This week we look at whether surrounding conditions are conducive to unethical behaviour.
Who follows the unethical leader in committing organisational fraud?
The role of followers in financial statement fraud has not been widely examined, even though these frauds typically involve collusion between followers and destructive leaders. In a study with 140 MBA students in the role of followers, the authors examined whether two follower personality traits were associated with behavioural intentions to comply with the demands of an unethical chief executive officer (CEO) to be complicit in committing financial statement fraud.
These personality traits are (1) self-sacrificing self-enhancement (SSSE), a form of maladaptive narcissism characterised by seemingly altruistic behaviours that are actually intended to boost self-esteem and (2) proactivity, a trait characterised by behaviours reflecting efforts to positively change one’s environment.
As predicted, follower SSSE was positively associated with follower behavioural intentions to comply with CEO pressure to commit fraud, while follower proactivity was negatively associated with fraud compliance intentions. Also as predicted, follower SSSE interacted with follower proactivity, such that followers high in SSSE and high (low) in proactivity reported greater intentions to resist (comply with) pressure from the unethical CEO to commit fraud compared to low-SSSE followers. Implications for future research and corporate governance are discussed.
Eric N. Johnson, Linda A. Kidwell, D. Jordan Lowe and Philip M. J. Reckers. 2019. Who Follows the Unethical Leader? The Association Between Followers’ Personal Characteristics and Intentions to Comply in Committing Organisational Fraud.
Journal of Business Ethics, 154(1), 181–193.
Do uncompassionate feelings matter in employee unethical behaviour?
Although anomic feelings have been found to lead employees to unethical performance, little is known about why this relationship is possible. The aim of this study is to test a compassion-based explanation of why anomic employees harm co-workers by displaying interpersonal deviance. The prediction is made that once sociological anomie (from the Greek, an-: absence, and -nomos: law) enters organisations in the form of employees’ private feelings of anomie—i.e., “anomia”—, this anomia will individually move staff to be uncompassionate in the workplace.
Three uncompassionate feelings toward co-workers are then hypothesised to mediate the relationship between anomia and interpersonal deviance: (i) negative judgments about others, (ii) over-identification, and (iii) isolation. Data were collected from 280 employees at ten hotels in the Canary Islands (Spain).
The results indicated that (a) anomia was significantly and positively linked to uncompassionate feelings and interpersonal deviance, (b) but only negative judgments about others mediated the anomia effects on interpersonal deviance. Findings suggest to managers that by spreading ethical standards that discourage negative judgments about others in the workplace, they can neutralise the mechanisms leading anomia to interpersonal deviance.
Pablo Zoghbi-Manrique-de-Lara and Rita M. Guerra-Báez. 2018. A Study of Why Anomic Employees Harm Co-workers: Do Uncompassionate Feelings Matter?
Journal of Business Ethics, 152(4), 1117–1132.
The effects of psychopathy, Machiavellianism, and narcissism on unethical behaviour
This article uses behavioural theories to develop an ethical decision-making model that describes how psychological factors affect the development of unethical intentions to commit fraud.
Andrew Harrison and his team evaluate the effects of the dark triad of personality traits (i.e., psychopathy, Machiavellianism, and narcissism) on fraud intentions and behaviours. Harrison et al. use a combination of survey results, an experiment, and structural equation modelling to empirically test the model.
The theoretical insights demonstrate that psychopathy, Machiavellianism, and narcissism affect different parts of the unethical decision-making process. Narcissism motivates individuals to act unethically for their personal benefit and changes their perceptions of their abilities to successfully commit fraud. Machiavellianism motivates individuals not only to act unethically, but also alters perceptions about the opportunities that exist to deceive others. Psychopathy has a prominent effect on how individuals rationalise their fraudulent behaviours.
Accordingly, the researchers find that the dark triad elements act in concert as powerful psychological antecedents to fraud behaviours.
Andrew Harrison, James Summers and Brian Mennecke. 2018. The Effects of the Dark Triad on Unethical Behavior.
Journal of Business Ethics, 153(1), 53–77.
Can anticipating time pressure reduce unethical behaviour?
Time pressure has been shown to have a negative impact on ethical decision-making. This paper uses an experimental approach to examine the impact of an antecedent of time pressure, whether it is anticipated or not, on participants’ perceptions of unethical behaviour.
Utilising 60 business school students at an Australian university, the authors examine the differential impact of anticipated and unanticipated time deadline pressure on participants’ perceptions of the likelihood of unethical behaviour (i.e. plagiarism) occurring.
The researchers find the perception of the likelihood of unethical behaviour occurring to be significantly reduced when time pressure is anticipated rather than unanticipated. The implications of this finding for both professional service organisations and tertiary institutions are considered.
Hwee Ping Koh, Glennda Scully and David R. Woodliff. 2018. Can Anticipating Time Pressure Reduce the Likelihood of Unethical Behaviour Occurring?
Journal of Business Ethics, 153(1), 197–213.
The ethics of predatory journals
Predatory journals operate as vanity presses, typically charging large submission or publication fees and requiring little peer review. The consequences of such journals are wide reaching, affecting the integrity of the legitimate journals they attempt to imitate, the reputations of the departments, colleges, and universities of their contributors, the actions of accreditation bodies, the reputations of their authors, and perhaps even the generosity of academic benefactors.
Using a stakeholder analysis, this study of predatory journals suggests that most stakeholders gain little in the short run from such publishing and only the editors or owners of these journals benefit in the long run. The authors also discuss counter-measures that academic and administrative faculty can employ to thwart predatory publishing.
Alexander McLeod, Arline Savage and Mark G. Simkin. 2018. The Ethics of Predatory Journals.
Journal of Business Ethics, 153(1), 121–131.
Does psychological entitlement predict unethical pro-organisational behaviour?
In this research, Allan Lee and his team examine the relationship between employee psychological entitlement (PE) and employee willingness to engage in unethical pro-organisational behaviour (UPB).
Lee et al. hypothesise that a high level of PE—the belief that one should receive desirable treatment irrespective of whether it is deserved—will increase the prevalence of this particular type of unethical behaviour. The researchers argue that, driven by self-interest and the desire to look good in the eyes of others, highly entitled employees may be more willing to engage in UPB when their personal goals are aligned with those of their organisations.
Support for this proposition was found in Study 1, which demonstrates that organisational identification accentuates the link between PE and the willingness to engage in UPB. Study 2 builds on these findings by examining a number of mediating variables that shed light on why PE leads to a greater willingness among employees to engage in UPB.
Furthermore, the team explored the differential effects of PE on UPB compared to counterproductive work behaviour (CWB). The researchers found support for their moderated mediation model, which shows that status striving and moral disengagement fully mediate the link between PE and UPB. PE was also linked to CWB and was fully mediated by perceptions of organisational justice and moral disengagement.
Allan Lee, Gary Schwarz, Alexander Newman and Alison Legood. 2019. Investigating When and Why Psychological Entitlement Predicts Unethical Pro-organizational Behaviour.
Journal of Business Ethics, 154(1), 109–126.