Humility Harmonized? Exploring Whether and How Leader and Employee Humility (In)Congruence Influences Employee Citizenship and Deviance Behaviors

Journal of Business Ethics 170 (1):147-165 (2021)
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Abstract

Various studies have recognized the importance of humility as a foundational aspect of virtuous leadership and have revealed the beneficial effects of leader humility on employee moral attitudes and behaviors. However, these findings may overestimate the benefits of leader humility and overlook its potential costs. Integrating person–supervisor fit theory and balance theory with the humility literature, we employ a dyadic approach to consider supervisor and employee humility simultaneously. We investigate whether and how the congruence of supervisor and employee humility influences employee citizenship and deviance behaviors. We conducted a multilevel, multiphase, and multisource field study to test our hypotheses. The results of cross-level polynomial regression analyses revealed that when supervisors and employees were incongruent in humility, employees experienced higher levels of negative affect toward supervisors. Also, compared to those in low–low congruent dyads, employee negative affect toward supervisors was lower in high–high congruent dyads. The results further revealed asymmetric incongruence effects: employees experienced the highest levels of negative affect toward supervisors when their own humility was lower than their supervisors’. In addition, we found that employee negative affect toward supervisors mediated the impacts of supervisor–employee congruence in humility on employee organizational citizenship behavior and counterproductive work behavior.

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Xin Liu
Dalian University of Technology