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Toward a Better Understanding of Behavioral Ethics in the Workplace

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Abstract

The emerging field of behavioral ethics has attracted much attention from scholars across a range of different disciplines, including social psychology, management, behavioral economics, and law. However, how behavioral ethics is situated in relation to more traditional work on business ethics within organizational behavior (OB) has not really been discussed yet. Our primary objective is to bridge the different literatures on ethics within the broad field of OB, and we suggest a full-fledged approach that we refer to as behavioral business ethics. To do so, we review the foundations and research foci of business ethics and behavioral ethics. We structure our review on three levels: the intrapersonal level, interpersonal level, and organizational level. For each level, we provide relevant research examples and outline where more research efforts are needed. We conclude by recommending future research opportunities relevant to behavioral business ethics and discuss its practical implications. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior, Volume 7 is January 21, 2020. Please see http://www.annualreviews.org/page/journal/pubdates for revised estimates.

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... Despite extensive efforts to eradicate unethical behavior in organizations, people continue to behave in self-interested and unethical ways (De Cremer & Moore, 2020). Studies have shown that unethical behavior tends to be committed by "ordinary" people who generally value morality (Gino, 2015, p. 107) and that "everybody has the capacity to be dishonest, and almost everybody cheats" (Ariely, 2012, p. C1). 1 Given the pervasiveness and detrimental nature of unethical behavior combined with the difficulties in preventing this behavior, it is especially prudent for scholars to identify and understand the consequences of unethical behavior to mitigate further damage within organizations. ...
... Studies have shown that unethical behavior tends to be committed by "ordinary" people who generally value morality (Gino, 2015, p. 107) and that "everybody has the capacity to be dishonest, and almost everybody cheats" (Ariely, 2012, p. C1). 1 Given the pervasiveness and detrimental nature of unethical behavior combined with the difficulties in preventing this behavior, it is especially prudent for scholars to identify and understand the consequences of unethical behavior to mitigate further damage within organizations. Early research addressing these questions was focused on identifying the negative consequences of unethical behavior for the organization (e.g., how unethical behavior contributes to decreased financial performance and damaged reputations; for a review, see De Cremer & Moore, 2020). However, contemporary studies have shown that unethical behavior may prompt positive behaviors as people compensate for their bad behavior (e.g., moral compensation; Cornelissen et al., 2013;Joosten et al., 2014). ...
... First, we contribute to the nascent literature on the detrimental implications of self-interested unethical behavior for the individual who is engaging in this behavior (i.e., the actor) and highlight the micro-level impact of this behavior (i.e., how this behavior can impact the individual's psychological state and everyday relationships with those in the social environment). In doing so, we answer recent calls to better understand the psychological implications of engaging in self-interested unethical behavior for the actor (e.g., De Cremer & Moore, 2020;Gino & Moore, 2015;Zhong & Robinson, 2020). These insights are critical for effectively managing the aftermath of unethical behavior as well as curtailing further negative consequences stemming from this behavior. ...
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How are individuals affected by their own self-interested unethical behavior? Although self-interested unethical behavior commonly occurs as people attempt to advantage themselves, we argue that this unethical behavior can have deleterious implications for individuals and their social relationships. We propose that engaging in self-interested unethical behavior is positively related to state paranoia—an aversive psychological state. In turn, the social cognitive biases underlying state paranoia can prompt people to misjudge the potential for social threat. This may motivate them to curtail coworker-directed affiliative behavior, thereby inadvertently undermining their social relationships. Our predictions were supported across four studies, including a behavioral study in a controlled environment, a recall study, a field survey in a single organization, and a two-wave survey. Theoretical and practical implications include highlighting the importance of understanding the personal and social consequences of self-interested unethical behavior as well as the impact of state paranoia in the workplace.
... There are two main approaches to investigate unethical behavior: 1) social psychology, and 2) traditional behavioral management (De Cremer et al., 2020). The social psychology approach has focused on the processes and mechanisms that explain unethical behavior. ...
... On the other hand, the traditional management approach seeks to comprehend the organizational conditions, such as culture and climate, that predict unethical behavior and how unethical behavior impacts other business outcomes (De Cremer et al., 2020). It also focuses on specific unethical behaviors, like ethical leadership and employee misconduct. ...
... Building on these limitations, De Cremer et al. (2020) adopt the organizational behavior approach to comprehend the study of ethical behavior by integrating both approaches (the social psychology and the traditional managerial), which comes up to the behavioral business ethics field. This proposition helps explain the antecedents and outcomes of unethical behavior by evaluating different levels (intraindividual, interpersonal, and organizational) and considering the psychological processes and contextual factors involved in the ethical decision-making process. ...
... The ethicality of leadership is essential in making organisations globally responsible social actors, which would have a significant effect on the organisations' performance. When leaders and organisations fail to conduct their business in an ethical manner, they damage organisational reputations and the industries' interests, and eventually harm the welfare of society (De Cremer & Moore, 2020). This has led to a strong "prescriptive" approach in business ethics that discusses ethicality. ...
... This has led to a strong "prescriptive" approach in business ethics that discusses ethicality. Yet understanding and complying with the prescriptive approach will not automatically increase ethics and reduce unethical behavior because even good people may sometimes do bad things (De Cremer & Moore, 2020). In this regard, the field of applied psychology plays a critical role in understanding the mechanisms behind how ethical/unethical leadership influences various employee and organisational outcomes, and it assists in sharing such knowledge with practicing leaders to make them more conscious about their ethical behaviors. ...
... By examining appraisal processes, we provide insight into the underlying theoretical processes that can explain why the COVID-19 pandemic may be associated with ethical issues and how it can influence behavior within organizations. Addressing these questions is critical because unethical behavior can have detrimental consequences for those that engage in the behavior (e.g., Hillebrandt & Barclay, 2020) as well as the organization (e.g., reputational damage, decreased financial performance; for a review, see De Cremer & Moore, 2020). While organizations have typically been under significant pressure to curtail unethical behavior (e.g., Treviño et al., 2006), the increased concerns about this behavior as well as the economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the importance of effectively managing unethical workplace behavior to promote organizational viability and financial recovery. ...
... Third, given the pervasive and damaging implications of workplace cheating behavior, it is critical to curtail this unethical behavior (see De Cremer & Moore, 2020;Treviño et al., 2006). ...
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While scholars have debated whether environmental factors (e.g., air pollution) can prompt unethical behavior (e.g., crime), we argue that the COVID‐19 pandemic provides a unique opportunity to inform this theoretical debate by elaborating on why these effects may occur, identifying how they can be overcome, and addressing methodological issues. Drawing on appraisal theories of emotion, we argue that appraising COVID‐19 (i.e., an environmental factor) as a threat can elicit anxiety. This can focus employees on their own self‐interest and prompt cheating behavior (i.e., unethical workplace behavior). However, we propose that these detrimental effects can be attenuated by prosocial messages (i.e., highlighting the meaningful and positive impact that employees’ work can have on others). Our predictions were supported using a two‐wave survey (N = 396) and an experiment (N = 163) with samples of full‐time employees during the COVID‐19 pandemic. Theoretically, our studies inform this ongoing debate by highlighting the importance of state anxiety and self‐interest as key mechanisms and that drawing peoples’ attention towards others can serve as a boundary condition. Practically, we provide insight into the ethical costs of COVID‐19 in the workplace and identify a simple yet effective strategy that organizations can use to curtail workplace cheating behavior.
... However, unethical behavior and fraud increase at a climbing rate (PwC PwC's Global Economic Crime and Fraud Survey 2020) and incur potential loss for companies (Baker et al., 2019;Browning et al., 2019). Scholars strive to understand the causes of unethical behavior and find ways to counteract it (De Cremer and Moore, 2020;Veetikazhi et al., 2020). Recent ethical research indicates that (un)ethical behavior depends on the interaction between the individual and his or her environment (Kish-Gephart et al., 2010;De Cremer and Moore, 2020). ...
... Scholars strive to understand the causes of unethical behavior and find ways to counteract it (De Cremer and Moore, 2020;Veetikazhi et al., 2020). Recent ethical research indicates that (un)ethical behavior depends on the interaction between the individual and his or her environment (Kish-Gephart et al., 2010;De Cremer and Moore, 2020). For instance, Chen et al. (2021) find that the stretch goals of employees induce unethical behavior especially when employees consider the environment as competitive; Simha and Parboteeah (2020) suggest that the influence of individual personalities (e.g., agreeableness and conscientiousness) on their justification of unethical behavior relies on the national culture (e.g., institutional collectivism and humane orientation). ...
Article
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Previous corporate social responsibility (CSR) studies at the employee level have focused on the influence of CSR on employees’ positive attitudes and behavior. However, little attention has been paid to the relationship between CSR and unethical behavior and the underlying mechanism. Based on social information processing theory, this study investigates how CSR affects employee cheating via employees’ organizational identification and perceived supervisor moral decoupling. Additionally, this study discusses the moderating effect of employee bottom-line mentality on these relationships. We test this two-path model using a sample of MBA students in China. The results indicate that both organizational identification and perceived supervisor moral decoupling mediate the relationship between CSR and cheating, and employee bottom-line mentality moderates the effect of CSR on perceived supervisor moral decoupling. Specifically, for employees low in bottom-line mentality, CSR has a significantly negative impact on perceived supervisor moral decoupling, but the same relationship is insignificant for employees with a strong bottom-line mentality. Overall, our results uncover the relationship between CSR and employee cheating and extend the understanding of the influence of CSR on employees.
... That is not to say that organizational leaders and researchers fail to consider the ramifications of unethical practice. Far from it, there has been a great deal of research on the topic of business ethics (see De Cremer & Moore, 2020). Organizational theories that encourage ethical behavior, including organizational justice theory and corporate social responsibility (CSR), are well established within the business literature. ...
Chapter
Artificial intelligence (AI) technologies are rapidly changing the way organizations operate. Applications of AI and machine learning (ML) are enabling big data insights that lead to increased organizational efficiency and efficacy. Despite its many advantages, AI also raises concerns about possible unintended consequences of wide-spread use as well as negative outcomes resulting from intentional misuse. Organizations, whether private, academic, or governmental, must therefore take caution to ensure that the use and creation of AI-based systems are done ethically. In this chapter, we identify existing ethical AI principles to establish nine key principles of ethical AI across three themes: avoiding undesired results, acting responsibly, and adding ethics in AI. Then, we identify existing organizational science theory that identifies similar concerns as these principles. We end by integrating these schools of thought and suggesting areas of alignment between them.
... algorithms. However, not all humans make decisions in ethical ways [30], and it may well be the case that people want to know that a human decision-maker is sensitive to the needs of others and holds high moral standards for him/herself before we prefer them over an algorithm. This assumption would suggest that a "moral values" effect drives the preference for human over algorithmic moral decision-making. ...
Article
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Algorithms are increasingly making decisions in organizations that carry moral consequences and such decisions are considered to be ordinarily made by leaders. An important consideration to be made by organizations is therefore whether adopting algorithms in this domain will be accepted by employees and whether this practice will harm their reputation. Considering this emergent phenomenon, we set out to examine employees’ perceptions about (a) algorithmic decision-making systems employed to occupy leadership roles and make moral decisions in organizations, and (b) the reputation of organizations that employ such systems. Furthermore, we examine the extent to which the decision agent needs to be recognized as “merely” a human, or whether more information is needed about the decision agent’s moral values (in this case, whether it is known that the human leader is humble or not) to be preferred over an algorithm. Our results reveal that participants in the algorithmic leader condition—relative to those in the human leader and humble human leader conditions—perceive the decision made to be less fair, trustworthy, and legitimate, and this in turn produces lower acceptance rates of the decision and more negative perceptions of the organization’s reputation. The human leader and humble human leader conditions do not significantly differ across all main and indirect effects. This latter effect strongly suggests that people prefer human (vs. algorithmic) leadership primarily because they are human and not necessarily because they possess certain moral values. Implications for theory, practice, and directions for future research are discussed.
... Furthermore, athletes use self-defensive mechanisms in order to justify their decision to engage in match-fixing. This way they manage to counter the negative consequences of going against their moral standards and reduce the anticipated cognitive burden (De Cremer & Moore, 2020;Martin , Kish-Gephart, &Detert, 2014). ...
... We therefore tend to avoid situations that can tempt us to act unethically (ibid). But there are situations in which our cognitive processes can help us justify unethical behaviour, especially if our cognitive resources are depleted through, for instance, stress or lack of sleep (De Cremer & Moore, 2020;Robbennolt, 2015). Furthermore, as our self-image and moral identity may influence our tendency to act immorally, reflection about our self as moral persons may consequently stop us from acting counter to that. ...
Thesis
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Leadership development is an area which is a top priority for organisations. While communication has historically been viewed as one of many leadership activities, it has recently been suggested to be more central to, even constitutive of, leadership. It has also been put forth that communication researchers may provide a means to develop new theoretical frameworks from which to develop leadership. The purpose of this thesis is to further the theoretical understanding of communicative leadership development, specifically in the form of training efforts. Furthermore, the goal is to provide a new understanding to practitioners who are working with the development of communicative leadership. This is a compilation thesis that consists of three papers. An initial literature review shows that the development of leadership communication receives interest from fields related to health, for instance, from nursing teams, businesses, the military and construction. On the other hand, the subject doesn’t receive as much attention from the field of communication studies. The results of the thesis are based on interviews with managers and communication professionals in two organisations. The findings show several benefits from having communication professionals take on a role as communication trainers, such as increased visibility of the communication department within the organisation and the opportunity to continue to support the leaders after the trainings. Additionally, a framework of adult learning is used to analyse the interviews, which highlights several points of adult learning that are relevant to the development of leadership communication. Based on the empirical data and the literature review, a model of communicative leadership development is suggested. This model is an amalgamation of what was learned from the three papers and summarises the understanding that was gained. Moreover, the model should provide practitioners with a basis for developing communicative leadership trainings as well as for developing the theory of communicative leadership.
... Although social loafing is most certainly a key element in group dynamics, this study focuses on its antecedents using an individualist perspective. Collective ethical decisions and their antecedents (individual preferences, social interactions, and social influence) are largely overlooked in the empirical ethical decision-making literature (De Cremer & Moore, 2020;Treviño, Weaver, & Reynolds, 2006). The main contribution of our paper is to fill this void in the literature and explore the way in which group ethical choices emerge. ...
Article
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The paper is one of the first empirical attempts that builds on the moral dilemmas and group rationality literature to explore the way in which group composition with respect to group members’ individual choices in moral dilemmas and social influence processes impact on group moral choices. First individually and then, in small groups, 221 participants were asked to decide on 10 moral dilemmas. Our results show that emergent group level utilitarianism is higher than the average individual utilitarianism, yet, lower than the highest individual utilitarianism within groups. We also show that average individual utilitarianism positively predicts group utilitarianism while group fragmentation in individual utilitarianism has a negative effect on group utilitarianism. Next to group composition, minority influence processes explain additional variance in group utilitarianism, cognitive dissent having a positive influence, while normative deviance a negative influence on group utilitarianism. Majority influence has no significant influence on group utilitarianism. Finally, our results show that the relationship between group fragmentation in individual utilitarianism and emergent group utilitarianism is mediated by the two forms of minority influence.
... Indeed, behavioral ethics research has greatly increased our understanding of how different contexts and situations influence the moral behavior of individuals at work, often examining immediate effects outside of conscious awareness (De Cremer & Moore, 2019). In this vein, research has identified many individual and situational factors that affect individuals' moral decision-making, such as moral awareness (Kim & Loewenstein, 2020), others' (im)moral decisions (O'Fallon & Butterfield, 2011, 2012, the ethical context of the situation (Brown & Treviño, 2006), mindfulness (Small & Lew, 2021), moral identity (Aquino & Reed, 2002;Smith et al., 2014), and many others (see Craft, 2013;Smith & Kouchaki, 2021). ...
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Taking an abductive, mixed-methods approach, we explore the content of people’s moral deliberations. In Study 1, we gather qualitative data from small groups of graduate business students discussing moral dilemmas. We analyze their conversations with a focus on how participants perceive others’ thoughts, opinions, and evaluations about the dilemmas and incorporate them into their reasoning. Ascribing such capacities to think and feel to others—i.e., mind perception—is central to morality. We use the conversations in Study 1 to identify whose minds participants perceive. Study 1 also identifies how particular elements of deliberation—including the exploration of consequences, acknowledging ambivalence, seeking alternative options, the development of deep feelings, and the search for a moral compass—are linked to these perceptions of others’ minds. In Study 2 (an exploratory, online experiment with 378 participants), we find that priming individuals with specific forms of mind perception can influence the elements of moral reasoning they employ, and we find evidence that the presence of elements of reasoning are linked to participants’ final choices in a business-related ethical dilemma.
... We need to become better skilled at understanding our own good and bad behaviour and apply those insights to interventions and training sessions on how to use intelligent technologies in more responsible ways. Such awareness training of what we call the psychological underpinnings of (un)ethical behaviour can teach us when humans are most likely to show unethical behaviour and translate those into the settings of designing and employing intelligent technology [9]. As such, the development of ethical AI will have to be founded on an interdisciplinary approach between computer science and social sciences to arrive at an understanding that will enable humans to use intelligent technology to-at the same time-augment their abilities while being able to make decisions in efficient yet ethical ways. ...
Article
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Because AI is gradually moving into the position of decision-maker in business and organizations, its influence is increasingly impacting the outcomes and interests of the human end-user. As a result, scholars and practitioners alike have become worried about the ethical implications of decisions made where AI is involved. In approaching the issue of AI ethics, it is becoming increasingly clear that society and the business world—under the influence of the big technology companies—are accepting the narrative that AI has its own ethical compass, or, in other words, that AI can decide itself to do bad or good. We argue that this is not the case. We discuss and demonstrate that AI in itself has no ethics and that good or bad decisions by algorithms are caused by human choices made at an earlier stage. For this reason, we argue that even though technology is quickly becoming better and more sophisticated a need exists to simultaneously train humans even better in shaping their ethical compass and awareness.
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Pressure to perform is ubiquitous in organizations. Although performance pressure produces beneficial outcomes, it can also encourage cheating behavior. However, removing performance pressure altogether to reduce cheating is not only impractical but also eliminates pressure's benefits. Therefore, the purpose of this research is to test an intervention to counteract some of the most harmful effects of performance pressure. Specifically, I integrate the self-protection model of workplace cheating (Mitchell et al., 2018) with self-affirmation theory (Steele, 1988) to demonstrate the utility of a personal values affirmation intervention to short-circuit the direct and indirect effects of performance pressure on cheating through anger and self-serving cognitions. Two experiments were used to test these predictions. In a lab experiment, when people affirmed core personal values, the effect of performance pressure on cheating was neutralized; as was pressure's direct effect on anger and indirect effect on cheating via anger. A field experiment replicated the intervention's ability to mitigate performance pressure's direct effect on anger and indirect effect on cheating through anger. Altogether, this work provides a useful approach for combating the harmful effects of performance pressure and offers several theoretical and practical implications. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).
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Morality is espoused and encouraged across organizations, with decades of research documenting the benefits of moral considerations in deterring unethical behavior. Despite the importance of morality at work, organizational ethics research has suggested that individuals who moralize their work are likely to experience two drawbacks. First, research suggests that moralizing work will decrease creativity because employees become overburdened by moral considerations. Second, research suggests that individuals who moralize work are prone to engage in problematic social sanctioning behavior. In this dissertation, I draw on emerging research to challenge this dismal view of moralization. Specifically, I argue that, counter to current assumptions, work moralization can increase creativity and decrease social sanctioning behaviors. Instead of being a burden, this dissertation suggests that moralization is a nuanced process that can have beneficial or problematic outcomes depending on various contextual factors that are ingrained within organizations. In Chapter 1, I draw on the dual pathway theory of creativity to demonstrate that work moralization can decrease creativity through rumination, but also increase creativity through cognitive flexibility. In Chapter 2, I draw on theories of self-conscious emotions to demonstrate that work moralization can increase social sanctions through shame, but also decrease these same behaviors through pride. I test my theory in two organizational contexts – a federal organization and a sanitation plant – and also in two complementary, immersive online experiments. This dissertation challenges the prevailing consensus surrounding work moralization, painting a more nuanced and accurate picture of this phenomenon.
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Zusammenfassung Die Mitglieder des Vereins für Socialpolitik haben auf ihrer Mitgliederversammlung am 8. Dezember 2021 mit deutlicher Mehrheit beschlossen, den seit 2012 bestehenden Ethikkodex um Inhalte der „guten beruflichen Praxis“ zu erweitern. Neben ethischen Standards für die wissenschaftliche Arbeit haben sich die Vereinsmitglieder mit diesem Beschluss auch dem Streben nach Inklusion, Nicht-Diskriminierung und Nicht-Feindseligkeit im beruflichen Umfeld verpflichtet. Alexander Kriwoluzky, Aderonke Osikominu, Doris Weichselbaumer und Georg Weizsäcker, Mitglieder einer vom Erweiterten Vorstand des Vereins mit einem ersten Entwurf betrauten Arbeitsgruppe, stellen in diesem Artikel die Motivation, den Forschungshintergrund und die Umsetzung der Erweiterung des Ethikkodexes in die Praxis dar.
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Strategies to mitigate dishonesty have met with limited success, leading behavior ethics scholars to call for a deeper understanding of the psychological mechanisms underlying dishonesty. In this article, I introduce a conceptual framework, DENIAL, that identifies four fundamental mechanisms, or justifications, which provide people a rationale to consider themselves as ethical while acting unethically. I derive these justifications from a review of scholarship within cognate fields, drawing on Moral Disengagement Theory and Neutralization Theory. I identify the victim (they Deserve it), the situation (I blame my Environment), the harm (I caused No Injury), and the social relationship (I have other ALlegiances) as fundamental justifications for dishonesty. I discuss how future mitigation strategies might harness these justifications to improve their efficacy.
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Air pollution is a serious problem that affects billions of people globally. Although the environmental and health costs of air pollution are well known, the present research investigates its ethical costs. We propose that air pollution can increase criminal and unethical behavior by increasing anxiety. Analyses of a 9-year panel of 9,360 U.S. cities found that air pollution predicted six major categories of crime; these analyses accounted for a comprehensive set of control variables (e.g., city and year fixed effects, population, law enforcement) and survived various robustness checks (e.g., balanced panel, nonparametric bootstrapped standard errors). Three subsequent experiments involving American and Indian participants established the causal effect of psychologically experiencing a polluted (vs. clean) environment on unethical behavior. Consistent with our theoretical perspective, results revealed that anxiety mediated this effect. Air pollution not only corrupts people’s health, but also can contaminate their morality.
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Recent research in social psychology has examined how psychological power affects organizational behaviors. Given that power in organizations is generally viewed as a structural construct, I examine the links between structural and psychological power and explore how their interrelationships affect organizational behavior. I argue that psychological power takes two forms: the (nonconscious) cognitive network for power and the conscious sense of power. Based on this view, I identify two causal pathways that link psychological power and structural power in predicting organizational behavior. First, the sense of power is likely to induce a sense of responsibility among (but not exclusively among) structural powerholders, which in turn leads structural powerholders to be more responsive to the views and needs of others. Second, the sense of power, when brought into conscious awareness, activates a non-conscious association between power and agentic behaviors, which in turn leads structural powerholders to enact agentic behaviors. I discuss the ways in which these predictions diverge from previous theorizing, and I address methodological challenges in examining the relationship between structural and psychological power. In doing so, I suggest that certain features of the predominant methodological approaches to studying psychological power may have induced a bias in the empirical findings that obscures the crucial link between power and responsibility.
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Our study offers an understanding of how middle managers may use routines as tools to induce their subordinates to engage in widespread unethical behavior. We conducted a 15-month ethnography at a desk sales unit within a large telecommunications firmand discovered that middle managers coerced their subordinates into deceiving upper management about the unit's performance. Based upon our findings and relying on the routine dynamics literature, we propose that middle managers engaged in a process that we label "corruptive routine translation." It involves the translation by middle managers of upper management's more abstract and higher level performance routine into a corrupted, lower level version of that routine that is enacted by frontline employees. In corruptive routine translation, middle managers respond to performance obstacles by identifying and exploiting structural vulnerabilities to generate and conceal deceptive performance. We also illustrate how routines are interdependent across levels within an organization's hierarchy, implicating upper management, middle management, and lower level employees in the collective phenomenon that is the social production of deceit. Our model contributes to the routines dynamics literature as well as to the literature on ethics at work by highlighting the corruptive routine translation process through which middle managers use routines as tools to induce deceptive performance in their subordinates.
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Good Jobs, Bad Jobs provides an insightful analysis of how and why precarious employment is gaining ground in the labor market and the role these developments have played in the decline of the middle class. Kalleberg shows that by the 1970s, government deregulation, global competition, and the rise of the service sector gained traction, while institutional protections for workers-such as unions and minimum-wage legislation-weakened. Together, these forces marked the end of postwar security for American workers. The composition of the labor force also changed significantly; the number of dual-earner families increased, as did the share of the workforce comprised of women, non-white, and immigrant workers. Of these groups, blacks, Latinos, and immigrants remain concentrated in the most precarious and low-quality jobs, with educational attainment being the leading indicator of who will earn the highest wages and experience the most job security and highest levels of autonomy and control over their jobs and schedules. Kalleberg demonstrates, however, that building a better safety net-increasing government responsibility for worker health care and retirement, as well as strengthening unions-can go a long way toward redressing the effects of today's volatile labor market. There is every reason to expect that the growth of precarious jobs-which already make up a significant share of the American job market-will continue. Good Jobs, Bad Jobs deftly shows that the decline in U.S. job quality is not the result of fluctuations in the business cycle, but rather the result of economic restructuring and the disappearance of institutional protections for workers. Only government, employers and labor working together on long-term strategies-including an expanded safety net, strengthened legal protections, and better training opportunities-can help reverse this trend. © 2011 by the American Sociological Association. All rights reserved.
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When providing social accounts (Sitkin & Bies, 1993) for the unethical conduct of subordinates, leaders may use language consistent with cognitive strategies described by Bandura (1991, 1999) in his work on moral disengagement. That is, leader's social accounts may reframe or reconstrue subordinates' unethical conduct such that it appears less reprehensible. We predict observers will respond negatively to leaders when they use moral disengagement language within social accounts and, specifically, observers will ostracize these leaders. In addition, we predict that observer moral disengagement propensity moderates this effect, such that the relationship between leaders' use of moral disengagement language within a social account and ostracism is stronger when observer moral disengagement propensity is lower versus higher. Finally, we predict that the reason why observers ostracize the leader is because observers perceive the leader's social account with moral disengagement language as unethical. Thus, perceived leader social account ethicality is predicted to mediate the interaction effect of leader's use of moral disengagement language within social accounts and observer moral disengagement propensity on ostracism. Results from an experiment and field study support our predictions. Implications for theory and practice are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record
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In an experiment on Airbnb, we find that applications from guests with distinctively African American names are 16 percent less likely to be accepted relative to identical guests with distinctively white names. Discrimination occurs among landlords of all sizes, including small landlords sharing the property and larger landlords with multiple properties. It is most pronounced among hosts who have never had an African American guest, suggesting only a subset of hosts discriminate. While rental markets have achieved significant reductions in discrimination in recent decades, our results suggest that Airbnb's current design choices facilitate discrimination and raise the possibility of erasing some of these civil rights gains.
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This empirical study explores labor in the on-demand economy using the rideshare service Uber as a case study. By conducting sustained monitoring of online driver forums and interviewing Uber drivers, we explore worker experiences within the on-demand economy. We argue that Uber’s digitally and algorithmically mediated system of flexible employment builds new forms of surveillance and control into the experience of using the system, which result in asymmetries around information and power for workers. In Uber’s system, algorithms, CSRs, passengers, semiautomated performance evaluations, and the rating system all act as a combined substitute for direct managerial control over drivers, but distributed responsibility for remote worker management also exacerbates power asymmetries between Uber and its drivers. Our study of the Uber driver experience points to the need for greater attention to the role of platform disintermediation in shaping power relations and communications between employers and workers.
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In many of the business scandals of the new millennium, the perpetrators were surrounded by people who could have recognized the misbehavior, yet failed to notice it. To explain such inaction, management scholars have been developing the area of behavioral ethics and the more specific topic of bounded ethicality—the systematic and predictable ways in which even good people engage in unethical conduct without their own awareness. In this paper, we review research on both bounded ethicality and bounded awareness, and connect the two areas to highlight the challenges of encouraging managers and leaders to notice and act to stop unethical conduct. We close with directions for future research and suggest that noticing unethical behavior should be considered a critical leadership skill.
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Prior research has demonstrated that service climate can enhance unit performance by guiding employees’ service behavior to satisfy customers. Extending this literature, we identified ethical climate toward customers as another indispensable organizational climate in service contexts and examined how and when service climate operates in conjunction with ethical climate to enhance business performance of service units. Based on data collected in 2 phases over 6 months from multiple sources of 196 movie theaters, we found that service climate and ethical climate had disparate impacts on business performance, operationalized as an index of customer attendance rate and operating income per labor hour, by enhancing service behavior and reducing unethical behavior, respectively. Furthermore, we found that service behavior and unethical behavior interacted to affect business performance, in such a way that service behavior was more positively related to business performance when unethical behavior was low than when it was high. This interactive effect between service and unethical behaviors was further strengthened by high market turbulence and competitive intensity. These findings provide new insight into theoretical development of service management and offer practical implications about how to maximize business performance of service units by managing organizational climates and employee behaviors synergistically.
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This article uses the sociology of Bourdieu to explore the social structure of working time and uses this approach to analyse interview data from 25 self-employed human resources professionals practicing in the UK. Bourdieu’s approach to exploring resources, as forms of capital that are deployed strategically by actors within social fields, is used to compare outcomes for respondents with different working time patterns. The findings demonstrate that self-employed professionals’ uses of resources are affected by distinctive and gendered temporal rhythms within and between social fields. These temporal patterns typically serve the interests of well-resourced (more typically male) actors who structure their lives according to specific routines. Self-employed people with less working time often struggle to synchronize their lives with their environments and so are often at a disadvantage in accessing and using resources. The analysis, which develops novel propositions about the ways in which actors become differentially adapted to the social structure of time, facilitates a more fine-grained and relational appreciation of gendered advantages within self-employed careers, which is likely to have wider applicability and the potential for broader impact.
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Deception is common in nature and humans are no exception. Modern societies have created institutions to control cheating, but many situations remain where only intrinsic honesty keeps people from cheating and violating rules. Psychological, sociological and economic theories suggest causal pathways to explain how the prevalence of rule violations in people's social environment, such as corruption, tax evasion or political fraud, can compromise individual intrinsic honesty. Here we present cross-societal experiments from 23 countries around the world that demonstrate a robust link between the prevalence of rule violations and intrinsic honesty. We developed an index of the 'prevalence of rule violations' (PRV) based on country-level data from the year 2003 of corruption, tax evasion and fraudulent politics. We measured intrinsic honesty in an anonymous die-rolling experiment(5). We conducted the experiments with 2,568 young participants (students) who, due to their young age in 2003, could not have influenced PRV in 2003. We find individual intrinsic honesty is stronger in the subject pools of low PRV countries than those of high PRV countries. The details of lying patterns support psychological theories of honesty. The results are consistent with theories of the cultural co-evolution of institutions and values, and show that weak institutions and cultural legacies that generate rule violations not only have direct adverse economic consequences, but might also impair individual intrinsic honesty that is crucial for the smooth functioning of society.
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Organization members who engage in "moral objection" by taking a principled stand against ethically questionable activities help to prevent such activities from persisting. Unfortunately, research suggests that they also may be perceived as less warm (i.e., pleasant, nice) than members who comply with ethically questionable procedures. In this article, we draw on role theory to explore how legitimate power influences observers' responses to moral objection. We argue that individuals expect those high in legitimate power to engage in moral objection, but expect those low in legitimate power to comply with ethically questionable practices. We further propose that these contrasting role expectations influence the extent to which moral objectors are perceived as warm and subjected to social sanctions (i.e., insults, pressure, unfriendly behavior). We test our predictions with 3 experiments. Study 1, which draws on participants' prior workplace experiences, supports the first section of our mediated moderation model in which the negative association between an actor's moral objection (vs. compliance) and observers' warmth perceptions is weaker when the actor is high rather than low in legitimate power and this effect is mediated by observers' met role expectations. Study 2, an online experiment featuring a biased hiring task, reveals that the warmth perceptions fostered by the Behavior × Legitimate Power interaction influence observers' social sanctioning intentions. Finally, Study 3, a laboratory experiment which exposes participants to unethical behavior in a virtual team task, replicates Study 2's findings and extends the results to actual as well as intended social sanctions. (PsycINFO Database Record
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The literature to date has predominantly focused on the benefits of ethical leader behaviors for recipients (e.g., employees and teams). Adopting an actor-centric perspective, in this study we examined whether exhibiting ethical leader behaviors may come at some cost to leaders. Drawing from ego depletion and moral licensing theories, we explored the potential challenges of ethical leader behavior for actors. Across 2 studies which employed multiwave designs that tracked behaviors over consecutive days, we found that leaders’ displays of ethical behavior were positively associated with increases in abusive behavior the following day. This association was mediated by increases in depletion and moral credits owing to their earlier displays of ethical behavior. These results suggest that attention is needed to balance the benefits of ethical leader behaviors for recipients against the challenges that such behaviors pose for actors, which include feelings of mental fatigue and psychological license and ultimately abusive interpersonal behaviors.
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This essay responds to, largely concurs with, and extends the concerns Jerry Davis expressed in his June 2015 editorial essay in ASQ about the state of research in organizational theory. In particular, it discusses the reasons novelty has become such a valued commodity in organizational theory and its unintended consequences. Fault lies with the way students are trained, the reward system that most universities implicitly or explicitly use to promote faculty, and the role that editors and reviewers play in wittingly or unwittingly rewarding the quest for novelty in the peer-review process. One way to revitalize organization theory while also addressing such problems would be for the researchers to begin to focus on the myriad ways that organizations shape our society and for organizational theorists to begin to collaborate with engineers and researchers in schools of public policy who are more aware of and interested in addressing problems that organizations, especially profit-making firms, create as they seek to shape their own environments.
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Employees can build their careers either by moving into a new job within their current organization or else by moving to a different organization. We use matching perspectives on job mobility to develop predictions about the different roles that those internal and external moves will play within careers. Using data on the careers of master of business administration alumni, we show how internal and external mobility are associated with very different rewards: upward progression into a job with greater responsibilities is much more likely to happen through internal mobility than external mobility; yet despite this difference, external moves offer similar increases in pay to internal, as employers seek to attract external hires. Consistent with our arguments, we also show that the pay increases associated with external moves are lower when the moves take place for reasons other than career advancement, such as following a layoff or when moving into a different kind of work. Despite growing interest in boundaryless careers, our findings indicate that internal and external mobility play very different roles in executives' careers, with upward mobility still happening overwhelmingly within organizations.
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Research in the area of offsite work arrangements (telework, remote work, etc.) has generally been focused on understanding how the experience of being offsite changes work attitudes and performance. What has been largely neglected is an investigation of how offsite work changes the experience of being in the onsite office. In a qualitative study of a Fortune 100 company on the forefront of allowing offsite work, we examine how the prevalence of offsite working arrangements influences perceptions of the onsite office as well as decisions regarding where one works. We find that individuals desire a co-located office environment as an opportunity for both social ties and work collaborations. In this distributed organization, however, that opportunity is largely not present. Individuals are working offsite not only for many traditionally known reasons but also because of how they imagine others are making their work location decisions. In this way, offsite work is seemingly spreading in a contagious way: individuals choose to work offsite as coworkers are choosing to work offsite, a finding we support in a follow-up quantitative study. We suggest that work in this area refocus to include contagion effects of offsite work and the potential for negative effects of working in a depopulated onsite office.
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Many organizations have launched online knowledge-exchanging communities to promote knowledge sharing among their employees. We empirically examine the dynamics of knowledge sharing in an organization-hosted knowledge forum. Although previous researchers have suggested that geographic and social boundaries disappear online, we hypothesize that they remain because participants prefer to share knowledge with others who share similar attributes, as a result of the challenges involved in knowledge sharing in an online community. Further, we propose that as participants acquire experience in exchanging knowledge, they learn to rely more on expertise similarity and less on categorical similarities, such as location or hierarchical status. As a result, boundaries based on categorical attributes are expected to weaken, and boundaries based on expertise are expected to strengthen, as participants gain experience in the online community. Empirical support for this argument is obtained from analyzing a longitudinal data set of an internal online knowledge community at a large multinational information technology consulting firm.