Satisfied with the Job, But Not with the Boss: Leaders’ Expressions of Gratitude and Pride Differentially Signal Leader Selfishness, Resulting in Differing Levels of Followers’ Satisfaction

Journal of Business Ethics 158 (4):1185-1202 (2019)

Abstract

Setting out to understand the effects of positive moral emotions in leadership, this research examines the consequences of leaders’ expressions of gratitude and pride for their followers. In two experimental vignette studies and a field study, leaders’ gratitude expressions showed a positive effect and leaders’ pride expressions showed a negative effect on followers’ ascriptions of leader selfishness. Thereby, leaders’ gratitude expression indirectly led to higher follower satisfaction with and OCB towards the leader, while leaders’ pride expressions indirectly reduced satisfaction with and OCB towards the leader. Furthermore, leaders’ expressions of gratitude indirectly reduced followers’ intentions to leave the leader, while leaders’ expressions of pride indirectly fuelled them. Although ascriptions of selfishness consistently influenced these leader outcomes more strongly than comparable organizational outcomes, results on organizational outcomes were mixed. While leaders’ expressions of gratitude led, as expected, to higher job satisfaction and lower turnover intentions, leaders’ expressions of pride showed positive relations with both OCB towards the organization and intentions to leave the organization. We discuss the theoretical implications of leaders’ expressions of positive moral emotions as signals of outcome attributions, as well as leaders’ selfishness and practical implications that help leaders build followers’ satisfaction and positive leader–follower relationships.

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