The Impact of Perceived Toxic Leadership on Cynicism in Officer Candidates.pdf

The Impact of Perceived Toxic Leadership on Cynicism in Officer Candidates.pdf

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Article The Impact of Perceived Toxic Leadership on Cynicism in Officer Candidates James M. Dobbs 1 and James J. Do 1 Abstract Organizational cynicism is a key factor in employee burnout, emotional exhaustion, and turnover and directly reduces organizational citizenship behavior, commitment, and effectiveness. Still, little empirical research examines antecedents of organiza- tional cynicism. This study applies a dark side of leadership framework from an organizational and leadership perspective to examine the relationship between perceived toxic leadership and organizational cynicism in a military educational environment. Survey and interview data were used to assess the relationship between toxic leadership and organizational cynicism as reported by U.S. Air Force Academy cadets. Results demonstrate a positive relationship between toxic lead- ership and organizational cynicism, such that those who report having leaders with toxic characteristics are likely to have more negative attitudes toward their orga- nization. Self-promotion emerged as the sole significant toxic leadership dimension predicting cynicism. Group differences in perceived toxic leadership are found for race but not for gender or amount of time within the organization. Keywords leadership, toxic leadership, cynicism, officer development 1 Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership, United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, CO, USA Corresponding Author: James M. Dobbs, Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership, United States Air Force Academy, 2354 Fairchild Dr. Ste 6L-101, Colorado Springs, CO 80840, USA. Email: [email protected] Armed Forces & Society 1-24 ª The Author(s) 2018 Reprints and permission: sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.nav DOI: 10.1177/0095327X17747204 journals.sagepub.com/home/afs
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The impacts of poor leadership and cynicism are increasingly recognized as prob- lems in organizations. Chaloupka (1999) defines cynicism as the condition of lost belief. Extending this to organizational cynicism captures an overarching lack of faith and positive regard for one’s own organization. The problem of organizational cynicism of employees is not limited to the workplace but rather is endemic across a broad spectrum of organizations. Mistrust of institutions across multiple and diverse sectors such as academia, government, financial institutions, big business, and the military is more pervasive now than at any time since the era of the Great Depression (Andersson & Bateman, 1997; Aydin & Akdag, 2016; Caldwell, 2006; Khan, 2014; Kouzes & Posner, 1993; Tukelturk, 2012). Follower cynicism appears to be wide- spread, and it negatively impacts the organizations tainted by it. The U.S. military is an organization that is without a profit motivation and representative of an important segment of the public sector. In recent years, the U.S. military has begun to recog- nize the profound negative effects that cynicism and toxic leadership can have on the maintenance of good order and discipline, and it has sought to increase understand- ing of these phenomena (Fellman, 2012).
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  • Fall '14
  • Armed Forces & Society, organizational cynicism, James M. Dobbs

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