Eugenia Bajet Mestre (PhD Student, CCDI) Professor Dr. Gudrun Sander (PRIMA Host & CCDI Director) Professor Dr. Winfried Ruigrok (CCDI Director)
Leaders often engage in costly, self-interested behaviors when they have the power and discretion to do so. Because followers are well-positioned to reduce these behaviors, I test how a specific follower communication—sarcasm expression—affects a particularly costly behavior: leader overpay. In three behavioral experiments and a field study (Ns = 240–526), I test the effect of follower sarcasm on leaders' self-pay. I also test a moderator—leader moral identity—because leaders with low moral identity are more likely to overpay themselves and are more open to social norm violations (including follower sarcasm), as well as a mechanism—leader accountability—because I propose that follower sarcasm decreases leaders' overpay by increasing leaders' perceived accountability. As expected, follower sarcasm reduced leader overpay (vs. the control/no humor and vs. non-sarcastic humor), especially for leaders with weak moral identity. Study 3 replicated these results while showing explicit evidence of the accountability mechanism. Study 4 further supported these ideas with correlational data from real leaders recalling a more (vs. less) sarcastic follower, but only when the sarcasm was publicly (vs. privately) enacted. While talk is cheap, these results show that follower sarcasm can also be valuable, because it reduces leaders' overpay by increasing accountability.
contribution to scientific community
HSG Profile Area
SoM - Responsible Corporate Competitiveness (RoCC)