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Linking ethical leadership to employee voice and employee silence: investigations of causality and underlying mechanisms
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 23:29 authored by Xiang Li
Encouraging employees to ‘voice’ their opinions and ideas is an essential way for organizations to survive and develop in a dynamic and competitive business world. Ethical leadership, a form of leadership in which organizational leaders demonstrate conduct for the common good that is acceptable and appropriate in every area of their life, has been theoretically and empirically demonstrated to be one of the key antecedent variables that are able to promote employee voice and reduce employee silence. However, given ethical leadership theory is relatively new and the motives of employee voice and employee silence are somewhat complicated, the causual relationships and the underlying mechanisms among these variables are not yet well known. This thesis aims to address a number of these shortcomings via three empirical studies outlined below: Study 1 tested the causal relationship of ethical leadership on employee voice, and employee silence as well as the effects of cognitive construal and cultural difference on the causalities through a 2 (leader types: ethical leader vs. unethical leader) × 2 (cognitive construal: high-level construal vs. low-level construal) × 2 (cultural background: Chinese participants vs. Australian participants) between-subjects designed experimental study.The findings not only support the view that ethical leadership has a direct influence on employee voice and employee silence, but also emphasize the importance of employees’ individual differences in terms of cognition and culture in influencing the ethical leadership process. Study 2 taking perspectives of conservation of resource theory investigated how ethical leadership exerts influences on the “resource conservation” and “resource acquisition” motives of employees’ use of voice at multi-levels (i.e. individual level and team level) simultaneously. Specifically, study 2 established a two-stage pathway in which the direct effect of ethical leadership on employees’ job burnout and the mediating roles of instrumental ethical climate and employee resilience were tested at the first stage. And, at the second stage the direct effects of job burnout on employee voice and employee silence as well as the moderating role of ethical leadership on such linkages were tested. The findings support the complicated stress-coping motives of employees’ use of voice and indicate that ethical leadership is able to influence how employees balance their resource conservation and acquisition motives of speaking up. Additionally, these findings also provide empirical support for the notion that studies on leadership should deliberately differentiate individual and team levels of analysis. Study 3 drawing from identity-relevant theories investigated the identity-based mechanisms underlying ethical leadership and employee voice, employee silence. Specifically, study 3 tested the mediating role of moral identity centrality and organizational identity in the ethical leadership, employee voice, and employee silence linkages. Additionally, the study tested the moderating effect of self-construal on the direct and indirect relationships between ethical leadership, employee voice, and employee silence. This study enriches our understanding of how ethical leadership facilitates employee communicative behaviors with regard to self-relevant motives and highlight the role of employees’ individual differences in terms of culture in the target relationships, providing both theoretical and practical implications for future research and management practice. Through three empirical studies this thesis aims to illustrate the causal and influence mechanisms between ethical leadership, employee voice and employee silence. The results of these studies will contribute to the literature as well as managerial practice by extending the understanding of the dynamics between ethical leadership and employee communicative behaviors.