Improving Millennial Employees' OCB: A Multilevel Mediated and Moderated Model of Ethical Leadership

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Jul 31;18(15):8139. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18158139.


In the field of organizational behavior, the influence of leadership in organizations and the organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) of employees have always been two hot topics studied by scholars. However, previous studies have mainly examined the OCB of baby boomers and Generation Xers. With millennials now entering the workforce, they will highly likely not take the initiative to engage in OCB due to their different values. Scholars have found that millennials respond well to ethical leadership. Although this statement has a theoretical basis, empirical research regarding this topic is still insufficient. Thus, this study explores whether ethical leadership can effectively promote millennials' OCB. Moreover, the mediating effect of group-level ethical climate and individual-level affective well-being, and the moderating effect of individual-level moral identity, were examined. The study hypotheses were verified based on 384 valid questionnaires collected from 61 teams using Mplus 8.3. The results showed that (1) ethical leadership was a positive predictor of millennials' OCB; (2) ethical climate and affective well-being partially mediated the relationship between ethical leadership and OCB; and (3) moral identity moderated the relationship between ethical leadership and affective well-being and the indirect impact of ethical leadership on OCB. These findings provide empirical support for applying social learning theory, social information processing theory, and conservation of resources (COR)theory. This research also provides several managerial implications through which managers can more effectively improve the OCB of millennial employees.

Keywords: affective well-being; ethical climate; ethical leadership; millennials; moral identity; organizational citizenship behavior.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Leadership*
  • Morals
  • Organizations
  • Social Behavior*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires