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Vol.:(0123456789) 1 3Journal of Business Ethicshttps://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-018-4095-8ORIGINAL PAPERThe Duty to Improve Oneself: How Duty Orientation Mediatesthe Relationship Between Ethical Leadership and Followers’ FeedbackSeeking and Feedback-Avoiding BehaviorSherry E. Moss1 · Meng Song2 · Sean T. Hannah1 · Zhen Wang3 · John J. Sumanth1Received: 12 February 2018 / Accepted: 19 December 2018© Springer Nature B.V. 2019AbstractWe sought to expand on the concept of the moral self to include not just the duty to develop the moral self but the moralduty to develop the self in both moral and non-moral ways. To do this, we focused on how leaders can promote a climate inwhich individuals feel a sense of duty to develop themselves for the betterment of the team and organization. In our theoretical model, duty orientation plays a key role in determining whether followers will seek performance feedback to developtheir work selves. We hypothesized that followers with ethical leaders would experience a greater sense of duty to improvethemselves and would therefore be more likely to seek and less likely to avoid leader feedback. Drawing on social learningtheory, we hypothesized that (a) duty orientation would mediate the relationship between ethical leadership and feedbackseeking/feedback-avoiding behavior, (b) expert power would moderate the relationship between ethical leadership and dutyorientation such that duty orientation would be higher when followers perceived their leader to be both highly ethical andcompetent, and (c) expert power would moderate the indirect effect of ethical leadership on feedback-seeking/feedbackavoiding behavior through duty orientation. We tested our hypotheses using a sample of 249 followers across two waves ofdata collection. Results suggest that ethical leadership and leader competence interact to drive followers’ duty orientation,thereby reducing followers’ feedback-avoiding behaviors. Further, ethical leadership had a direct positive relationship withfollowers’ feedback-seeking behaviors.Keywords Duty orientation · Ethical leadership · Feedback avoiding · Feedback seeking · Expert power · Social learningtheory · Deontic motivationOver the last few decades, behavioral ethics research hasfocused largely on studying ethical decision-making and theindividual and contextual factors that drive what researchers classify as “right” and “wrong” behaviors (for reviewssee Kish-Gephart et al. 2010; Treviño et al. 2006). At thesame time, a smaller body of research has focused on aspectsof the moral self (e.g., moral identity, ethical dispositions,moral strengths) and how such individual differences influence those “right” and “wrong” behaviors (for review, seeJennings et al. 2015). Together, this canon of research hastended to approach the domain of morality fairly narrowly—typically as either the absence of lying, cheating, stealingand harm or the acts of helping others, telling the truth, orrighting injustice.However, this focus has been markedly narrower than thefoundational work on morality, which historically has takena more holistic view, including viewing self-development asa critical aspect of the moral being. According to Johnson* Meng [email protected] E. [email protected] T. [email protected] [email protected] J. [email protected] Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC, USA2 College of Economics and Management, Beijing Universityof Technology, Beijing, China3 Business School, Central University of Financeand Economics, Beijing, ChinaS. E. Moss et al.1 3(2011), Kant argued in Groundwork that individuals not onlyhave a duty to develop the moral self, but also a moral dutyto develop the whole self, the latter being a maxim that onehas a moral obligation to continue to develop one’s skillsin order to contribute to society. Johnson (2011) summarizes Kant’s logic by stating that if one should develop moralcapacities, then (s)he should also develop the non-moralcapacities needed to put those moral capacities into practice.For one to engage effectively in moral debate, for example,(s)he must first have skills for debate and rhetoric (theseskills being non-moral skills). Plato made similar argumentsin describing his concept of “phronesis”—a model of aGood Person constantly striving to develop practical formsof wisdom, intelligence, and other capabilities (Plato trans2003). Plato argued that individuals have specific talents oraptitudes and thus have a moral duty to both themselves andthe collective to develop those unique abilities in order toperform their roles to the fullest. To do otherwise, such asthrough idleness or sloth, is an injustice (Plato trans 2003).For these reasons, understanding the factors that drive individuals’ moral sense of duty to self-improve can not onlyenhance our theoretical understanding of how individualsself-develop, but also supply important insight into outcomes that ethics researchers have traditionally neglected.The purpose of this paper is to identify the factors thatpromote such a sense of duty for self-improvement in theworkplace. To operationalize individuals’ drive for selfimprovement in the current study, we draw on the constructof feedback behavior (Ashford and Cummings 1983; Mosset al. 2003). The feedback literature has shown that someemployees, in an effort to improve their work performance,are more highly motivated than others in their work environment to actively seek performance feedback, especiallyfrom their leaders (Ashford and Cummings 1983). Feedback-seeking behavior (FSB) allows individuals to acquireinformation to determine successful strategies for improvingtheir capabilities (Ashford and Cummings 1983). Seekingfeedback also helps followers clarify directives and learnwhat is expected of them. By learning how leaders perceivetheir performance, followers can adjust their behavior toalign with expectations, thus increasing the probability ofimproved performance.Yet, research has also shown that some individuals mayactively avoid feedback. Feedback-avoiding behavior (FAB)occurs when followers “use strategies that are designed toeither totally avoid their leaders or divert their leader’s attention so that their poor performance is not acknowledged, andthey do not receive negative verbal feedback” (Moss et al.2003, p. 493). Examples of FAB include avoiding contactwith the leader, hiding or concealing evidence of poor performance, and filtering or diverting conversations to reducethe chances of the leader finding out about performanceproblems (Moss et al. 2003). In other words, FAB can beconsidered purposeful evasion intended to hide poor performance from the leader. Typically, individuals’ motivesfor engaging in such behavior are self-focused and designedto protect their egos and/or public images from the scrutiny that comes from negative leader feedback (Moss et al.2003). Viewed through a Kantian lens (Kant and Korsgaard1998), such avoidance is an abnegation of one’s moral dutyfor self-improvement.To date, research on individuals’ feedback behavior hasfocused on individuals’ self-serving motives—seekers wantto gain information to improve their individual success andmanage impressions, while avoiders want to minimize theirchances of revealing their poor performance in order to protect their egos and maintain a positive image (Morrison andBies 1991; Moss et al. 2003). Largely neglected in this lineof research, however, is the deontic notion that there is aprosocial basis for seeking feedback—that is, individualsmay seek feedback not just for their own sake, but as a formof duty to their team or organization, viewing it as an injustice to do otherwise (Beller 2008; Folger 2012). We proposethis deontic motivation (duty/obligation) as a contrast to themore self-focused motives of individual performance, egoprotection, and impression management and suggest thatunder certain conditions, individuals may seek feedback (orrefrain from avoiding feedback) because they feel a sense ofduty that they should improve to better meet their obligationsto their group (Beller 2008; Folger 2012). To operationalize this idea, we draw on the construct of duty orientation(Hannah et al. 2014a) to propose that individuals with higherduty orientation toward their group will have greater deontic motivation to continuously enhance their performancethrough seeking (and not avoiding) feedback, based on theirdesire to serve the best interests of coworkers, fulfill theirshared mission, and align with the group’s norms.Furthermore, we attempt to show that leaders can beinstrumental in promoting followers’ sense of duty and subsequent feedback behavior. Prior research has shown thatleadership styles are key factors in determining whetherfollowers seek or avoid feedback, as well as voice ideas,observations, and/or suggestions for improvement moregenerally (Detert and Burris 2007; Walumbwa and Schaubroeck 2009). Specifically, transformational, supportive,authentic, and abusive leadership as well as leader-memberexchange (LMX) have all been shown to influence followers’ feedback-seeking behavior (Anseel et al. 2015; Ashford et al. 2016), while lower LMX and abusive supervision have been shown to drive feedback-avoiding behaviors(Moss et al. 2009; Whitman et al. 2014). Common acrossthis research is the belief that leaders must establish climatesthat provide nurturance, safety, and support, making followers believe that they can safely seek feedback (Gardner et al.2011; Qian et al. 2012; Teunissen et al. 2009). While supportive leaders who create positive climates and perceptionsThe Duty to Improve Oneself: How Duty Orientation Mediates the Relationship Between Ethical…1 3of psychological safety help to assure their followers thatthey can safely seek (rather than avoid) feedback, we contend that ethical leaders may encourage feedback seekingby creating the belief that followers should seek feedbackto improve their performance to better meet their obligations to the team. In this way, individuals may experiencea strong sense of obligation to acquire and not avoid feedback about their job performance. Importantly, this sense ofduty is proximal to the team/group and is distinct from therelated but more general constructs of organizational identification, affective organizational commitment, experiencedjob responsibility, identification with organizational values,and collective self-construal (Hannah et al. 2014a). We focuson ethical leadership (Brown et al. 2005) as the focal form ofleadership proposed to drive such felt obligation. Drawingon social learning theory (SLT, Bandura 1986), we theorizethat ethical leaders serve as role models who bolster followers’ felt obligation which, in turn, leads them to engage inmore feedback-seeking and less feedback-avoiding behavior.Through this investigation, we seek to make three contributions to the business ethics literature. First, consistentwith Kant’s (Kant and Korsgaard 1998) and Plato’s (Platotrans 2003) views that self-improvement is a moralresponsibility, we introduce duty orientation as a potential driver offeedback seeking whereby followers feel they should seekfeedback to improve. While prior duty orientation researchhas focused on a limited set of more conventional ethicalbehaviors (e.g., deviance) (AlKerdawy 2014; Hannah et al.2014a), a sense of duty, we contend, should promote abroader span of dutiful behaviors in organizations. Second,we contribute to the ethical leadership literature by showinghow ethical leadership, through social learning processesand mediated through duty orientation, impacts FAB andFSB. Doing so, our investigation helps to broaden the scopeof ethical leadership’s positive impact into new theoreticalterritory—the moral duty of self-improvement—and adds toa growing body of research showing that ethical leadershiphas positive influence beyond traditional ethical considerations (e.g., ethical behavior and deviance), such as its positive relationships with followers’ commitment, satisfaction,and performance (Bedi et al. 2016).Third, we propose that current understanding of theboundaries that constrain the influence of ethical leadership is incomplete. Specifically, research on the outcomesof ethical leadership has not recognized that leaders’ credibility as role models is based not only on their character andethicality, but also on their perceived competence (Bergeret al. 1972; Hollander 1992; Lord et al. 1984; Posner andKouzes 1988). That is, leaders do not merely have ‘styles’but must functionally lead their groups, demanding sufficient competence (Hollenbeck 2009). We propose that ethical leaders, without the requisite level of competence, willbe less attractive and potent as role models to followers,which according to SLT (Bandura 1986), would reduce theirlevel of influence on followers (Davis and Luthans 1980;Manz and Sims 1981). We are not aware of prior studies thathave assessed the potential moderating influence of expertpower on ethical leadership. Thus, our final contribution isto propose and test a moderated mediation model suggestingthat leaders must be both ethical and competent to developthe higher levels of duty followers need to engage in thefeedback behaviors (i.e., more FSB and less FAB) associated with high-performance and continuous development.Figure 1 depicts our theoretical model.Ethical Leadership, Duty Orientation,Feedback Seeking, and Feedback AvoidingOriginally considered a “slice” of the idealized influencedimension of transformational leadership, ethical leadershiphas been demonstrated to be theoretically broader and empirically distinct from this, and other leadership styles (Brownet al. 2005). Ethical leadership is defined as “the demonstration of normatively appropriate conduct through personalactions and interpersonal relationships, and the promotion ofsuch conduct to followers through two-way communication,reinforcement, and decision-making” (Brown et al. 2005,p. 120). Ethical leaders are thought to influence followersby demonstrating and reinforcing appropriate behaviors thatfollowers seek to emulate through social learning processes(Hannah et al. 2014a; Treviño et al. 2006).Research on social learning theory (Bandura 1986) suggests that followers will observe and emulate attractive rolemodels. Ethical leaders demonstrate “normatively appropriate conduct through personal actions and interpersonal relationships” and promote such conduct in followers (BrownFig. 1 Theoretical modelS. E. Moss et al.1 3et al. 2005, p. 120). When followers consistently observetheir leaders acting in ways that promote the organization’sand/or team’s well-being, rather than their own self-interests, and upholding the group’s norms and beliefs, whichare behaviors reflected in the ethical leadership construct(Brown and Treviño 2006), they should perceive their leaders as exhibiting behavior that is normative for the workgroup/organization, and thus, worth emulating with similarpro-group behaviors. Through social learning, followersshould thus experience increased obligation to serve theirgroup in the manner being modeled by the leader, therebymanifesting in increased duty orientation. Yet, this sense ofduty followers may experience has limited theoretical basisand testing. Thus, we turn our attention to a relatively newconstruct which addresses followers’ felt sense of duty—duty orientation (Hannah et al. 2014a).Duty orientation is defined as “an individual’s volitionalorientation to loyally serve and faithfully support othermembers of the group, to strive and sacrifice to accomplishthe tasks and missions of the group, and to honor its codesand principles” (Hannah et al. 2014a, p. 234). The threedimensions of duty orientation are duty to fellow groupmembers, duty to the mission/task of the group, and duty tothe group’s codes and mores. Duty orientation is groundedin the concept of “deonance” (Beller 2008), referring to dutyor obligation to others (Folger 2012). Conceptualized as apsychological state (rather than a stable trait), duty orientation is theorized to be influenced by contextual factors(Hannah et al. 2014a). This is similar to other orientationsthat have been shown to be malleable or situational, such asgoal orientation (Button et al. 1996). One of the strongestcontextual influences on followers’ psychological states inthe workplace is leadership (Bass and Bass 2009). Indeed,Hannah et al. (2014a) demonstrated a positive relationshipbetween ethical leadership and duty orientation, finding thatduty orientation carried the effects of ethical leadership ontoethical, deviant, and prosocial follower behavior. We extendthese findings here by showing how duty orientation mayalso play a mediating role in carrying the influence of ethicalleadership to positive, follower feedback behaviors.We propose that individuals with higher duty orientation will be more driven to continuously enhance theirself-improvement through seeking feedback, based on theirdesire to serve the best interests of coworkers, their sharedmission, and the group’s norms. Folger et al. (2013) claimthat deonance creates “bounded autonomy” within individuals whereby they curtail free choice to instead seekto fulfill their obligations. Through bounded autonomy,followers’ sense of duty to the group should override theselfish motivation to avoid supervisory feedback that maydamage their ego or social image. In essence, the deonancefollowers experience with higher levels of duty orientationshould tend to bound factors that may otherwise deter theirfeedback-seeking or promote feedback-avoiding behavior(e.g., impression management, laziness, lack of personalinterest, ego threat, risk aversion) and promote them toinstead improve themselves and their team through seekingand not avoiding feedback.Clearly, it is desirable to have followers who do morefeedback seeking and less avoiding since these behaviorshave been positively linked to follower performance (Mosset al. 2009; Renn and Fedor 2001; Whitaker et al. 2007;Whitaker and Levy 2012). Having a strong sense of dutypromotes accepting personal risk and making personalsacrifices to ensure the group does not fail (Hannah et al.2014a). Therefore, the behaviors associated with FSB (suchas inquiring despite perceived risk) should be more frequent from those with a strong duty orientation. In contrast,FAB may be thought of by those with high duty orientationas being a selfish or even unethical behavior, inconsistentwith the selfless, pro-group orientation promulgated by ahighly ethical leader. Hiding or obscuring poor performancethrough FAB is inconsistent with doing “whatever may berequired to avoid the failure of tasks and missions” (Hannah et al. 2014a, p. 223). Feedback avoidance delays theprobability of correcting performance and work/task problems which, in turn, negatively impacts the achievementof the group’s goals and can lead to failures, safety errors/accidents, and other negative outcomes (Moss and Sanchez2004). Duty orientation, encouraged by ethical leaders,should thus reduce followers’ tendency to hide or underreport evidence of poor behavior or performance issues fromtheir leaders. In sum, through social learning processes, weexpect ethical leadership to be positively related to duty orientation, which mediates the influence of ethical leadershipon performance-enhancing behaviors, such as FSB and FAB.Hypothesis 1a Ethical leadership will have a positive, indirect relationship with followers’ feedback-seeking behaviorthrough followers’ duty orientation.Hypothesis 1b Ethical leadership will have a negative, indirect relationship with followers’ feedback-avoiding behaviorthrough followers’ duty orientation.Leaders Need Both Competenceand CharacterThus far, we have theorized that through social learningprocesses, ethical leadership enhances followers’ dutyorientation, and through that mechanism, influences theirfeedback-seeking and feedback-avoiding behaviors. However, researchers have proposed that both character and competence are important factors in leaders’ abilities to influence followers (Hollenbeck 2009). Specifically, research onThe Duty to Improve Oneself: How Duty Orientation Mediates the Relationship Between Ethical…1 3ethical leadership has not adequately recognized that leadersdo not just influence their followers by showing characterand ethicality, but by also demonstrating their competence(Berger et al. 1972; Hollander 1992; Lord et al. 1984; Posnerand Kouzes 1988), which is not part of the ethical leadershipconstruct. We propose that ethical leaders, without the requisite level of perceived competence, operationalized hereas having expert power (French and Raven 1959; Hinkinand Schriesheim 1989; Steelman et al. 2004), will be lessattractive overall as role models, which according to sociallearning theory, would reduce their level of normative influence on followers (Davis and Luthans 1980; Manz and Sims1981). Therefore, we propose that followers’ perceptions oftheir leader’s expertise will moderate the impact of ethicalleadership on followers’ duty orientation.The logic linking ethical leadership to duty orientationdescribed in H1a and 1b is based on the leader acting inways that demonstrate positive interactions with groupmembers and selflessly serving the group, thereby evokingfollowers’ desires to emulate the leader’s prosocial actionsand similarly serving the group (i.e., raising duty orientation). All else being equal, that should be so. Yet, according to social learning theory, the extent to which a leader’sbehaviors have such positive effects will vary based on theleader being seen overall as being credible, as followersmay otherwise not adequately attend to, observe, and/or beinspired to emulate a less competent role model (Bandura1986, 2001). As noted above, a leader’s competence is partof his or her overall credibility (Hollander 1992; Hollenbeck2009; House and Baetz 1979; Ilgen et al. 1979; Posner andKouzes 1988), and competence is not addressed in the ethical leadership construct. Leader competence/expertise andcharacter/ethicality are thought to be orthogonal, as a leadercan be highly ethical but lack the expertise needed in a givenrole or context; or can be highly competent yet lacking inaspects of character (Posner and Kouzes 1988).It is widely accepted that leaders must display a certainlevel of expertise to be credible to followers (e.g., Albrightand Levy 1995; Fedor et al. 1992), and leader expertise hasbeen linked to follower’s internal motivation, work effort(Elangovan and Xie 1999), and organizational citizenshipbehaviors (OCBs) (Reiley and Jacobs 2016). It followsthat high (deficient) levels of competence would render theleader more (less) credible and attractive overall as a rolemodel, and thus more (less) likely to be emulated (Bandura1986, 2001). Expert power should thus establish an important boundary condition, positively moderating the impact ofethical leadership on followers’ duty orientation by increasing the extent to which followers attend to and are influencedby the leader’s ethical behaviors. Thus, we hypothesize:Hypothesis 2 Expert power will moderate the relationshipbetween ethical leadership and followers’ duty orientation,such that the relationship is stronger when leader expertpower is high, versus low.Finally, we combine these hypothesized relationships totest a moderated mediation model of the indirect influenceof ethical leadership on FAB and FSB via duty orientation.We believe that the proximal influence of ethical leaders onfollowers’ duty orientation and their distal impact on followerFSB and FAB will depend on the leader’s expertise. An ethical leader lower in perceived expertise will have less influence on his or her followers’ duty orientation and thereforeless ability to influence feedback behavior (i.e., more FSB andless FAB). On the other hand, an ethical leader’s influence onduty orientation and FSB/FAB will be stronger if s/he is alsoperceived as competent. In sum, we suggest that ethical leadership, contingent upon the leader’s perceived expert power, willevoke higher levels of duty orientation in followers, which willencourage them to engage in more seeking and less avoidingof feedback. We therefore hypothesize that:Hypothesis 3a Leader expert power will moderate the indirect relationship between ethical leadership and followers’FSB, such that FSB is more frequent when leader expertpower is high versus low.Hypothesis 3b Leader expert power will moderate the indirect relationship between ethical leadership and followers’FAB, such that FAB is less frequent when leader expertpower is high versus low.MethodData Collection ProceduresWorking professional MBA students were asked to assistwith data collection by identifying teams of followers working for a specific leader within their places of employment.The student presented the prospective leader and a randomselection of three to five of his/her followers with a briefexplanation of the study, along with an informed consent. Byconsenting, participants agreed to participate in two surveys,separated by six weeks. Participants provided their e-mailaddresses to the students, who then passed these along tothe researchers to begin the data collection process. At bothTime 1 and Time 2, participants received an e-mail containing a link to the survey. Participants again had to consent toboth surveys and were told their participation was voluntary,that they could withdraw from the study at any time by simply closing their browser, and that the data they providedwere for research purposes only and would not be sharedwith their employer.S. E. Moss et al.1 3ParticipantsAt Time 1, we sent an e-mail containing a survey link to the346 professional followers that were identified. Of those,we received 289 usable follower surveys at Time 1, constituting an 83.5% response rate. At Time 2 (6 weeks later),we e-mailed these 289 participants with the link to thesecond survey, with 259 surveys returned. Ten cases weredeleted due to a large amount of missing data, resulting in249 (86% response) valid cases and a total response rateacross both time periods of 72%. The participants camefrom a broad range of industries, including (1) information, scientific, and technical services (n = 25), (2) manufacturing, wholesale trade, and transportation/warehousing(n = 76), (3) utilities and construction (n = 26), (4) financeand insurance (n = 52), (5) Healthcare and Social Assistance (n = 40), and (6) Other (n = 30). A one-way ANOVAshowed no significant differences in the mean levels ofthe focal variables across industry types. The average ageof participants was 41.5 years. Of the 249 respondents,44.8% were male, with an average organizational tenureof 8.8 years at their current place of employment, and4.2 years working with their current supervisor. Respondents self-identified as 75.3% White, 14.2% Black, 4.9%Asian, 4.0% Hispanic, and 1.6% other.MeasuresTo reduce the potential for common method variance (Podsakoff et al. 2003), data were collected in two waves, separated by six weeks (Hoyle et al. 2002). In the first wave,followers responded to the ethical leadership scale andauthentic leadership (control variable) scale, the expertpower scale, and provided demographic data. In the second wave, followers completed the duty orientation scale,goal orientation scales (control variables), and reported onthe extent to which they engaged in feedback-seeking andfeedback-avoiding behavior. We used a 7-point Likert scaleranging from 1 (“strongly disagree”) to 7 (“strongly agree”)for all scales except FSB and FAB. Those measures’ scalesare described below.Ethical LeadershipWe assessed ethical leadership at Time 1 by asking followers to respond to a set of statements about their leader usingthe 10-item ethical leadership measure from Brown et al.(2005). Sample items include “My leader sets an example ofhow to do things the right way in terms of ethics” and “Myleader defines success not just by results but also the waythat they are obtained” (Cronbach’s α = 0.92).Expert PowerExpert power was measured at Time 1 using a 4-item measure developed by Hinkin and Schriesheim (1989). Responseswere collected from followers since we propose it is theperception of expertise, rather than expertise itself, whichforemost promotes the follower to view the leader as beingcredible (e.g., Bandura 1986). This is because followers haveidiosyncratic schemas for what constitutes positive leaderattributes and formulate differing standards for measuringleaders along those attributes (Lord et al. 1984). Sampleitems for this scale are “My leader shares with me his/herconsiderable experience/training” and “My leader providesme with good technical knowledge” (Cronbach’s α = 0.88).Duty Orientation (DO)Duty orientation was measured at Time 2 using the 12-itemmeasure developed by Hannah et al. (2014a). The DO scalehas three dimensions including respondents’ felt duty tomembers of their team, to their organization’s mission, andto their group’s mores and codes. Sample items include, “Iput the interests of team members ahead of my own interests” (team), “I do whatever it takes not to let the mission/organizational goals fail,” (mission) and “I set the examplefor honorable behavior for others” (codes). From a theoretical and conceptual perspective, Hannah et al. (2014a) demonstrated that the measure is best represented as a higherorder construct. Statistically, the higher-order construct withthree sub-dimensions is not different from a model withthree lower-order correlated dimensions because a higherorder model with three or less factors (but not four or morefactors) is mathematically equivalent to a lower-order modelin which all the factors in the lower-order model are allowedto correlate (Gerbing and Anderson 1984). Thus, we aggregated the 12 items (four items for each dimension) to forman overall duty orientation score (Cronbach’s α = 0.89).Feedback-Seeking Behavior (FSB)FSB was assessed at Time 2 using the 7-item measure fromAshford (1986). The scale asks how often individuals engagein behaviors such as “Seek feedback from your leader aboutyour work performance” (inquiry) and “Pay attention to howyour supervisor acts toward you in order to understand howhe/she perceives and evaluates your work” (monitoring). Asoriginally conceived (Ashford 1986; Ashford and Cummings1985), followers are in the best position to report on their ownfeedback-seeking behaviors, particularly those that are lessobservable by others such as the example of monitoring listedabove. Thus, participants responded to the FSB items using aLikert scale ranging from 1 (“very infrequently”) to 7 (“veryfrequently”). As suggested by Anseel et al. (2015), FSB is bestThe Duty to Improve Oneself: How Duty Orientation Mediates the Relationship Between Ethical…1 3conceptualized as an aggregate construct (consisting of bothinquiry and monitoring) so all seven items were combined toform an overall FSB measure (Cronbach’s α=0.87).Feedback-Avoiding Behavior (FAB)FAB was assessed using the 6-item measure from Moss et al.(2003). Most FAB behaviors, by definition, are hidden fromleaders and others (e.g., “hiding from my leader”). Thus,researchers have used self-reports of FAB in prior work toaccount for this (Moss et al. 2009; Whitman et al. 2014). Mosset al. (2003) recommend that followers be prompted to visualize themselves in a situation at work in which they did not perform well, such as missing a deadline or producing low-qualitywork. They were then asked to assume they were working withtheir current leader, keeping the scenario they had envisionedin mind while they indicated the likelihood of engaging in sixdifferent feedback-avoiding behaviors such as “hiding frommy leader” or “going the other way when I see my leader coming.” Followers responded to these items using a 7-point Likertscale ranging from 1 (“very unlikely”) to 7 (“very likely”). Asrecommended by Moss et al. (2003), items were averaged tocreate a composite FAB score (Cronbach’s α=0.91).ControlsBased on convention from other feedback studies using theseindependent and dependent variables (Anseel et al. 2015;Moss et al. 2009; Pan and Lin 2015), we controlled for followers’ age, organizational tenure, and dyadic tenure (i.e., thelength of time they have been working with their leader). Forexample, Anseel et al. (2015) found meta-analytic evidenceshowing a negative relationship between FSB and age andorganizational tenure. The assumption here is that as individuals get older (age) and more comfortable in their jobs(organizational tenure), they need less feedback and thereforeare less likely to seek it. There is also evidence that the lengthof time working with a leader (Pan and Lin 2015) affects thefrequency of feedback seeking, thus justifying controlling fordyadic tenure as well. To preserve degrees of freedom, wedid not control for gender or industry as they had no significant relationships with any of the focal variables.Further, due to the nature of the FSB and FAB variablesas being development-oriented, we also controlled for theinfluence of followers’ goal orientation to better isolate theimpact of duty orientation on feedback behaviors. That said,we considered goal orientation as the controlled mediatorbetween ethical leadership and FSB/FAB. Goal orientationrefers to one’s orientation toward developing and demonstrating one’s abilities (VandeWalle and Cummings 1997).The three dimensions of goal orientation are learning goalorientation (LO), performance-prove goal orientation (PPO)and performance-avoid goal orientation (PAO) (VandeWalle1996). LO—the desire to develop competence by acquiringnew skills—has been shown to be positively related to FSB.Both performance orientation variables (PPO—the desireto prove competence and gain favorable judgements; andPAO—the desire to avoid the disproving of one’s competence and to avoid negative judgments) have been shown tobe negatively related to FSB (VandeWalle and Cummings1997). While it has yet to be tested in FAB studies, webelieve that one’s PAO orientation may be positively relatedto FAB because a general tendency toward avoidance (PAO)should be related to situational avoidance (FAB). For thesereasons, we controlled for the three forms of goal orientation: LO (Cronbach’s α = 0.89), PPO (Cronbach’s α = 0.80),and PAO (Cronbach’s α = 0.82) using the scales developedby VandeWalle (1996). Sample LO items include “I am willing to select a challenging work assignment that I can learna lot from” and “I often look for opportunities to developnew skills and knowledge.” Sample PPO items include “Iam concerned with showing that I can perform better thanmy coworkers” and “I try to figure out what it takes to provemy ability to others at work.” Sample PAO items include “Iwould avoid taking on a new task if there was a chance thatI would appear rather incompetent to others” and “Avoidinga show of low ability is more important to me than learninga new skill.”Finally, following a recent study’s recommendation onthe use of control variables (e.g., Atinc et al. 2012; Bernerthand Aguinis 2016), we also controlled for authentic leadership (AL). We did so to isolate the unique impact of ethicalleadership, given that prior research has shown that authentic leadership has a positive influence on feedback-seekingbehavior (Qian et al. 2012) and that AL and EL are stronglycorrelated (Martinko et al. 2018). Authentic leaders areviewed as being self-aware, creating transparent relationships with followers, having internalized moral perspective,and using balanced processing of information (Walumbwaet al. 2008). They should thus make followers feel that theycan seek feedback from them. While the authentic leadershipconstruct also assesses whether the leader is seen as beinga moral individual, it does not assess whether the leadercommunicates and reinforces expectations and obligationsin others to act ethically, as does ethical leadership (Brownet al. 2005). As our model focuses on driving feedbackbehaviors through engendering a sense of duty in followersas theorized above, we thus expect that ethical leadershipwill have an incremental impact above and beyond that ofauthentic leadership.1 Authentic leadership was assessed at1 We also performed all analyses excluding AL as a control variable.The results concerning the level of significance between constructs donot change. Results of these analyses are available from the authorsupon request.S. E. Moss et al.1 3Time 1 using the 16-item measure developed by Walumbwaet al. (2008). Sample items include “My leader says exactlywhat he or she means” and “My leader listens carefullyto different points of view before coming to conclusions”(Cronbach’s α = 0.95).ResultsTo provide evidence of discriminant validity among ourconstructs, we used Mplus 7.0 to conduct a confirmatoryfactor analysis (CFA) on the nine self-reported scales (fivefocal variables: ethical leadership, duty orientation, expertpower, feedback-seeking behavior and feedback-avoidingbehavior; and four control variables: authentic leadership,learning goal orientation, performance-prove goal orientation, and performance-avoid goal orientation). Consistentwith prior research (Leroy et al. 2012; Zhang and Bartol2010), and to maintain adequate indicator to sample sizeratio, we validated our measurement model using item parcels for the three high-order constructs (i.e., authentic leadership, duty orientation, and feedback-seeking behavior).We adopted an internal-consistency approach that constructsitem parcels using items from the sub-dimensions of eachconstruct (Little et al. 2002). Specifically, we constructedfour parcels for AL, one for each of its four theorizeddimensions, and treated its parcels as separate indicators.Similarly, we constructed three parcels for duty orientationbased on its theorized dimensions, and two parcels for FSBbased on its two theorized dimensions (i.e., inquiry andmonitoring). Model fit was assessed via the comparativefit index (CFI), Tucker–Lewis index (TLI), and root-meansquare error of approximation (RMSEA). CFI and TLI values of 0.90 or greater and RMSEA values of less than 0.08represent good fit (Browne and Cudeck 1993). As shown inTable 1, the nine-factor model provided adequate fit to thedata, χ2 (783) = 1451.76, p < 0.01, CFI = 0.91, TLI = 0.90,RMSEA=0.06, and was significantly better than other comparative models. We also tested an 8-factor model whichcombined the leadership variables (EL and AL) into onevariable and found the 9-factor model fit the data significantly better, suggesting AL and EL are empirically distinct.Although we used a time-lagged study design, our datawere collected from a single source, raising the possibilitythat common method variance (CMV) bias could influenceour results. Following the recommended procedures outlinedby Podsakoff et al. (2003), we found no evidence of common method variance. We conducted Harman’s single-factortest and found that the one-factor model did not fit the datawell (χ2 (819) = 4995.37, p < 0.01, CFI = 0.46, TLI = 0.43,RMSEA = 0.14), thus suggesting that the single source ofdata did not significantly contribute to common method variance in our study.Descriptive statistics, reliabilities, and correlations areprovided in Table 2. Reliabilities reported on the diagonalshow strong internal consistency across all measures. Thepatterns of correlations are consistent with our theorizing. Ethical leadership was positively related to followers’duty orientation (r = 0.30, p < 0.01) and feedback-seekingbehavior (r = 0.22, p < 0.01), and negatively related toTable 1 Comparison of measurement modelsN=249. The Δχ2 was compared with the value of the 9-factor model (proposed model)AL authentic leadership; EL ethical leadership; EP expert power; DO duty orientation; LO learning goal orientation; PPO performance-provegoal orientation; PAO performance-avoid goal orientation; FSB Feedback-seeking behavior; FAB Feedback-avoiding behaviorModel 0: AL, EL, EP, DO, LO, PPO, PAO, FSB, FAB; Model 1: AL+ EL, EP, DO, LO, PPO, PAO, FSB, FAB; Model 2: AL, EL+ EP, DO,LO, PPO, PAO, FSB, FAB; Model 3: AL+ EL+ EP, DO, LO, PPO, PAO, FSB, FAB; Model 4: AL+EL +EP, DO, LO, PPO, PAO, FSB+FAB;Model 5: AL+ EL+EP, DO+ LO+ PPO+ PAO, FSB+ FAB; Model 6: AL + EL+EP, DO+LO +PPO+PAO+FSB+FAB; Model 7: AL+EL+EP+ DO+ LO+ PPO+PAO +FSB +FAB**p

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