The Normative Foundations of Unethical Supervision in Organizations

Uenal A. F. , Warren D. E. , Chen C. C.

JOURNAL OF BUSINESS ETHICS, vol.107, no.1, pp.5-19, 2012 (Journal Indexed in SSCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 107 Issue: 1
  • Publication Date: 2012
  • Doi Number: 10.1007/s10551-012-1300-z
  • Page Numbers: pp.5-19


As research in the areas of unethical and ethical leadership grows, we note the need for more consideration of the normative assumptions in the development of constructs. Here, we focus on a subset of this literature, the "dark side" of supervisory behavior. We assert that, in the absence of a normative grounding, scholars have implicitly adopted different intuitive ethical criteria, which has contributed to confusion regarding unethical and ethical supervisory behaviors as well as the proliferation of overlapping terms and fragmentation of research. Accordingly, we offer a definition of unethical supervision grounded in the normative theories and develop a framework of unethical supervision by analyzing the constructs associated with unethical supervision from a normative perspective. Our analysis suggests a heavy emphasis on violations of the right to dignity. We also note that utilitarianism and certain forms of rights as well as justice have been largely overlooked in the unethical supervision literature. We conclude by considering the implications of our conceptualization for theory on the antecedents and consequences of unethical supervision and by explaining how our approach extends to the larger literature on unethical and ethical leadership.