Employees’ perception of corporate social responsibility, ethical leadership, scepticism toward CSR and meaningfulness at work: An empirical study of companies in Bhutan

Author Identifier

Deki Choden


Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Integrated)


School of Business and Law

First Supervisor

Mehran Nejati Ajibisheh

Second Supervisor

Azadeh Shafaei Darastani

Third Supervisor

Ben Farr-Wharton


This research investigated how and when ethical leaders drive employees to experience meaningfulness at work by influencing the employees’ perception of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). The study also examined if the employees' scepticism towards CSR in evaluating the CSR initiatives of the company moderates the above relationship. Using the social learning theory, selfconcept theory, social identity theory, and attribution theory this study posited that ethical leadership leads to more positive perceptions of CSR, consequently leading to employees experiencing an increased sense of meaningfulness at work. The study was conducted in Bhutan featuring a unique CSR environment. Bhutan represents an under-explored context of a developing country where CSR is legally required and still in its early stages of implementation. CSR as a compliance requirement ensures the active participation of companies in the country’s social and environmental initiatives thereby contributing to the country’s development philosophy of Gross National Happiness.

The research is guided by the postpositivist worldview and used a quantitative and cross-sectional survey design. The predominant data for this study was the quantitative data which was collected through a survey questionnaire. In addition, this study also collected qualitative data through semistructured interviews. The interview data were used to triangulate the quantitative findings to add value to the quantitative data and give a deeper understanding of the findings of the study. Data were obtained from 804 randomly selected employees from 15 companies to conduct the empirical study and test the proposed research model. The interview data were collected from 7 companies and 1 regulatory agency of the Government. The study conducted a total of 52 semi-structured interviews. The quantitative analysis was conducted in two segments. The basic descriptive analysis was conducted in SPSS and the Partial Least Squares Structural Equation Modelling (PLS-SEM) technique was conducted using SmartPLS version 4 to test the proposed research model.

The findings of this study supported the proposed hypothesised moderated mediation model indicating that employees’ scepticism towards CSR as a personality trait (dispositional scepticism) and situational scepticism towards ulterior motives weakens the positive impact of ethical leadership on employees’ perception of CSR, and consequently their sense of meaningfulness at work. In Bhutan, the concept of CSR is still at a nascent stage and currently facing a lot of irregularities both in policy and implementation. However, in general, the employees are supportive and encouraging of the concept of CSR. It was also learned that both the regulators and companies intend to continue the existing initiatives along with improvising the current policy and process. One of the most important implications of this study is by presenting CSR as a source of meaningfulness at work. It reveals how the CSR practice of the company represents core organisational values and the genuine concern of the company for the betterment of society. The study provides several theoretical insights for researchers and practitioners to improve the company’s CSR and develop efficient, relevant, and practical implementation plans in companies in Bhutan. The study integrates these constructs in a unique relationship that has not been examined before, broadening the comprehension of CSR manifestation within a context beyond developed countries.

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