 2 Step 3
Age .10*** .09*** .10*** -.23*** -.22*** -.23*** -.04* -.04 -.04
Gender .04* .06** .04* -.02 -.02 -.01 .04 .04 .04
Education -.02 -.01 -.02 -.02 -.02 -.02 -.02 -.02 -.02
BI .47*** .46*** -.22*** -.19*** -.06** -.06**
Moral distress -.19*** -.04 .17*** .11*** .02 -.00
.23 .05 .23 .10 .08 .11 .01 .00 .01
F166.3*** 28.12*** 134.00*** 62.76*** 43.39*** 55.76*** 4.06** 2.17 3.35**
df 4, 2216 4, 2219 5, 2215 4, 2213 4, 2216 5, 2212 4, 2194 5, 2193
.22 .04 .00 .05 .03 .01 .00 .00 .00
.28 .04 .00 .05 .03 .01 .00 .00 .00
DF629.78*** 83.53*** 3.84 123.19*** 68.39*** 20.05*** 8.43** .89 .01
Sobel test of moral distress as mediator of relationship of BI and the dependent variables
Statistic 1.90, p=.057 -4.70*** -.08
Table 5 Hierarchical regressions and results of Sobel test of mediation (cont.)
Dependent variable Dependent variables
Work-to-family conflict Overall health Life satisfaction
Model 1a Model 1b Model 2 Model 1a Model 1b Model 2 Model 1a Model 1b Model 2
Step 2 Step 2 Step 3 Step 2 Step 2 Step 3 Step 2 Step 2 Step 3
Age -.14*** -.13*** -.14*** .04 .04 .04 .06** .06** .06**
Gender .01 -.00 .01 .01 .01 .01 -.02 -.01 -.02
Education .07** .07*** .08*** -.13*** -.13*** -.13*** .07** .07** .06**
BI -.30*** -.24*** -.14*** -.12*** .23*** .21***
Moral distress .26*** .18*** .10*** .06* -.12*** -.05*
.11 .09 .14 .04 .03 .04 .06 .02 .05
F68.23*** 52.82*** 71.10*** 22.82*** 16.06*** 19.61*** 35.31*** 13.874 29.52***
df 4, 2215 4, 2218 5, 2214 4, 2214 4, 2217 5, 2213 4, 2213 4, 2216 5, 2212
.09 .07 .03 .02 .01 .00 .05 .02 .00
.10 .07 .03 .02 .01 .00 .05 .02 .00
DF224.81*** 163.97*** 73.63*** 47.01*** 21.53*** 6.59* 118.74*** 33.95*** 6.06*
Sobel test of moral distress as mediator of relationship of BI and the dependent variables
Statistic -7.60*** -2.25** 2.42**
Behavioral Integrity and Moral Distress 57
shown in Model 2 in Tables 3,4, and 5. Moral distress
explained additional variance only with respect to job
satisfaction and work-to-family conflict.
My hypotheses with respect to mediation were largely
supported as the Sobel statistic for mediation was signifi-
cant with respect to job satisfaction, turnover likelihood,
stress & strain, work-to-family conflict, health and life
satisfaction. The statistic for job engagement was not quite
statistically significant (p=.057).
A number of leadership theories assert that integrity is a
crucial characteristic of the effective leader who creates an
environment which both benefits the employees and
enhances organizational performance. The theory and
research to date have emphasized the effects of the leader’s
behaviors, as perceived by the employees, on the employees’
attitudes. To the extent that the leader was trusted, employees
were viewed as more likely to engage in constructive and
productive behaviors. Some of the findings of this study
using the 2008 NSCW study merely replicate what Prottas
(2008) reported in his study of the 2002 data: BI’s correlation
with job satisfaction (.53 vs. .44), life stress (-.24 vs. -.21),
health (-16 vs. -.12) life satisfaction (.24 vs. .19), and
absenteeism (-.06 vs. -.06). As the measures were very
similar, the similarities of relationships are to be expected;
however, the consistency provides confidence as to the
robustness of the relationships. The findings that BI is related
to other outcomes such as work engagement (positively) and
work-to-family conflict (negatively) represent a minor
expansion of our knowledge of BI.
The findings with respect to the relationships between
moral distress and the other outcomes suggest that rela-
tionships found within the healthcare profession may be
generalizable to people working in less morally and ethi-
cally intense and challenging professions. However, the
principle contribution of this research relates to expanding
the model of relationships to allow for the influence of PB
to be related to the behaviors of the employees and not only
to their attitudes. The current research finds support for a
model whereby leaders’ behaviors are related to followers’
behaviors which then influence employees’ attitudes.
While these findings are contributory, there are limita-
tions to this study. First, the cross-sectional nature of the
research design cannot provide support for the causality of
the relations. It is possible to argue that individuals who
experience moral distress because they engage in acts that
violate their conscience may wish to preserve their self-
image by ascribing low BI to their superiors. As Festinger
(1957) recognized, one form of eliminating dissonance
may be by distorting perceptions of reality.
Second, all of the data came from the same source with
the potential for the biases that could either attenuate or
accentuate the relationships (Podsakoff et al. 2003). The
length of the telephone survey (50 minutes) and the dif-
ferent formats of the questions likely reduce the potential
for some forms of bias (e.g., consistency, acquiescence,
and self-presentation). Most of the key constructs such as
perceived rather than actual BI, moral distress, and job
satisfaction relate to internal states which could not be
evaluated by others.
Third, the use of a single item to assess moral distress
has to be recognized as a significant limitation. Single item
measures are likely to be less reliable than a scale con-
sisting of multiple items and low reliability of measures
attenuates the relationships among variables. Future
research should use a reliable and construct validated
measure appropriate for the sample population (such as
Craig and Gustafson 1998).
Fourth, Simons’ (1999,2002) and Palanski and Yam-
marino’s (2007,2009) conceptualizations of integrity
emphasize the congruency between an actor’s espoused
values and behaviors and did not require that the espoused
values themselves satisfy any normative ethical standards.
Someone with high BI could be very unethical in both
words and deeds. For example, in relating the Enron tale,
McLean and Elkin (2003) describe Tim Belden, the head of
the energy traders, as defending his actions by asserting
that lying about one’s position was common practice and
then describing an ethical climate where the managers
would encourage and reward traders for acting in ‘‘prac-
tices which made a mockery of Ken Lay’s exhortations
about Enron’s high ethical standards’ (p. 275). It is likely
that Belden’s talk was consistent with his walk: the Enron
traders were indeed handsomely rewarded for coming up
with trading practices that depended on deception, coer-
cion, violation of the spirit and perhaps letter of the law,
and caused financial and other harm to millions of people.
One would hope that most instances of consistence
between stated values and actual behaviors occur when
both are at a higher ethical level, but some, hopefully a
minor portion, may occur when both are at a very low
ethical standard. The analysis in this research assumes that
discrepancies between the ‘talk’ and the ‘‘walk’ generally
arose from the ‘talk’’ being of normative ethical type
found in Enron’s Ethics policy and with the ‘‘walk’ being
less ethical. Naturally, it is possible that some incongru-
ency occurs when managers state that they conduct busi-
ness through cheating and deception but actually reward
honesty and transparency, but that seems unlikely.
Fifth, and perhaps most importantly, the conceptualiza-
tion of BI is essentially a difference score. Edwards and
others (Edwards and Parry 1993; Edwards 1993) have crit-
icized difference scores on conceptual and methodological
58 D. J. Prottas
grounds. It is probable that effects on employees would be
different if the manager’s ‘talk’’ was ethical but the ‘walk’
was unethical than it would be if the manager’s ‘talk’’ was
unethical but the ‘walk’’ was ethical. Additionally, the
effect of a discrepancy between strongly voiced ethical
standards and weakly voiced standards might differ, even if
the magnitudes of the discrepancies between the talks and
the walks were the same.
Future research should collect and analyze longitudinal
data to tests models in which both trust and moral distress
mediate BI’s relationships on employee attitudes and per-
formance (in-role and OCB) and in which these behaviors
are related to organizational performance and outcomes.
Future research might also develop measures which
address some of the limitations related to difference scores.
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This study presents a meta-analysis of 25 individual differences proposed to be related to effective leadership, with an emphasis on comparing trait-like (e.g. personality and intelligence) to state-like individual differences (e.g. knowledge and skills). The results indicate that although both trait-like (achievement motivation, energy, dominance, honesty/integrity, self-confidence, creativity, and charisma) and state-like (interpersonal skills, oral communication, written communication, administrative/management skills, problem-solving skills, and decision making) individual differences were consistent predictors of effective leadership, the impact of trait-like and state-like individual differences was modest overall and did not differ substantially (= .27 and .26, respectively). Finally, organizational level of the leader, method of predictor and criterion measurement, and organization type moderated the relationship between individual differences and effective leadership.
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.