Academic journal article Academy of Marketing Studies Journal

The Relationship among Ethical Leadership, Ethical Climate, Supervisory Trust, and Moral Judgment

Academic journal article Academy of Marketing Studies Journal

The Relationship among Ethical Leadership, Ethical Climate, Supervisory Trust, and Moral Judgment

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Given the number of business scandals in recent years, creating an ethical work environment is important. An organization's work climate sends a message as to what management expects from the employees. Creating an ethical work climate indicates to employees that the leaders of the organization expects followers to behave ethically (Martin and Cullen 2006). An ethical work environment is especially important for sales organizations since salespeople work without direct supervision and are expected to meet a quota and therefore may feel inclined to behave unethically. Customers' perception of the firm is influenced by the behavior of the sales force (Schwepker and Hartline 2005). In addition, the ability of an organization to attract and keep employees is influenced by the ethical behavior of the sales force (Ingram, LaForge, and Schwepker 2007).

The existence of an ethical work climate also is important because of its relationship to various employees' job attitudes and behavior. Research indicates that an organization's ethical work climate is related directly to increased job satisfaction, organizational commitment (Mulki, Jaramillo, and Locander 2006; Schwepker 2001), supervisory trust (DeConinck 2011; Mulki, Jaramillo, and Locander 2006) and indirectly to higher job satisfaction (Jaramillo et al. 2006) and lower turnover (Mulki, Jaramillo, and Locander 2006; DeConinck 2010).

Most studies have examined the consequences of ethical work climate and neglected antecedents of having an ethical work environment. Ethical leadership is an important variable that has been shown to influence employees' ethical behavior (Brown and Treviño 2006). Ethical leadership is defined as "the demonstration of normatively appropriate conduct through personal actions and interpersonal relationships, and the promotion of such conduct to followers through two-way communication, reinforcement, and decision-making" (Brown, Treviño, and Harrison 2005 p. 120). Employees will have increased trust when their manager is perceived as being ethical (DeConinck 2011). Employees learn appropriate behavior through the actions of their leaders (Brown and Mitchell 2010). Research indicates that ethical leadership influences positive job attitudes and behaviors of employees (Brown, Treviño, and Harrison 2005) and reduces negative behavior by employees in organizations (Mayer et al. 2012). Intuitively, ethical leaders should influence the ethical climate of the organization. In addition, supervisory trust has been shown to be related positively to ethical leadership (Chughatai, Byrne, and Flood 2015) and ethical climate (Mayer, Kuenzi, and Greenbaum 2010). However, a search of the literature could find no study that specifically examined the relationship between these three important variables in a sales force context. Does ethical leadership have a direct influence on employees' trust with their sales manager or is the relationship indirect through ethical climate? One of the purposes of this study is to investigate the relationship among ethical leadership, ethical climate, and supervisory trust.

The second purpose of this study is to investigate how ethical leadership and ethical climate influence salespersons' moral judgment. Moral judgment involves the principles of right or wrong behavior and how people arrive at the standards for determining right from wrong. Ingram, LaForge, and Schwepker (2007) state that ethical climate is one of the key causes of salesperson moral judgment. Research has shown that ethical climate influences peoples' moral judgment (Mayer, Kuenzi, and Greenbaumm 2010). However, only a few studies have analyzed the relationship between ethical leadership and moral judgment. This research indicates that the relationship between these two variables is indirect through other variables (Resick et al. 2013; Steinbauer, Taylor, and Njoroge 2014). No study could be found that that has investigated the relationship among ethical leadership, ethical climate, and moral judgment. …

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