Workers Are More Likely To Challenge Unethical Behaviour If Their Boss Is Ethical Too

19 October, 2021

Workers are much more likely to challenge unethical behaviour in their organisation if their manager is seen as an ethical leader, according to new  research from Durham University Business School.

Whilst the majority of previous research into ethical leadership is on the impact it has on workers acting ethically themselves, the researchers wanted to understand whether ethical leadership made workers more likely to call out unethical practices too.

Professors of Management, Olga Epitropaki and Les Graham at Durham University Business School, alongside colleagues from the University of Sheffield and University of Northampton, found that ethical leadership had a very significant impact on the likelihood of workers to call out and challenge unethical behaviours and practices in their organisation from co-workers.

“Following on from a number of corporate scandals, there is a consensus that leaders must be ethical in their actions. Research has proven that ethical leadership improves job performance and workers attitudes, but little is known on whether it makes workers challenge others on ethical practices – an important company culture to have in organisations if you want to reduce all unethical practices and behaviours”.

Professor of Management, Olga Epitropaki, Durham University Business School

So how can organisations encourage leaders to be ethical? The research suggests creating a formal set of ethical principles to help leaders to clearly communicate such values to workers, instilling these values into everyday working practices, and through actively valuing integrity.

An ethical selection and recruitment process will help build a workforce of diverse thinkers, who will challenge unethical practices.

“Leaders play an incredibly important role in their company when it comes to ethical practices. They can instil the organisations values into their workers, and align their practices and behaviours with these so that the level of underhand, unethical practices are minimised. More importantly though, our research proves that if a leader not only instils ethics into their workers, but practices as they preach, it is more likely to make workers call out unethical practices if they see them”.

Professor of Management, Les Graham, Durham University Business School

via WorkplaceInsight, Jayne Smith, 9 June 2021. Read to the full article here.

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