Demystifying Benevolent Leadership: When Subordinates Feel Obligated to Undertake Illegitimate Tasks

Journal of Business Ethics:1-25 (forthcoming)
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Drawing on social exchange theory and benevolent leadership literature, we show how the largesse associated with benevolent leadership can cause subordinates to feel obliged to undertake illegitimate tasks assignments that go beyond their job duties. The hypotheses are tested in a scenario experimental study and a multisource, time-lagged field survey. Both studies indicate that benevolent leadership evokes indebtedness in subordinates (called felt obligation), which is then indirectly related to their willingness to undertake illegitimate tasks. The second study shows that subordinates who try to avoid actions that damage relationships (called disintegration avoidance) and those who feel job insecurity are most willing to perform illegitimate assignments. Practical implications for curbing workplace exploitation are discussed.



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Author Profiles

Ye Shen
Cardiff University
Lu Chen
Koc University

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