Ethical Leadership as the Reliever of Frontline Service Employees' Emotional Exhaustion: A Moderated Mediation Model.Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 02 04; 17(3)IJ
Based on the conservation of resources theory, this study aims to create new knowledge on the antecedents of emotional exhaustion. We explore the internal mechanism and boundary conditions of the impact of ethical leadership on emotional exhaustion, using data gathered from 460 frontline service employees at an airport in China. Employees completed questionnaires regarding ethical leadership, emotional exhaustion, organizational embeddedness, job satisfaction, and demographic variables. After controlling for the effects of demographic variables and company tenure, ethical leadership was found to have a negative impact on emotional exhaustion (= -0.128, p < 0.01), and to be positively related to organizational embeddedness (= 0.518, p < 0.01). After adding in the mediating variable (organizational embeddedness), the effect of ethical leadership on emotional exhaustion was no longer significant (= 0.012, ns), while organizational embeddedness emerged as significantly related to emotional exhaustion (= -0.269, p < 0.01), implying that the effect of ethical leadership on emotional exhaustion was completely mediated by organizational embeddedness. Simultaneously, the results suggested that job satisfaction could strengthen the mediating effect of organizational embeddedness on emotional exhaustion (the difference in the mediating effect between the groups with respective high and low job satisfaction was -0.096, p < 0.05). This study proposed and validated a moderated mediation model, the implications of which are that ethical leadership is an effective way to alleviate frontline service employees' emotional exhaustion.