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Open Access
Publication date: 10 May 2022

Shakil Adnan Malik, Samina Nawab and Khurram Shafi

The purpose of this study is to investigate the concept of vicarious moral cleansing and scrutinize whether unethical behavior of leaders initiate moral cleansing in subordinates…




The purpose of this study is to investigate the concept of vicarious moral cleansing and scrutinize whether unethical behavior of leaders initiate moral cleansing in subordinates or not. This study also highlights a boundary condition under which employees are motivated to cleanse their moral self-image through increased organizational citizenship behaviors and decreased counterproductive work behaviors.


The study is quantitative based on hypothesis testing. By adopting convenience sampling technique, employees working at all managerial levels of service sector organizations were asked to fill out the questionnaires. Being a time-lagged study, data for independent variable (unethical leadership) and moderator (relational self-construal) were collected at T1, data for mediator (moral self-image) were collected at T2 and data for outcomes (OCBs, CWBs) were collected at T3 from same respondents. To rule out the possibility of common method bias and social desirability bias, a multi-wave design was adopted and respondents were asked to provide unique keys/IDs instead of their names.


This study investigated the impact that unethical leaders impose on employee self-concept. Moreover, this study also explored the motivational tendencies of moral self-image. Findings suggest that employees' desirable or undesirable behaviors against leader are dependent upon the perceptions related with their own role, self-image and perception of leader's integrity and intentions. Leader's unethicality is perceived threatening for their own moral self-image and they deal with it constructively. This study has laid the foundation for presence of vicarious moral cleansing in organizational setup, and it is advised that researchers must investigate this phenomenon in different settings to provide useful insights.

Research limitations/implications

Due to lack of resources, employing a pure longitudinal research design was not feasible, and therefore a time-lagged research design was used to gather data from only two cities of Pakistan. However, authors believe that a longitudinal research design, with data collection from a larger sample, will provide more fine-grained results. Secondly, use of perceived leader's integrity scale to measure unethical leadership is another limitation. Although the authors tried to address this issue by conducting an EFA and adopting only suitable items, yet a new scale which is able to measure the true essence of unethical leadership ought to be developed.


Use of moral self-image as an indicator of moral cleansing is an additional contribution of this study, as previous studies used levels of guilt as driving force behind moral cleansing and compensatory cleansing. Most of the studies on unethical leadership as well as moral cleansing took place in the Western context and scholars' stress that culture can substantially influence outcomes of these constructs. Thus, this study extends the literature on moral cleansing and moral self-regulation by developing and testing a model in cultural settings of Pakistan.


本研究擬探討間接感受到的道德清洗 (以下簡稱間接道德清洗) 這個概念;研究亦會仔細審視領袖的不道德行為會否在其下屬間引起道德清洗。就此而言,本研究亦強調了一個邊界條件,在這邊界條件之下,僱員透過組織公民行為的增加,以及為工作目標帶來負面影響的工作行為的減少得到激勵,進而淨化他們的道德自我形象。


本研究為一個基於假設檢定的量性研究;研究採用任意抽樣方法而進行。在服務業機構內不同管理階層工作的僱員被邀回答問卷;由於這是一個時滯研究,即使是同一的答覆者,IV (不道德的領導) 和仲裁人(關係型自我建構)的數據在T1收集,調解員 (道德自我形象) 的數據在T2收集,結果 (OCBs,CWBs) 的數據在T3收集,為了排除共同方法偏差和社會期許誤差的出現,研究採用多波浪設計,而且,答覆者必須提供獨一無二的密鑰或身份證明,而不是提供他們的名字。




從前的研究均採用內疚的程度、作為道德清洗和補償清洗背後的推動力 (Liao et al., 2018) 。本研究另外的貢獻在於採用了道德自我形象、作為道德清洗的指標。以前關於不道德領導以及道德清洗的研究,大多以西方國家為背景。研究學者均強調文化因素會很大程度地影響這些觀念帶來的結果;因此,本研究透過設計一個以巴基斯坦文化為背景的模型、並對其進行測試、來擴展有關道德清洗及道德自我調節的文獻。


European Journal of Management and Business Economics, vol. 32 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2444-8451


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