Bottom-line mentality negatively impacts organisational behaviour, new study finds

Research by Keele Business School’s Professor Qihai Huang has revealed the impact that managers who solely focus on financial performance have on their employees’ behaviour.

The international research, published in the Journal of Managerial Psychology and co-authored by academics at three leading Chinese universities, highlights the negative impact that a manager’s bottom-line mentality can have on employees’ organisational behaviour, in the form of acting unethically in order to help achieve financial objectives. 

The study found that when managers possess a bottom-line mentality, which sees them prioritise the financial performance of the organisation over other objectives, they tend to focus on their own success in a competitive working environment whilst neglecting the needs and wants of other people around them. Consequently, it can push employees to engage in unethical behaviour, and in turn violatecore societal values, laws, or standards of proper conduct.

The researchers found that the influence of bottom-line mentality on employee unethical behaviour is stronger when employees accept the unequal distribution of power because they are less likely to question their managers’ decisions. 

To overcome this, the researchers suggest that organisations should train their employees to pursue goals ethically, based on established standards and policies for acceptable behaviour, and challenge unethical behaviour. Organisations should also create an environment that allows subordinates to question bottom-line mentality of their supervisors. 

Professor Huang said: “Our research was based on data collected from five large companies in China, indicating the need to consider cultural difference, but the findings have implications for organisations in different locations and contexts. The results demonstrate that supervisor mentality is an antecedent of employee behaviour. If organisationsface the problem of employee unethical behaviours, they are reminded that leadership may be responsible for this too.”