When Leaders Fail to “Walk the Talk:” An
Examination of Perceptions of Leader Hypocrisy
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Rebecca L. Greenbaum
Oklahoma State University
Mary Bardes
Drexel University
Hunter Harris
Oklahoma State University
Ronald F. Piccolo
Rollins College
Perceptions of Leader Hypocrisy
 Leadership’s dark side (Popper, 2001; Tierney & Tepper, 2007)
 Definition (antonym of behavioral integrity; Simons, 2002)
 The leader expresses certain values, but fails to uphold those values as
demonstrated by his/her attitudes and behaviors (Cha & Edmondson,
2006; Treviño, Hartman, & Brown, 2000).
 Employees’ perceptions of leaders’ word-deed misalignment
(Brunnson, 1989; Simons, 2002).
Why study leader hypocrisy?
 Subordinates pay attention to salient values (Salancik & Pfeffer, 1978).
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Research Question
?
A Hypocrisy
Condition: Word-deed
Misalignment
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Perceptions
of Leader
Hypocrisy
Turnover
Intentions
A Hypocrisy-driven
Outcome
(Simons et al., 2007)
Research Question
Interpersonal
Justice
Expectation
Supervisor
Undermining
A Hypocrisy
Condition: Word-deed
Misalignment
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Perceptions
of Leader
Hypocrisy
Turnover
Intentions
Control Variables:
Psychological Contract Breach
Trust in Supervisor
A Hypocrisy Condition
 Supervisor Undermining
“[Supervisory] behavior that is intended to hinder, over time, the
ability [of subordinates] to establish and maintain positive
interpersonal relationships, work-related success, and favorable
reputations” (Duffy et al., 2002; p. 332).
 Interpersonal Justice (IPJ) (Bies, 2005; Bies & Moag, 1986;
Colquitt, 2001; Greenberg, 1993)
 Respectful and socially sensitive treatment
 IPJ Expectation
 Subordinates perceive that their supervisors expect them to treat
others with interpersonal justice.
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Misalignment
 Supervisor Undermining
 A failure to show subordinates dignity/respect
 Belittling subordinates ideas, making them feel incompetent, spreading
rumors about them, talking badly about them (Duffy et al., 2002)
 The presence of IPJ expectation adds insult to injury.
 Subordinates pay attention to salient expectations (Salancik &
Pfeffer, 1978).
 It’s clearer to subordinates that supervisors do not “walk the
talk.”
 “Not only does my supervisor treat me poorly, but he/she is
a hypocrite!”
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Hypothesis 1:
The interactive effect of supervisor undermining and
interpersonal justice expectation is related to perceptions of
leader hypocrisy such that the relationship between supervisor
undermining and perceptions of leader hypocrisy is stronger
when interpersonal justice expectation is high as opposed to
low.
Interpersonal
Justice
Expectation
Supervisor
Undermining
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Perceptions
of Leader
Hypocrisy
Why do subordinates care?
 A theoretical explanation to account for reactions to leader
hypocrisy (Gosling & Huang, 2009)
 Cognitive dissonance theory (Festinger, 1957) is used to
account for people’s reactions to their own hypocrisy (Stone &
Cooper, 2001).
 Employees may also experience psychological discomfort (i.e.,
dissonance) in response to leader hypocrisy.
 People derive a part of their self-concepts from their work groups (Tajfel,
1978; Tajfel & Turner, 1979). People care about the hypocrisy of work
group members (McKimmie et al., 2003).
 Leaders serve as exemplars of group conduct (Brown et al., 2005; Mayer
et al., 2009).
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Dissonance Reduction: Turnover
Intentions
 Employees experience dissonance arousal in response to
leader hypocrisy.
 An association with hypocritical leaders challenges
employees’ understanding of themselves as moral people
(McKimmie et al., 2003; Thibodeau & Aronson, 1992).
 Employees are motivated to reduce dissonance (Festinger,
1957).
 They may psychologically distance themselves from the
source of hypocrisy by intending to leave the organization.
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Hypothesis 2:
Perceptions of leader hypocrisy are positively related to
turnover intentions.
Perceptions
of Leader
Hypocrisy
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Turnover
Intentions
Hypothesis 3:
Perceptions of leader hypocrisy mediates the relationship
between the interactive effect of supervisor undermining and
interpersonal justice expectation on turnover intentions.
Interpersonal
Justice
Expectation
Supervisor
Undermining
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Perceptions
of Leader
Hypocrisy
Turnover
Intentions
Alternative Explanations (controls)
Related Constructs (Simons, 2002; Simons et al., 2007)
 Psychological Contract Breach (Rousseau, 1989;
Morrison & Robinson, 1997)
 Trust (Mayer et al., 1995)
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Method: Participants and Procedure
 Business administration students recruited 533 working
adults to participate in the survey
 Usable data from 312 participants (59% response rate)
 Average age = 26 years
 58% Caucasian
 Average organizational tenure = 3 years
 54% working full-time, 46% part-time
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Method: Measures
All measures were rated on a 7-point Likert-type scale (1 = strongly
disagree, 7 = strongly agree)
 Supervisor Undermining (13 items; Duffy et al., 2002; α = .97)
 Does your supervisor “talk bad about you behind your back?”
 Interpersonal Justice Expectation (4 items; adapted from Colquitt,
2001; α = .96)
 My supervisor expects me to “treat other people with respect.”
 Perceptions of Leader Hypocrisy (4 items; Dineen et al., 2006; α
= .92)
 “I wish my supervisor would practice what he/she preaches more
often.”
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Method: Measures (continued)
 Turnover Intentions (4 items; adapted from Tett & Meyer,
1993; α = .95)
 “I am thinking about leaving this organization.”
Controls Variables:
 Psychological Contract Breach (5 items; Morrison &
Robinson, 1997; α = .91)
 “My employer has broken many of its promises to me even
though I’ve upheld my side of the deal.”
 Trust in Supervisor (3 items; Conger et al., 2000; α = .82)
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 “I can count on my supervisor to be trustworthy.”
Confirmatory Factor Analyses
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Results (Preacher et al., 2007)
 Hypothesis 1 was supported.
 B = .10, p < .05
 Simple slopes analysis (Aiken & West, 1991):
 One standard deviation below the mean: t =2.04, p < .05
 One standard deviation above the mean: t = 4.17, p < .001
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Hypothesis 1 Interaction
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Results (continued)
 Hypothesis 2 was supported.
 B = .22, p < .01
 Moderated mediation results (Preacher et al., 2007) provided
support for Hypothesis 3.
 -1 SD (4.76), B = .02, ns
 SD (6.05), B = .06, p < .05
 +1 SD (7.35), B = .09, p < .05
 Bootstrap indirect effects
 -1 SD (4.76), B = .04, ns
 SD (6.05), B = .07, p < .10
 +1 SD (7.35), B = .10, p < .05
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Indirect Effects at Levels of the
Moderator
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Discussion
 Our results suggest that the simultaneous presence of
supervisor undermining and interpersonal justice
expectation leads to perceptions of leader hypocrisy, which
then leads to turnover intentions.
 Our result hold even when controlling for alternative
explanations (i.e., psychological contract breach, trust in
supervisor).
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Discussion (continued)
 Theoretical Implications
 Leader hypocrisy may be even worse than other forms of bad
leadership.
 Employees’ reactions may also be driven by implicit
expectations derived from societal norms concerning fair
behavior (Cropanzano et al., 2003; Folger et al., 2005).
 Cognitive dissonance (Festinger, 1957) may explain employees’
desire to leave the organization.
 By controlling for alternative explanations, our results
suggest that perceptions of leader hypocrisy is capturing
something unique.
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Discussion (continued)
 Practical Implications
 Leaders should be cognizant of instances where their
attitudes/behavior may not align with expressed expectations.
 Limitations and Future Directions
 Common-method variance (Podsakoff et al., 2003; Spector,
2006) and cross-sectional data
 We also tested our model using a scenario-based experiment.
 Measurement of dissonance arousal
 The severity of hypocrisy
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Thank you!
 Any questions?
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When Leaders Fail to “Walk the Talk:” An