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Ethical leadership and Ba Ling: a survey on the perception of accounting interns in CPA firms

Guangyou Liu (School of Management, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China, and)
Xiaohui Wang (Department of Management, Lingnan (University) College, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, P.R. China)

Chinese Management Studies

ISSN: 1750-614X

Article publication date: 28 October 2014




This paper aims to investigate the relationship between ethical leadership and Ba Ling (霸凌) perceived by Certified Public Accounting (CPA) interns, and the influence of gender factor of leaders and followers on the relation. Moreover, Workplace Ba-Ling (职场霸凌, a derivation of workplace bullying) as a new conceptual idea, specifically extracted from Chinese context, is first taken into consideration.


This research is based on the questionnaire responses of accounting interns enrolled in a university-CPA firms cooperative education programs, and the classical Ethical Leadership Scale and Negative Acts Questionnaire were applied in the survey to get empirical results.


The empirical results reveal the fact that ethical leadership of the audit project teams is negatively related to workplace bullying perceived by the accounting interns working in the CPA firms. No significant impacts were found of the gender factor on workplace bullying and ethical leadership; however, the further breakdown of the gender factor into the four dimensions of the leader – follower gender differences lead to the significant difference of ethical leadership among the four redefined gender difference groups. The ranking order in terms of ethical leadership further proves that female leaders tend to show higher ethicality than male ones.

Research limitations/implications

As public accounting industry has acted an important role throughout the drastic Chinese economic growth of more than three recent decades, this paper provides knowledge of the gender-differentiated relationship between ethical leadership and workplace bullying, which implies serious concerns to be given in the varied business and workplace contexts in China and other emerging economies.


There has been an increasing literature trend discussing workplace bully in Western business studies; however, rarely has existing literature addresses this kind of issue in the emerging economies like China, where workplace ethics has become a commonly criticized concern with the fast economic growth in recent decades. Additionally, this paper proposes the new Chinese term of Ba Ling corresponding with the Western workplace bullying.



The authors would like to thank the students who participated in the survey. And, this study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 70872114) and the Key NSFC Project (Grant No. 71232002).


Liu, G. and Wang, X. (2014), "Ethical leadership and Ba Ling: a survey on the perception of accounting interns in CPA firms", Chinese Management Studies, Vol. 8 No. 4, pp. 642-664.



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Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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