Coordinating Ethical Leadership and Human Resource Management

As an employee, you want to feel supported. When you have adequate organizational resources, either psychologically or materially, work can engage and inspire you to greater levels of productivity which can lead to a sense of well-being and purpose in your daily work activities. However, when you feel that either leadership or human resources seem to not care about supporting you, your productivity and sense of well-being at work can suffer.

LEADERSHIP AND HUMAN RESOURCES WORKING TOGETHER

Honest, caring, and fair leadership—ethical leadershipand human resource management (HRM) are powerful supports for employees’ sense of well-being. They can also serve as substitutes for each other. For example, when ethical leadership is low, HRM can step in and increase employee perceptions of support through communicating HR practices and helping employees feel supported. Similarly, when well-communicated HRM is lacking, ethical leadership helps employees feel supported by giving them a sense of emotional and psychological safety. Employees who feel supported have adequate psychological resources to reinvest their resources into the organization in the form of organizational citizenship behaviors, which refers to going beyond formal job descriptions.

But researchers found a catch. Sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. When both ethical leadership and human resource management are high, well-being can be lower than with high levels of just one of these organizational supports. The authors propose that this counterintuitive phenomenon occurs because of mixed messages. For example, if leadership is telling employees that the new benefits package will roll out the following week but then HR says otherwise, there is a disconnect that can lead to reduced engagement and well-being.

PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS FOR ORGANIZATIONS

These findings can be helpful and extremely practical for employee well-being if you take into consideration the context of your organization. If you work in a small business, chances are you will not have a large HR department, so ethical leadership is essential in these more intimate settings. Conversely, a large organization might have a large HR department but less perceived support by leadership, so HRM support in this context is the support for employee well-being. And if you have both ethical leadership and strong HRM, make sure they are well-coordinated.

 

Kalshoven, K., & Boon, C. T. (2012). Ethical leadership, employee well-being, and helping: The moderating role of human resource management. Journal of Personnel Psychology, 11(1), 60-68.