Dedicated but exhausted? The role of ethical leadership for employee wellbeing in UK student unions

Josh Rivers, Neill Thompson, Debbie Jeske

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Building on previous leadership and well-being research, the aims of the present study were to investigate the relationship between ethical leadership and employee well-being (work engagement and emotional exhaustion) within student unions. We also considered the role of trust as a potential
mediator in this relationship. Survey data was collected from 137 full-time employees working at student unions in the UK. Path model analysis revealed that trust in one’s manager partially mediated the effects of ethical leadership and work engagement and emotional exhaustion. While trust increased
work engagement and reduced emotional exhaustion, ethical leadership also had a significant indirect effect on both outcomes. An interaction between employee dedication and ratings for manager’s ethical leadership suggested that more dedicated employees are less emotionally exhausted if their managers scored highly on ethical leadership. However, when the employees felt less dedicated to the job, managers’ ethical leadership behaviours did not reduce employees’ emotional exhaustion.
The study examined the effect of ethical leadership in student unions, adding to the very sparse research on the experience of full-time employees working for student unions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16-27
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Human Resource Management
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 23 Nov 2018


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