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The Impact of Supervisor Bottom-Line Mentality on Employee Well-being and Organisational Success

Business leaders under scrutiny for prioritising profits at the expense of ethical considerations have found themselves entangled in a series of scandals. A case in point is the executives of a global aircraft manufacturer who allegedly expedited the production of a jet, resulting in tragic crashes and loss of lives. Similarly, a hospital administrator in the United States faced criticism for prolonging the lives of vegetative transplant patients to boost survival rates artificially and, subsequently, personal rewards.

These incidents underscore a disconcerting trend: the Supervisor Bottom-Line Mentality (SBLM), where managers relentlessly focus on the financial bottom line. Scholars argue that this narrow emphasis on profits can propel employees towards unethical behaviour, evident in instances such as the Volkswagen emissions scandal and the Wells Fargo fraudulent accounts debacle.

However, supervisors need not be fixated on the bottom line every single day to encourage unethical conduct. Instead, their SBLM may vary throughout the workweek. Even managers prioritising profits can uphold a commitment to ethics, positively influencing employees in coping with increased bottom-line pressures.

The variability of Supervisor Bottom-Line Mentality (SBLM) fluctuates daily, responding to the dynamic nature of work conditions. Drawing from anxiety theory and conservation of resources principles, it is suggested that SBLM variability induces an anxiety-exhaustion experience, motivating employees to undermine their colleagues. Thirdly, we explore how supervisors can mitigate this experience through their general leadership style, specifically ethical leadership.

In the fast-paced world of business, an often overlooked aspect is the variability in Supervisor Bottom-Line Mentality (SBLM). This phenomenon, where managers occasionally shift their focus to prioritise the bottom line, has significant implications for employees and the overall health of organisations.

When supervisors intensify their concentration on profits from time to time, it disrupts employees’ daily routines. The result? Increased pressure to meet bottom-line targets, leading to heightened anxiety among employees. This anxiety drains their self-regulatory resources, leaving them exhausted and, unfortunately, prone to engaging in unethical acts.

The core issue is that these exhausted employees resort to undermining their coworkers as a way to cope with the demands placed on them. This unethical behaviour becomes a means for personal gain, undermining team dynamics and potentially harming the organisation’s overall success.

SBLM is a dynamic construct that varies across a workweek. This reframing offers a more nuanced perspective, acknowledging that supervisors’ job responsibilities fluctuate, influencing their bottom-line focus.

Moreover, the integration of anxiety theory with the Conservation of Resources (COR) extends the applicability of both theories and contributes to the SBLM literature. Managing SBLM variability is crucial, as it has detrimental effects on employee well-being and productivity. The key takeaway is that organisations should encourage a consistent commitment to ethical leadership among supervisors. This overarching dedication helps offset the negative outcomes of SBLM variability, ultimately fostering a healthier and more productive work environment.

In conclusion, we can assert that SBLM has a dynamic nature, impacting employees and highlighting the pivotal role of ethical leadership in mitigating its adverse effects. As businesses navigate the complex landscape of profit-driven decisions, maintaining a steadfast commitment to ethics emerges as a key strategy for long-term success.

Insights by: Dr Jay Wasim and Parnia Ahmed