Employee ethical silence under exploitative leadership: the roles of work meaningfulness and moral potency

Zhining Wang, Shuang Ren*, Doren Chadee, Yuhang Chen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
123 Downloads (Pure)


Employees remaining silent about ethical aspects of work or organization-related issues, termed employee ethical silence, perpetuates misconduct in today’s business setting. However, how and why it occurs is not yet well specified in the business ethics literature, which is insufficient to manage corporate misconducts. In this research, we investigate how and when exploitative leadership associates with employee ethical silence. We draw from the conservation of resources theory to theorize and test a cognitive resource pathway (i.e., work meaningfulness) and a moral resource pathway (i.e., moral potency) to explain the association between exploitative leadership and employee ethical silence. Results from two studies largely support our hypotheses that work meaningfulness and moral potency mediate the effect of exploitative leadership on ethical silence contingent on performance reward expectancy. Theoretical and practical implications are thoroughly discussed in the paper.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Early online date04 Apr 2023
Publication statusEarly online date - 04 Apr 2023


  • Ethical silence
  • Exploitative leadership
  • Moral potency
  • Performance reward expectancy
  • Work meaningfulness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • General Business,Management and Accounting
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Law


Dive into the research topics of 'Employee ethical silence under exploitative leadership: the roles of work meaningfulness and moral potency'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this