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The relationship between ethical leadership and employees’ internal and external community citizenship behaviors: The mediating role of prosocial motivation

Nathan Eva (Department of Management, Monash University, Clayton, Australia)
Alexander Newman (Deakin University, Geelong, Australia)
Abby Jingzi Zhou (University of Nottingham Ningbo China, Ningbo, China)
Steven Shijin Zhou (University of Nottingham Ningbo China, Ningbo, China)

Personnel Review

ISSN: 0048-3486

Article publication date: 13 November 2019

Issue publication date: 6 February 2020

Abstract

Purpose

Community citizenship behaviors (CCBs) of employees help organizations to promote a socially conscious image. However, there is still a significant gap in the knowledge as to how to foster CCBs amongst employees. The purpose of this paper is to investigate whether ethical leadership, as a prosocial leadership approach, fosters CCBs amongst employees, both at work and when they leave the office, through enhancing their prosocial motivation.

Design/methodology/approach

Data were collected from 160 employees across 48 small- and medium-sized enterprises in China. Multi-level modeling using maximum likelihood estimation in MPlus was utilized to analyze the two-level model simultaneously and the significance of the multi-level indirect effects was tested using the Monte Carlo method with 20,000 replications.

Findings

Counter to the expectations, the authors found that although ethical leadership increased employees’ prosocial motivation, this only translated to higher levels of employees’ CCBs at work, but not once they left the office.

Practical implications

The findings suggest that ethical leaders play a critical role in developing the prosocial motivation of employees and encouraging them to engage in CCBs that are supported by the organization. To that end, organizations should consider hiring leaders with high levels of ethical leadership and provide ethical leadership training to senior management.

Originality/value

The authors make a theoretical contribution by explaining the process by which ethical leaders influence employees to engage in CCBs, addressing calls to understand how social learning theory can be used to understand how people learn to become socially responsible.

Keywords

Citation

Eva, N., Newman, A., Zhou, A.J. and Zhou, S.S. (2020), "The relationship between ethical leadership and employees’ internal and external community citizenship behaviors: The mediating role of prosocial motivation", Personnel Review, Vol. 49 No. 2, pp. 636-652. https://doi.org/10.1108/PR-01-2019-0019

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited