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Can Authentic Leadership Break Employee Silence? A Moderated Mediation Model
Author(s): 
Pages: 1178-1186
Year: Issue:  5
Journal: Psychological Science

Keyword:  authentic leadershippsychological safetyextraversionconscientiousnesssilence;
Abstract: As a guideline deeply rooted in Chinese employees, silence exists in almost all the organizations in Chinese context. However, there is little research examining the relationship between leadership and employee silence. Based on evolutionary psychological theory and person-context interaction theory, this research built a theoretical model containing authentic leadership, psychological safety, extraversion, conscientiousness, and employee silence. According to evolutionary psychological perspective, the specific psychological mechanisms that people react in different situations are derived from the evolutionary process. The mechanisms that help human survive and evolve are preserved by natural selection. When people are faced with insecurity and threats, the defense mechanism is automatically triggered, managing to escape or avoid this threatened situation; on the other hand, when people encounter comfortable situations, the psychological safety will emerge instead. Based on this theoretical argument, we contend that psychology safety serves as the mediating mechanism between authentic leadership and employees’ silence behavior. Moreover, person-context interaction theory holds that individual characteristics will work together with contextual factors to influence individual behavior. As a result, only when individual characteristics and situational factors are both investigated can we fully reveal the causes of individual behaviors. We propose the moderating roles of employees’ extraversion and conscientiousness between psychological safety and employees’ silence behavior, and the mediating mechanism of psychological safety.In order to identify these hypotheses, we investigated 222 employees in a large state-owned organization in Henan Province to conduct the survey. A sixteen-item scale developed by Walumbwa, Avolio, Gardner, Wernsing and Peterson(2008) was used to measure authentic leadership, a three-item scale developed by Detert and Burris(2007) was used to measure psychological safety, a six-item scale developed by Wong, Peng, Shi and Mao(2011) was used to measure extraversion, a six-item scale developed by Wong et al.(2011) was used to measure conscientiousness, and a five-item scale developed by Tangirala and Ramanujam(2008) was used to measure employees’ silence behavior. The results showed that: authentic leadership was negatively related to employee silence; psychological safety mediated the relationship between authentic leadership and employee silence; when employees’ extraversion and conscientiousness were higher, the negative relationship between psychological safety and employee silence were stronger, as well as the mediating effect of psychological safety. In the end, we discussed the theoretical implications of this study and future research directions. The current study contributes to the literature in three important ways. First, it verified the effectiveness of authentic leadership in inhibiting employees’ silence behavior in Chinese context. Second, we introduced followers’ psychological safety as an important mechanism between authentic leadership and subordinates’ silence behavior, which helps open the "black box" of authentic leadership. Finally, in line with person-context interaction theory, we also demonstrated the moderating role of extraversion and conscientiousness between psychological safety and employees’ silence behavior, and among the mediating mechanism psychological safety plays.
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