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Bachelor’s thesis

The influence of neuroticism on the relationship between inconsistent leader behaviour and stress

Name: Anika Ramamurthy Student number: 12185531 Date of submission: 30

th

of June 2021

Program track: Management and leadership in the digital age Institution: University of Amsterdam

Supervisor: Emma van Gerven

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2 Statement of originality

I declare that this paper has been written by me, Anika Sita Ramamurthy. I confirm that the content of this paper is my original research, except where references are made to comply with my research. The faculty of Economics and Business of the University of Amsterdam is responsible for the supervision of this paper.

Signature:

X

Anika Sita Ramamurthy

Student Business Administration

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3 Abstract

The relatively new phenomenon of inconsistent leader behaviour (ILB) receives more and more attention, yet the effects are still largely undiscovered. This paper examines the relationship between ILB and stress. Specifically, this paper hypothesises that there is a positive relationship between the two, as it is believed that inconsistent leaders with unpredictable behaviour can create ambiguous work environments. Therefore, followers cannot predict what to expect, which could cause stress. In addition, the personality trait neuroticism is taken into consideration, because it tends to intensify stress as an emotional response towards unpredictable events. Hence, we expect neuroticism to moderate the positive relationship between ILB and stress by enhancing its effects. To test both hypotheses, we analysed data from a sample of 162 followers. The results did not support either of the hypotheses, suggesting that stress is not related to ILB, and the level of neuroticism does not affect this relationship either. The paper ends with a discussion of its perceived limitations and identifies future research directions.

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4 Table of contents

Statement of originality ... 2

Abstract ... 3

Table of contents ... 4

List of tables and figures ... 5

Tables ... 5

Figures ... 5

Introduction ... 6

Theoretical framework ... 7

Inconsistent leader behaviour ... 7

Stress ... 9

Inconsistent leader behaviour and stress ... 9

Neuroticism ... 10

The effect of neuroticism on inconsistent leader behaviour and stress ... 11

Methods ... 12

Sample ... 12

Procedure ... 12

Measurements ... 13

Analytical procedure ... 14

Results ... 14

Discussion ... 17

Practical implications ... 18

Limitations and further research ... 19

Conclusion ... 20

References ... 20

Appendices ... 25

Data output ... 25

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5 List of tables and figures

Tables

Table 1: Frequency of the interaction between leaders and followers……….……12 Table 2: Descriptive statistics and correlations………15 Table 3: Results for the interaction effect between ILB and neuroticism on stress

(baseline)………...16 Table 4: Results for the interaction effect between ILB and neuroticism on stress (daily diary)……….17

Figures

Model 1: The relationship between inconsistent leader behaviour and stress with neuroticism as moderator………..………11

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6 Introduction

The Covid-19 pandemic has stirred up the entire world. From the beginning, the new mission of every pharmaceutical company was to create a new vaccine against Covid (Andreadakis et al., 2020). In the crisis of the pandemic, Dutch governmental authorities have taken the lead in the vaccination program, as they decide the order and the type of vaccination available to its people. Hence, Dutch residents must decide whether to take the specific vaccine assigned to them (Ministerie van Algemene Zaken, 2021). However, one vaccine, AstraZeneca, caused stress amongst the Dutch. To elaborate, shortly after the approval of the vaccine, the EMA (European Medicines Authority) stopped the vaccination, because in incidental occasions it led to severe side effects (European Medicines Agency, 2021; Van Der Geest, 2021).

Nonetheless, the European countries soon restarted the vaccination with AstraZeneca, because the benefits are exponentially larger than the potential risks (Ter Rele & Van Heerde, 2021).

However, almost immediately, the pause button was pressed again, due to a number of severe cases registered in the Netherlands. Then the Dutch Government decided to resume AstraZeneca only for a specific age group (Van Der Geest, 2021). Overall, it can be said that the Dutch Government has shown inconsistent behaviour regarding the vaccination with AstraZeneca. In a short period of time, the authorities unpredictably shifted their guidelines from likely safe to unsafe and vice versa. These shifts caused stress among Dutch citizens, due to unpredictable and uncertain communication of this vaccine (Ter Rele & Van Heerde, 2021).

The above example shows that inconsistent leader behaviour (ILB) can affect follower stress. This research focuses on this relationship in the organisational setting. ILB is a relatively new phenomenon that has, so far, not received a lot of attention in academic literature. Prior research states that leader behaviour directly influences the well-being of their followers (Dineen, Lewicki, & Tomlinson, 2006; Felfe, Klug, & Krick, 2019; Johnson et al., 2012;

Warrick, 1981). De Cremer (2003) states that, to be effective, leaders should consistently implement processes across situations and people, because it seems that ILB can create ambiguous and confusing organisational environments for followers (Bormann & Diebig 2020;

Felfe et al., 2019; Godshalk & Sosik, 2000; Schneider, 2004). Hence, an inconsistent leader does not behave and communicate predictably and clearly, which may provoke stress, as the followers are unable to forecast the future (Johnson et al., 2012; Kemery, 2006; Matta et al., 2017; Warrick 1981). Stress can have an impact on the productivity and performance of employees, which negatively influences organisational success (Felfe et al., 2019; Godshalk &

Sosik, 2000). As stress can have a large impact on the organisation, the objective of this paper

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7 is to test whether there is a relationship between inconsistent leader behaviour and follower stress.

Besides, ILB is a relatively new phenomenon and the effects are largely undiscovered in the present literature. Therefore, the potential effect of follower stress is examined in this research paper.

There is a reason to believe that the effect of ILB on stress is different for various followers.

This can be based on their personality characteristics (Schneider, 2004). A frequently applied model to evaluate individual personalities is the Big Five personality traits. One of the Big Five personality traits is neuroticism (Baird et al., 2006; Goldberg, 1990). This trait is typified by distress with a negative state of mind (DeLongis, Lee-Baggley, & Preece, 2005; Kendler, Kuhn,

& Prescott, 2004). Neuroticism is, from the five dimensions, the most associated with stress (Armstrong & Rimes, 2016). Kim, Shin, and Swanger (2009) described that neurotic personalities have a higher likelihood of stress as an emotional response, because they react more emotionally towards negative events. Because the focus is on stress, we look at neuroticism as a moderator in this research.

This research paper aims to contribute to the existing leadership literature, specifically about inconsistent leader behaviour, in the following ways. Firstly, inconsistent leader behaviour will be analysed utilizing a longitudinal study of two weeks. This method is chosen because previous research often used cross-sectional designs or completely different ways of study. By utilising a diary design, the daily variance in perceived leader behaviour can be tracked, which is not obtained by taking the mean of a cross-sectional design. Secondly, this paper is studying whether the relationship between inconsistent leader behaviour and stress differs depending on personality, specifically whether neuroticism influences the relationship between ILB and stress. Prior literature did not consider this personality trait.

Theoretical framework Inconsistent leader behaviour

Inconsistent leader behaviour (ILB) is defined as leaders who apply irregular, changing behavioural patterns across situations, between individuals, and to individuals over time. This can be perceived as erratic and unpredictable (Hoch & Loewenstein, 1991; Matta et al., 2017).

Whereas behaviours might always change somewhat over time, sporadic, inconsistent behaviour is seen as an unstable personal factor (Johnson et al., 2012; Simons, 2002). Earlier research by De Cremer (2003) explains that the consistency rule, by Leventhal (1980), is

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8 important within groups, interpersonal relations, and corporations alike. This rule states that authorities should consistently apply processes across situations, between individuals, and to individuals over time. In addition, leaders should consistently adhere to justice rules, which assess fairness (De Cremer, 2003; Matta et al., 2017). This perceived trustworthiness and fairness of leaders can give rise to the sense of comfort in the work environment (Colquitt et al., 2012).

Previous research operationalises inconsistency as the usage of two different leader styles, which are transformational and passive (Breevaart & Zacher, 2019; Mullen et al., 2011).

Transformational leaders are seen as motivating and inspiring their employees, which has a positive effect on the employees’ performance and job satisfaction (Breevaart & Zacher, 2019;

Lyons & Schneider, 2009). On the contrary, laissez-faire leaders escape their responsibilities as they are absent and do not engage with their followers, which can be seen as a passive and inefficient leadership style (Breevaart & Zacher, 2019). This results in more perceived stress due to the absence of their manager, whom followers need for feedback in certain situations (Bormann & Diebig, 2020). By inconsistently utilising these two approaches exchangeably, followers can have the impression that the leader is simultaneously using both leadership styles or being inconsistent in practicing a given style, by showing various and conflicting actions (Mullen et al., 2011; Warrick, 1981). Breevaart and Zacher (2019) show that ideally, leaders should consistently maintain a transformational style towards their employees. Hence, inconsistent use of transformational leadership will fade the overall positive results of this strategy (Bormann & Diebig, 2020).

Furthermore, Felfe et al. (2019) focusses on the (in-)consistency between the subordinates’

direct guidance and the supervisors’ and employees’ self-leadership. The authors describe ILB as the inconsistent patterns of alignment between leaders’ self-care and staff-care. This research states that ILB establishes ambiguous work environments for followers, which can cause disputes and tension between the leaders and employees (Felfe et al., 2019; Manning, 1981).

This can happen because leaders’ behaviours and communications are very influential.

Consequently, this has a direct impact on the organisational environment, interpersonal relationships, and the followers’ well-being, performance, and satisfaction (Dineen et al., 2006;

Felfe et al, 2019; Johnson et al., 2012; Warrick, 1981). Moreover, followers’ assessment of the situation depends on the leaders’ behaviour and communication, for example, leaders that do not communicate predictably can create ambiguous and uncertain environments (Bormann &

Diebig, 2020; Johnson et al., 2012; Kemery, 2006). Hence, in these situations, followers have no frame of reference, as they cannot forecast what to expect. This can evoke stressful emotions

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9 (Kemery, 2006; Warrick 1981). Overall, the common consequences of ILB that increases stress appraisals are unfavourable outcomes for the organisation regarding trust, fairness, reducing interpersonal relationships (De Cremer, 2003), feeling insecure (De Cremer, 2003; Warrick 1981), increasing emotional, health, and physical concerns (Chen & Spector, 1991; Spector, 1998; Warrick 1981), and diminishing performance and productivity resulting in weakening organisational success (Felfe et al., 2019; Godshalk & Sosik, 2000). To elaborate, the reduced work performance is attributed to the special focus and time followers need to pay in ambiguous situations (Warrick, 1981). This affects their cognitive exhaustion and weakens their energy level in order to achieve greater job accomplishments (Colquitt et al., 2012; Manning, Motowidlo, & Packard, 1986; Zellars et al., 2000). Often, leaders might not understand the impact of their inconsistent behaviour on their followers (Mullen et al., 2011).

Stress

Job-related stress is defined as uncomfortable and troublesome emotions that one can feel within (Godshalk & Sosik, 2000; Manning et al., 1986). Stress is usually associated with a person’s physical, mental, or emotional abilities. For example, one can experience stress when the demands outweigh the person’s ability to cope with the situation (Godshalk & Sosik, 2000).

This can be caused by rising complexity in the workplace (Godshalk & Sosik, 2000) or perceived uncertainty, where employees have the feeling that they have a lack of information or circumstantial insights required to assess the future (Colquitt et al., 2012). These uncertain and ambiguous situations differ from customary or routine operational tasks in the organisational environment (Godshalk & Sosik, 2000). Hence, this uncertainty can enhance stress, as employees may feel threatened when they have insufficient access to resources needed to complete requested demands (Manning, 1981; Schneider, 2004). Stress has many negative consequences for both individuals and organisations, such as aforementioned (Chen & Spector, 1991; De Cremer, 2003; Felfe et al., 2019; Godshalk & Sosik, 2000; Spector, 1998).

Inconsistent leader behaviour and stress

Since ILB is associated with uncertainty which in turn enhances stress appraisal, this paper argues that ILB increases stress. Indeed, other authors have pointed to the fact that the inconsistent behaviour of leaders creates an ambiguous work environment for followers (Bormann & Diebig, 2020; Felfe et al., 2019), with employees finding it difficult to predict the behaviour of their leaders, as they are uncertain what to expect (Matta et al., 2017). Also, due

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10 to the unpredictable communication of leaders, followers cannot get a grasp on the future (Kemery, 2006). This leads to a blurred vision and unclarity in the organisational environment (Simons, 2002). Hence, in these ambiguous situations, followers experience a deficiency of control (Matta et al., 2017), which increases stress appraisals (Kemery, 2006; Pearce, 1981).

Therefore, as argued, the expectation is that followers experience more stress when inconsistent leader behaviour increases, see model 1.

Hypothesis 1: Inconsistent leader behaviour is positively related to follower stress.

Neuroticism

Whereas we expect a positive relationship between inconsistent leader behaviour and stress, we also think its extent might not be the same for everyone, as it will depend on and vary with the followers’ personality (Schneider, 2004). Employees’ personality traits are based on the assessment of their leader and their effects (Bormann & Diebig, 2020). The frequency and intensity of stress appraisal differ for individuals, as this relates to their degree of subjective stress. In addition, it can be that individuals, who intensively experience a certain situation as stressful, can cope with the same level of stress in other circumstances (Manning et al., 1986).

Also, some people might be more sensitive to certain events evoking stress as a response, compared to others (Manning et al., 1986; Schneider, 2004). To assess an individual’s personality a frequently used model is the Big Five personality traits. Personality can be identified based on five personality dimensions, which are agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion, openness, and neuroticism (Baird et al., 2006; Goldberg, 1990). Of the Big Five dimensions, neuroticism is the most associated with stress appraisals (Armstrong & Rimes, 2016). As the focus lies on stress in this paper, neuroticism is chosen as a moderator.

The main characteristic of neuroticism is distress, which is accompanied by guilt, nervousness, anger, depression, anxiety, impulsivity, hopelessness, and low self-esteem (Armstrong & Rimes, 2016; DeLongis et al., 2005; De Hoogh, Den Hartog, & Kalshoven, 2011;

Kendler et al., 2004; Schneider, 2004; Zellars et al., 2000). In addition, an important aspect of neuroticism is that it can intensify evoking stress appraisals as negative emotional response towards stress-related situations (Armstrong & Rimes, 2016; Bormann & Diebig, 2020;

Kendler et al., 2004; Kim et al., 2009; Manning et al., 1986; Schneider, 2004; Zellars et al., 2000), as the affected individuals do not have confidence in their own capabilities (De Hoogh et al., 2011). These responses can be caused by ambiguous circumstances in the workplace

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11 (Bormann & Diebig, 2020; Kendler et al., 2004; Kim et al., 2009; Schneider, 2004). Moreover, individuals with high levels of neuroticism are focused on their emotional status and less on problem-solving (DeLongis et al., 2005), which can make it extra difficult for them to cope with stressful situations (Bormann & Diebig, 2020). Personal, as well as organisational, outcomes will be aggravated with this negative state of mind (DeLongis et al., 2005), because they are inclined to assume the worst (Zellars et al., 2000). Delongis et al. (2005) and Schneider (2004) showed that individuals’ high on neuroticism have decreased performance outcomes when experiencing stress, affecting themselves and their organisations.

The effect of neuroticism on inconsistent leader behaviour and stress

Prior research states that individuals with high levels of neuroticism are sensitive to particular situations evoking stress as an emotional response (Armstrong & Rimes, 2016;

Bormann & Diebig, 2020; Kendler et al., 2004; Kim et al., 2009; Manning et al., 1986;

Schneider, 2004; Zellars et al., 2000). In addition, ILB can create uncertainty, which may increase the stress level of followers (Kemery, 2006; Matta et al., 2017; Pearce, 1981).

Therefore, the expected outcome of the second hypothesis is that followers with high levels of neuroticism experience more stress caused by their inconsistent leader, compared to followers with lower levels of neuroticism, see model 1.

Hypothesis 2: Inconsistent leader behaviour has a stronger positive effect on stress of followers with high levels of neuroticism as compared to followers’ low on neuroticism.

Model 1: The relationship between inconsistent leader behaviour and stress with neuroticism as moderator

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12 Methods

Sample

This quantitative research used a diary design. The data was collected in a longitudinal field study, through multiple surveys. Bachelor students, in collaboration with Master students, of the University of Amsterdam utilised convenience sampling to provide respondents for this study. The participants of this research were working for different corporations, with diverse job functions, within various fields of industries. The diary study was filled in by followers, who interacted (preferably) daily with their manager. The total sample size consisted of 162 respondents, who agreed to participate in this study. Of the followers, 45.7% were female, 51.9% of them were male, 1.2% identified themselves as different, and 1.2% preferred not to say what their gender is. The age of the respondents ranged from 17 to 65 years (M = 37.85, SD

= 14.03). On average, the organisational tenure was 7 years and 8 months (SD = 9.66) and the time they had been working with their manager was 2 years and 9 months (SD = 4.18). All the participants were working (almost) full-time. Of the followers, 31.5% had daily contact with their leader and 11.1% had more than once a day interaction, see table 1.

Table 1: Frequency of the interaction between leaders and followers

Frequency (N) Percentage Cumulative percentage

Less than once a week 21 13.0% 13.0%

Once a week 14 8.6% 21.6%

2 Times a week 16 9.9% 31.5%

3 Times a week 30 18.5% 50.0%

4 Times a week 12 7.4% 57.4%

Daily 51 31.5% 88.9%

More than once a day 18 11.1% 100.0%

Total 162 100.0% 100.0%

Note.

N = 162

Procedure

Undergraduate students of the University of Amsterdam reached out to potential respondents to participate in this study. The students found candidates in their personal network.

Each one of the students analysed the data collection for different models as a component of their thesis.

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13 The data were collected in two stages. First, after giving consent for their participation, the respondents had to fill in one baseline survey. This survey contained questions about their demographics, personality, and a baseline measure of our outcome variables. During the second stage, the participants received a daily survey about their workday and their interaction with their manager. This diary study was conducted spanning two work weeks. At the end of the diary period, subordinates were requested to ask their manager to participate in one separate survey. This survey covered questions about how the leaders perceived their leader style.

Overall, 162 participants (out of 200 approached) completed the full diary study, leading to a positive response rate of 81%.

Measurements

In this research, the independent variable was inconsistent leader behaviour, the dependent variable was stress of followers, and the moderating variable was neuroticism. This was a self- report study, where all questions were answered by followers.

Inconsistent leader behaviour. Inconsistent behaviour among leaders was measured with 4 items (e.g., “My supervisor is inconsistent in his/her behaviour” and “My supervisor is hard to predict”) based on the scale of Van Gerven, De Hoogh, Den Hartog, and Belschak (n.d).

Participants rated these items using a six-point Likert scale ranging from 1 (never) to 6 (very often). The reliability of this set of items was strong (α = 0.832). The alpha only improved when item 2 (e.g., “My supervisor is inconsistent in his/her behaviour”) will be deleted, however, the increase was less than 0.05 and the alpha was already strong. Therefore, it was not needed to delete this item (see Appendix 2a).

Stress. To measure the stress among followers 4 items of the scale by Manning, Motowidlo, and Packard (1986) were utilised with a seven-point Likert scale (1 = completely disagree and 7 = completely agree). Example items are: “I experience a lot of stress because of my work”

and “My work is extremely stressful”. Two of the four items were reverse coded, Stress_2.0R and Stress_4.0R. The reliability of this scale was sufficient as the Cronbach’s alpha = 0.797 (see Appendix 2b).

Neuroticism. To assess neuroticism 4 items from the short IPIP Baird, Donnellan, Lucas, and Oswald (2006), with a seven-point Likert scale (1 = completely disagree and 7 = completely agree), were used (e.g., “I have frequent mood swings” and “I am easily upset”). Two items were reverse coded, IPIP_9.0R and IPIP_19.0R. The internal reliability was sufficient (α = 0.706) (see Appendix 2c).

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14 Control variables. To exclude alternative justifications for clarifying the effect on these two hypotheses, two control variables were incorporated. First, since women experienced more daily stress compared to men (Matud, 2004) and assessed intimidating occurrences to be more stressful (Ptacek, Smith, & Zanas, 1992), follower gender was considered as a control variable.

This variable was characterised by 4 items (1 = male, 2 = female, 3 = differently, and 4 = prefer not to say). Follower gender could endanger the results of this research, because the findings could be explained by gender instead of neuroticism, as women could have higher results related to stress compared to men, which could explain the effect of ILB on stress. Secondly, intolerance to uncertaintyitems of the baseline survey were considered as control variable. This variable contained an average of 12 items (e.g., “I hate to be surprised” and “Unexpected events make me very upset”) based on the Intolerance to Uncertainty Scale of Colquitt, LePine, Piccolo, Rich, and Zapata (2012). The reason was that inconsistent leaders could create uncertain and ambiguous situations (Bormann & Diebig, 2020), which could enhance stress (Godshalk & Sosik, 2000; Kemery, 2006; Schneider, 2004). However, it should be noted that individuals could perceive uncertainty, but not always experience enhanced stress. This could threaten the results of this paper, because intolerance to uncertainty could explain the effects of ILB instead of stress.

Analytical procedure

To examine both hypotheses, the PROCESS v3.4 macro of Hayes (2018) model 1 was employed. Hypothesis 1 contained the independent variable inconsistent leader behaviour and the dependent variable stress, to analyse this relationship. In addition, hypothesis 2 tested the moderating effect of neuroticism on the relationship between inconsistent leader behaviour and stress, wherein inconsistent leader behaviour was the independent variable, stress was the dependent variable, and neuroticism was the moderating variable. To test the hypotheses, the baseline, as well as the daily diary survey were analysed to measure any difference between the answers given in advance and the daily measured answers, and to see whether inconsistency and perceived stress happens on a daily basis.

Results

The collected data from the baseline and diary surveys, had been analysed by using IBM SPSS Statistics 25 to test the hypotheses with a significance level of 0.05. The descriptive statistics, including the means, standard deviations, and correlations, between the variables inconsistent leader behaviour (baseline and diary), stress (baseline and diary), neuroticism, and

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15 the aforementioned control variables are shown in Table 2 (see Appendix 4). The table indicated that ILB and stress had a positive correlation, however, this was not significant. This applied for both baseline (r = .067, p = 0.394) and daily diary study (r = .123, p = 0.146). Furthermore, neuroticism had a low positive correlation with stress (baseline) (r = .281, p < .001). This indicated that the higher the level of neuroticism was, the more stress responses were observed.

However, neuroticism was not significantly correlated to stress for the daily diary study (r = .133, p = 0.106). Both baseline ILB (r = .209, p = < .05), as well as the daily diary ILB (r = .199, p = < .05) did have a positive and significant relation with neuroticism. This meant that individuals with higher levels of neuroticism perceived more inconsistency of leaders compared to individuals low on neuroticism. Further, gender (categorised into 1 = man, 2 = female, 3 = differently, and 4 = prefer not to say) had a positive, significant correlation with neuroticism (r

= .174, p = < .05), which indicated that women were more neurotic. Since category 3 and 4 did not stand for a specific gender, women were taken as the highest category in the control variable gender. Lastly, intolerance to uncertainty was positively and significantly correlated with neuroticism (r = .394, p = < .001). Gender and intolerance to uncertainty both had a positive significant correlation with neuroticism, therefore they were important control variables in this research.

Table 2: Descriptive statistics and correlations

Variable M SD 1 2 3 4 5 6

1 Inconsistent leader behaviour (baseline) 2.97 0.97

2 Stress (baseline) 4.19 1.21 0.07

3 Inconsistent leader behaviour (daily diary) 2.50 1.06 0.38** 0.08

4 Stress (daily dairy) 2.95 0.99 0.15 0.36** 0.12

5 Neuroticism 2.97 1.04 0.21* 0.28** 0.20* 0.13

6 Gender follower 1.51 0.58 -0.08 0.12 -0.11 -0.02 0.17*

7 Intolerance to uncertainty (baseline) 3.43 0.84 -0.01 0.12 0.03 0.07 0.39** 0.10

Notes. N = 162. 1 = male, 2 = female, 3 = differently, 4 = prefer not to say.

* p < 0.05 ** p < 0.001

To test both hypotheses, PROCESS v3.4 macro of Hayes (2018) model 1 was run. As a reminder, hypothesis 1 stated that inconsistent leader behaviour is positively related to follower stress. The analysis showed that for the baseline there was no significant effect of ILB on stress (b = 0.06, se = 0.10, t = 0.55, p = 0.584, 95% CI [-0.15;0.26]), see Appendix 3a. Additionally, the analysis of the daily diary study also confirmed that there was no significant effect of this relationship (b = 0.10, se = 0.08, t = 1.18, p = 0.241, 95% CI [-0.07;0.26]), see Appendix 3b.

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16 Therefore, hypothesis 1 was not supported, which means, in our sample, the level of inconsistency of their leaders was not positively nor negatively related to follower stress.

For hypothesis 2, which indicated that inconsistent leader behaviour has a stronger positive effect on stress of followers with high levels of neuroticism as compared to followers’ low on neuroticism, the interaction effect was examined, see Tables 3 and 4. This effect was also not significant for both the baseline (b = -0.10, se = 0.08, t = -1.24, p = 0.217, 95% CI [-0.26;0.06]) and daily diary study (b = -0.13 , se = 0.08, t = -1.77, p = 0.080, 95% CI [-0.29;0.02]). Therefore, hypothesis 2 was also not supported by this sample and thus, the relationship between inconsistent leaders on stress was not positively nor negatively influenced by the levels of neuroticism either.

Overall, no statistical evidence was found to support either of the two hypotheses, which means that in this study neuroticism had no effect on the relationship between ILB and stress (see Appendix 3). This also indicated that the effect was not stronger for women than for men, nor for people with higher levels of intolerance to uncertainty.

Table 3: Results for the interaction effect between ILB and neuroticism on stress (baseline)

b se t p

Constant 3.94 0.49 8.12 < 0.001

Inconsistent leader behaviour 0.06 0.10 0.55 > 0.10

Neuroticism 0.30 0.10 3.00 < 0.05

Gender follower 0.17 0.16 1.05 > 0.10

Intolerance to uncertainty 0.01 0.12 0.04 > 0.10

Inconsistent leader behaviour * neuroticism -0.10 0.08 -1.24 .217

Note.

Dependent variable is follower stress R square = 0.09

N = 162

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17 Table 4: Results for the interaction effect between ILB and neuroticism on stress (daily diary)

b se t p

Constant 3.14 0.46 6.90 < 0.001

Inconsistent leader behaviour 0.10 0.08 1.18 > 0.10

Neuroticism 0.15 0.09 1.64 > 0.10

Gender follower -0.11 0.14 -0.78 > 0.10

Intolerance to uncertainty 0.00 0.11 0.02 > 0.10

Inconsistent leader behaviour * neuroticism -0.13 0.08 -1.77 .080

Note.

Dependent variable is follower stress R square = 0.05

N = 162

Discussion

The findings of this research broaden existing literature on inconsistent leader behaviour.

This study aims to investigate whether neuroticism affects the relationship between ILB and follower stress. Unfortunately, contrary to our expectations, the outcome of this study does not support the first hypothesis, nor the second hypothesis.

The first hypothesis asserts a positive relationship between ILB and stress. However, the obtained data does not back the first hypothesis, which means that in this sample ILB is neither positively nor negatively related to stress. The second hypothesis describes a stronger positive effect between ILB and stress for followers’ high on neuroticism as compared to followers’ low on neuroticism. Also, in this case, the obtained data does not provide support for this, suggesting that the levels of neuroticism do not positively or negatively affect the relationship between ILB and stress either.

Although, we can only make assumptions based on previously published literature and this study, several alternative justifications for the findings are plausible. Firstly, we state that ILB is the main cause of stress among followers. Indeed, prior research argues that ILB creates uncertain and ambiguous work environments due to unpredictability in communication and behaviour (Bormann & Diebig, 2020; Felfe et al., 2019; Matta et al., 2017). In addition, we know that leaders should act more consistently to enhance the followers’ performance and productivity by reducing stress, which consequently leads to organisational success. This is because leaders have a direct influence on followers’ work behaviours (Dineen et al., 2006;

Felfe et al, 2019; Johnson et al., 2012; Warrick, 1981). However, stress may not only be perceived from the actions of their leader, as people can experience more stressful events

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18 occurring at the same time, such as experiencing stress-related situations at work, not caused by leaders, or in a private setting. Hence, stress is more easily experienced when more stress- related situations are combined, and people have higher levels of subjective stress (Manning et al., 1986).

Secondly, the effects of this new phenomenon are, so far, largely undiscovered, so it cannot be assumed that stress is a direct consequence of ILB. As said, prior research states that ambiguous and uncertain work environments are generated by ILB (Bormann & Diebig, 2020;

Felfe et al., 2019; Matta et al., 2017), resulting in followers enduring doubtfulness about their work prospects, which may increase their stress appraisals (Kemery, 2006; Matta et al., 2017;

Pearce, 1981). However, in contrast with the common narrative of current literature, this paper argues that a relationship between ILB and creating an uncertain environment is possible, but that stress cannot necessarily be seen as the dependent variable of ILB.

Practical implications

The results of this paper offer a critical perspective on the topic of inconsistent leader behaviour. Its findings show no effect of ILB on stress, nor that neuroticism is moderating this effect. However, prior literature provides sufficient information that there should be a positive relationship between these variables. Based on this information, several recommendations can be suggested for practical use. First of all, leaders should be considerate about their attitude towards their followers (Mullen et al., 2011), as they have a direct influence on the work environment and followers’ performance and well-being (Dineen et al., 2006; Felfe et al, 2019;

Johnson et al., 2012; Warrick, 1981). Furthermore, inconsistent leaders communicate and behave unpredictably, which results in a blurred vision and ambiguous organisational environment (Bormann & Diebig, 2020; Johnson et al., 2012; Kemery, 2006; Simons, 2002).

Therefore, leaders should articulate the appealing vision, provide orientation, and keep their followers informed. By doing this, uncertainty will be avoided, which positively influences organisational success. Thirdly, results show a positive correlation between neuroticism and intolerance to uncertainty and between neuroticism and females. This means that individuals higher on neuroticism are more intolerant to uncertainty and women are more neurotic than men. Thus, leaders need to be more considerate of their behaviour and communication towards women and individuals with higher levels of intolerance to uncertainty, as they can have stress as an emotional response to uncertain situations (Armstrong & Rimes, 2016; Bormann &

Diebig, 2020; Kendler et al., 2004; Kim et al., 2009; Manning et al., 1986; Schneider, 2004;

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19 Zellars et al., 2000). Finally, leaders should maintain a consistent leader style. Applying a consistent style provides clarity and predictability for followers, as they will know what to expect. For example, they know whether to count on their leaders for their input for certain projects or tasks. In fact, inconsistent style usage has more negative consequences for followers and organisations, than consistently absent leaders (Bormann & Diebig, 2020).

Limitations and further research

Even though, this study used a diary study combined with a baseline measure and took utmost care to fulfil the requirements, there are some limitations. First, the research utilised convenience sampling. This method was chosen to provide a sample of the workforce, where every student needed to request as many followers working for a leader as they know to participate in this study. However, this sampling method can limit the generalisability of the research making the sample possibly biased and not representable of all employees, which leaves the sample less reliable. Hence, further research can request and analyse a sample, which is representable for the entire, global workforce. Second, the small sample size of 162 participants in comparison with the total working population, can cause invalidity. We tried to request as many followers as we know, however some participants refused or dropped out of the study. By expanding the sample size, the validity of the further research can in this way be increased. Furthermore, it cannot be assumed that the respondents of the surveys answered honestly and consistently, as this was a self-report study. For example, respondents could have had days where they did not answer thoughtfully to the daily diary survey due to the length of the survey. We tried to minimise this effect, by making the daily survey approximately five minutes to fill in. However, individuals can be easily distracted and tend to have less concentration after a whole day of work. Hence, further research can try to make this daily survey even shorter or simpler, so this will not take too much time. Also, the participants could have found the questions on the surveys confronting, as followers want to give socially desirable answers. Even though, this research was anonymous, the questions about neuroticism can have a negative association confronting followers with their unstable personality. To avoid this limitation, further research needs to take a larger and more diverse sample group into consideration. In addition, each survey also needs to explicitly state that this is anonymous, and nobody sees what they answered.

Finally, another recommendation for future research would be to acknowledge the possibility that people in lower positions have more (daily) interaction with their leader. To elaborate, followers with lower positions may need more guidance in their daily routine,

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20 compared to individuals with higher positions. Future research can divide the followers into hierarchical positions to analyse any possible differences. In addition, future studies can focus more on the relationship between ILB and stress, as this research takes only four stress items into account.

Conclusion

The concept of inconsistent leader behaviour (ILB) is relatively new and therefore not a lot is known about its effects. The present research investigated the possible effect of ILB on follower stress and looked at neuroticism as a personality trait as a study moderator. No direct effect of ILB on stress was found and no interaction between ILB and follower’s personality.

This paper contributes to the present literature as it shows possible flaws and weaknesses in leader behaviour and identifies practical implications to combat these. It also makes numerous recommendations for follow-up research into this important new topic. Since most people recognise the troublesome and uncomfortable feeling of the fluctuating Government guidelines about the current Covid vaccination process, is it indeed important and very timely to have further studies investigating the effects of inconsistent leader behaviour and to find out even more about this new concept affecting many followers.

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25 Appendices

Data output

1. Descriptive statistics

Descriptive Statistics

N Minimum Maximum Mean Std. Deviation

ILB_baseline 162 1,00 5,50 2,9645 ,96759

Stress_baseline 162 1,25 7,00 4,1914 1,21217

ILB_DAILY_AV 143 1,00 5,50 2,4987 1,06288

Stress 149 1,00 6,00 2,9520 ,98806

Neuroticism_personality 162 1,25 6,50 2,9691 1,04472

F_Gender.0 162 1 4 1,51 ,582

IUS_Baseline 162 1,67 5,83 3,4290 ,83876

Valid N (listwise) 142

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26 2. Reliability checks

a. Inconsistent leader behaviour

Reliability Statistics

Cronbach's Alpha N of Items

,832 4

Item-Total Statistics

Scale Mean if Item Deleted

Scale Variance if Item Deleted

Corrected Item- Total Correlation

Cronbach's Alpha if Item Deleted

ILB_1.0 8,84 8,508 ,721 ,761

ILB_2.0 8,75 8,982 ,530 ,856

ILB_3.0 9,06 9,295 ,727 ,766

ILB_4.0 8,93 8,802 ,703 ,770

b. Stress

Reliability Statistics

Cronbach's Alpha N of Items

,797 4

Item-Total Statistics

Scale Mean if Item Deleted

Scale Variance if Item Deleted

Corrected Item- Total Correlation

Cronbach's Alpha if Item Deleted

Stress_1.0 12,9691 13,521 ,655 ,723

Stress_3.0 13,1235 13,612 ,638 ,732

Stress_2.0R 11,8086 15,187 ,529 ,784

Stress_4.0R 12,3951 14,154 ,614 ,744

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27 c. Neuroticism

Reliability Statistics

Cronbach's Alpha N of Items

,706 4

Item-Total Statistics

Scale Mean if Item Deleted

Scale Variance if Item Deleted

Corrected Item- Total Correlation

Cronbach's Alpha if Item Deleted

IPIP_4.0 8,8889 10,224 ,529 ,619

IPIP_14.0 9,3642 11,649 ,477 ,654

IPIP_9.0R 8,7963 11,207 ,532 ,624

IPIP19.0R 8,5802 10,059 ,452 ,677

3. Moderation analysis

a. Baseline

Run MATRIX procedure:

***************** PROCESS Procedure for SPSS Version 3.4 *****************

Written by Andrew F. Hayes, Ph.D. www.afhayes.com

Documentation available in Hayes (2018). www.guilford.com/p/hayes3

**************************************************************************

Model : 1 Y : Stress_b X : ILB_base W : Neurotic

Covariates:

F_Gender IUS_Base

Sample Size: 162

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28

**************************************************************************

OUTCOME VARIABLE:

Stress_b

Model Summary

R R-sq MSE F df1 df2 p

,3059 ,0936 1,3746 3,2211 5,0000 156,0000 ,0085

Model

coeff se t p LLCI ULCI

constant 3,9393 ,4857 8,1098 ,0000 2,9798 4,8987 ILB_base ,0559 ,1020 ,5486 ,5841 -,1455 ,2574 Neurotic ,3006 ,1004 2,9956 ,0032 ,1024 ,4988 Int_1 -,0989 ,0798 -1,2393 ,2171 -,2565 ,0587 F_Gender ,1710 ,1628 1,0506 ,2951 -,1505 ,4925 IUS_Base ,0045 ,1210 ,0369 ,9706 -,2346 ,2435

Product terms key:

Int_1 : ILB_base x Neurotic

Test(s) of highest order unconditional interaction(s):

R2-chng F df1 df2 p

X*W ,0089 1,5359 1,0000 156,0000 ,2171 ---

Focal predict: ILB_base (X) Mod var: Neurotic (W)

Conditional effects of the focal predictor at values of the moderator(s):

Neurotic Effect se t p LLCI ULCI -,9691 ,1518 ,1424 1,0662 ,2880 -,1294 ,4330 -,0941 ,0653 ,1041 ,6269 ,5316 -,1403 ,2709 1,0309 -,0460 ,1142 -,4029 ,6876 -,2715 ,1795

Data for visualizing the conditional effect of the focal predictor:

Paste text below into a SPSS syntax window and execute to produce plot.

DATA LIST FREE/

ILB_base Neurotic Stress_b . BEGIN DATA.

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29 -,9645 -,9691 3,7744

,0355 -,9691 3,9262 1,0355 -,9691 4,0779 -,9645 -,0941 4,1209 ,0355 -,0941 4,1861 1,0355 -,0941 4,2514 -,9645 1,0309 4,5664 ,0355 1,0309 4,5204 1,0355 1,0309 4,4744 END DATA.

GRAPH/SCATTERPLOT=

ILB_base WITH Stress_b BY Neurotic .

*********************** ANALYSIS NOTES AND ERRORS ************************

Level of confidence for all confidence intervals in output:

95,0000

W values in conditional tables are the 16th, 50th, and 84th percentiles.

NOTE: The following variables were mean centered prior to analysis:

Neurotic ILB_base

NOTE: Variables names longer than eight characters can produce incorrect output.

Shorter variable names are recommended.

--- END MATRIX ---

b. Daily diary

Run MATRIX procedure:

***************** PROCESS Procedure for SPSS Version 3.4 *****************

Written by Andrew F. Hayes, Ph.D. www.afhayes.com

Documentation available in Hayes (2018). www.guilford.com/p/hayes3

**************************************************************************

Model : 1

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30 Y : Stress

X : ILB_DAIL W : Neurotic

Covariates:

F_Gender IUS_Base

Sample Size: 142

**************************************************************************

OUTCOME VARIABLE:

Stress

Model Summary

R R-sq MSE F df1 df2 p

,2270 ,0515 ,9747 1,4783 5,0000 136,0000 ,2009

Model

coeff se t p LLCI ULCI

constant 3,1407 ,4555 6,8950 ,0000 2,2399 4,0415 ILB_DAIL ,0969 ,0823 1,1777 ,2410 -,0658 ,2597 Neurotic ,1532 ,0936 1,6377 ,1038 -,0318 ,3383 Int_1 -,1342 ,0760 -1,7655 ,0797 -,2846 ,0161 F_Gender -,1130 ,1448 -,7806 ,4364 -,3993 ,1733 IUS_Base ,0027 ,1109 ,0247 ,9803 -,2166 ,2221

Product terms key:

Int_1 : ILB_DAIL x Neurotic

Test(s) of highest order unconditional interaction(s):

R2-chng F df1 df2 p

X*W ,0217 3,1171 1,0000 136,0000 ,0797 ---

Focal predict: ILB_DAIL (X) Mod var: Neurotic (W)

Conditional effects of the focal predictor at values of the moderator(s):

Neurotic Effect se t p LLCI ULCI

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31 -,9577 ,2255 ,1131 1,9939 ,0482 ,0018 ,4491

-,0827 ,1080 ,0829 1,3030 ,1948 -,0559 ,2720 1,0423 -,0430 ,1108 -,3878 ,6988 -,2621 ,1761

Data for visualizing the conditional effect of the focal predictor:

Paste text below into a SPSS syntax window and execute to produce plot.

DATA LIST FREE/

ILB_DAIL Neurotic Stress . BEGIN DATA.

-,9961 -,9577 2,6070 -,2311 -,9577 2,7795 1,2789 -,9577 3,1200 -,9961 -,0827 2,8581 -,2311 -,0827 2,9407 1,2789 -,0827 3,1038 -,9961 1,0423 3,1809 -,2311 1,0423 3,1480 1,2789 1,0423 3,0831 END DATA.

GRAPH/SCATTERPLOT=

ILB_DAIL WITH Stress BY Neurotic .

*********************** ANALYSIS NOTES AND ERRORS ************************

Level of confidence for all confidence intervals in output:

95,0000

W values in conditional tables are the 16th, 50th, and 84th percentiles.

NOTE: The following variables were mean centered prior to analysis:

Neurotic ILB_DAIL

NOTE: Variables names longer than eight characters can produce incorrect output.

Shorter variable names are recommended.

--- END MATRIX ---

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32 4. Correlations

Figure

Updating...

References

Related subjects :