Van Prooijen, J.-W., & De Vries, R. E. (2016). Organizational conspiracy beliefs: Implications for leadership styles and employee outcomes. Journal of Business and Psychology, 31, 479-491.
Purpose – Belief in conspiracy theories about societal events is widespread among citizens. The extent to which conspiracy beliefs about managers and supervisors matter in the micro-level setting of organizations has not yet been examined, however. We investigated if leadership styles predict conspiracy beliefs among employees in the context of organizations. Furthermore, we examined if such organizational conspiracy beliefs have implications for organizational commitment and turnover intentions.
Design / methodology / approach – We conducted a survey among a random sample of the US working population (N = 193).
Findings – Despotic, laissez-faire, and participative leadership styles predicted organizational conspiracy beliefs, and the relations of despotic and laissez-faire leadership with conspiracy beliefs were mediated by feelings of job insecurity. Furthermore, organizational conspiracy beliefs predicted, via decreased organizational commitment, increased turnover intentions.
Implications – Organizational conspiracy beliefs matter for how employees perceive their leaders, how they feel about their organization, and whether or not they plan to quit their jobs. A practical implication, therefore, is that it would be a mistake for managers to dismiss organizational conspiracy beliefs as innocent rumors that are harmless to the organization.
Originality / value – Three novel conclusions emerge from this study. First, organizational conspiracy beliefs occur frequently among employees. Second, participative leadership predicts decreased organizational conspiracy beliefs; despotic and laissez-faire leadership predict increased organizational conspiracy beliefs due to the contribution of these destructive leadership styles to an insecure work environment. Third, organizational conspiracy beliefs harm organizations by influencing employee commitment and, indirectly, turnover intentions.