What makes employees behave unethically? This week’s tidbits takes a look at some likely causes.

CSR’s influence on organisational attractiveness and employer choice  
While most studies of corporate social responsibility (CSR) have been conducted at the firm level, there is a nascent interest in research at the individual, particularly the employee, level of analysis. However, the extant literature has revealed that the effect of CSR on organisational attractiveness (OA) remains under-examined.

Previous studies have overlooked the complex nature of the decisions that potential employees make about job choices while addressing the isolated effect of CSR on OA. Addressing this research gap, this study aims to answer the question: What will be the result if CSR is compared to other factors when choosing an employer?

Therefore, this study provides meaningful insights for both researchers and practitioners not only by analysing how CSR affects the OA but also by showing the importance of CSR relative to other factors, such as remuneration, location, and intellectual challenge.

Bettina Lis. 2018. Corporate social responsibility’s influence on organisational attractiveness: An investigation in the context of employer choice.
Journal of General Management, 43(3), 106-114.
First published online: March 26, 2018.


CSR and employee cynicism and the importance of trust 
This study examines to what extent perceived corporate social responsibility (CSR) reduces employee cynicism, and whether trust plays a mediating role in the relationship between CSR and employee cynicism.

Three distinct contributions beyond the existing literature are offered.
First, the relationship between perceived CSR and employee cynicism is explored in greater detail than has previously been the case.
Second, trust in the company leaders is positioned as a mediator of the relationship between CSR and employee cynicism.
Third, the authors disaggregate the measure of CSR and explore the links between this and with employee cynicism.

The findings illustrate that the four distinct dimensions of CSR of Carroll (economic, legal, ethical, and discretionary) are indirectly linked to employee cynicism via organizational trust. In general terms, the findings will help company leaders to understand employees’ counterproductive reactions to an organisation, the importance of CSR for internal stakeholders, and the need to engage in trust recovery.

Carolina Serrano Archimi, Emmanuelle Reynaud, Hina Mahboob Yasin and Zeeshan Ahmed Bhatti. 2018. How Perceived Corporate Social Responsibility Affects Employee Cynicism: The Mediating Role of Organizational Trust.
Journal of Business Ethics, 151(4), 907–921.


Organisational factors and employees’ unethical behaviour in Chinese firms 
Unethical behaviour is under-examined in the workplace. To date, few studies have attempted to explore the antecedents of an employee’s ethical decisions, particularly with respect to unethical behaviour and its effects.

To capture an employee’s psychological perception of unethical behaviour in the workplace, this paper integrates organisational factors (codes of conduct, likelihood of detection, and performance pressure) into the Theory of Reasoned Action. By conducting an empirical study in a Chinese firm, the authors found that codes of conduct and performance pressure have a significant influence on an employee’s attitude toward and social beliefs about unethical behaviour.

The authors also demonstrated that employees’ unethical behaviours affect the firm performance of an entrepreneurial venture. The insights gleaned from the findings on this Chinese company have a number of important implications for both research and practice.

Xiaolin Lin, Paul F. Clay, Nick Hajli and Majid Dadgar. 2018. Investigating the Impacts of Organizational Factors on Employees’ Unethical Behavior Within Organization in the Context of Chinese Firms.
Journal of Business Ethics, 150(3), 779–791.


Developing ethical behaviour in employees in financial institutions
Organisational culture and employee conduct in financial institutions are coming under increasing scrutiny by regulators who seek to identify the underlying sources of unethical behaviour. The literature on ethics in the workplace has often emphasised the importance of the alignment of systems and processes with organisational values and the role of the leader in creating an ethical culture.

Less is known about how individual employees experience the ethical decision-making process, especially in complex and high-risk business environments where there are discrepancies between an organisation’s formal ethical standards and its informal practices.

This article combines ethical decision-making models with key concepts from organisation and adult learning theories to develop a deeper and more nuanced view of how individuals in financial institutions deal with ethical issues that arise in their daily work. Eight practical ideas are formulated to help financial institutions narrow the gap between formal ethical standards and actual practices and develop a culture that promotes ethical behaviour: challenging authority, creating opportunities for discourse, valuing positive emotion, making time for reflection, rewarding ethical behaviour, strengthening escalation processes, eliciting feedback, and establishing a learning culture.

Rachel Fichter. 2018. Do the Right Thing! Developing Ethical Behaviour in Financial Institutions.
Journal of Business Ethics, 151(1), 69–84.


Corporate Sustainable Innovation and employee behaviour (France) 
Corporate sustainable innovation is a major driver of institutional change, and its success can be largely attributed to employees. While some scholars have described the importance of intrinsic motivations and flexibility to facilitate innovation, others have argued that constraints and extrinsic motivations stimulate innovation.

In the context of sustainable innovation, the authors explore which employee work practices are more conducive to firm-level innovation in corporate sustainability.  The results, based on a sample of 4640 French employees from 1764 firms, confirm the positive impact of intrinsic motivations (through employee social interactions), and the negative impact of job strain (through high imposed work pace), on corporate sustainable innovation.

The authors also find that extrinsic rewards, through pay satisfaction, counteract the negative effect of job strain to promote sustainable innovation. This indicates that intrinsic and extrinsic rewards can work in tandem to facilitate sustainable innovation.

Magali A. Delmas and Sanja Pekovic. 2018. Corporate Sustainable Innovation and Employee Behaviour.
Journal of Business Ethics, 150(4), 1071–1088.


The influence of native versus foreign language on Chinese subjects’ aggressive financial reporting judgments 
Researchers have suggested that ethical judgments about “right” and “wrong” are the result of deep and thoughtful principles and should therefore be consistent and not influenced by factors, such as language (Costa et al. in PLoS ONE 9(4):e94842, 2014b, p. 1). As long as an ethical scenario is understood, individuals’ resolution should not depend on whether the ethical scenario is presented in their native language or in a foreign language.

Given the forces of globalisation and international convergence, an increasing number of accountants and accounting students are becoming proficient in more than one language, and they are required to interpret and apply complex ethical pronouncements issued by various global standard setters both in their native language and in English.

There have been calls in the literature to examine whether subjects make systematically different ethical judgments in a foreign language than in their native language. The authors contribute to the literature by drawing on culture, linguistics, and psychology research to provide empirical evidence that Chinese subjects are more aggressive in interpreting the concept of control when providing their consolidation reporting recommendations in English than in Simplified Chinese.

The authors applied a 2 × 2 within-subject and between-subject randomised experimental design using a sample of Chinese final year undergraduate accounting students at a leading Chinese university, where accounting courses are taught in both Simplified Chinese and English. Students in this study are proxy for entry-level accounting practitioners.

The findings have implications for the globalised business world and cross-cultural research by challenging the commonly held assumption that an individual’s ethical judgment is consistent in different languages. The authors suggest that systematically different ethical judgments in native and foreign languages needs to be recognised.

Peipei Pan and Chris Patel. 2018. The Influence of Native Versus Foreign Language on Chinese Subjects’ Aggressive Financial Reporting Judgments.
Journal of Business Ethics, 150(3), 863–878.


Gamifying labour: Is it exploitation? 
Recently, business organisations have increasingly turned to a novel form of non-monetary incentives—that is, “gamification,” which refers to a motivation technique using video game elements, such as digital points, badges, and friendly competition in non-game contexts like workplaces.

The introduction of gamification to the context of human resource management has immediately become embroiled in serious moral debates. Most notable is the accusation that using gamification as a motivation tool, employers exploit workers. This article offers an in-depth analysis of the moral charge of exploitation.

This article maintains that there are no clear grounds for believing that gamification of labour is exploitative and that if gamification of labour involves a wrong or vice, it must be something other than exploitation.

Tae Wan Kim. 2018. Gamification of Labor and the Charge of Exploitation.
Journal of Business Ethics, 152(1), 27–39.


When Machiavellian employees work with Machiavellian leaders 
Machiavellians are manipulative and deceitful individuals willing to utilise any strategy or behaviour needed to attain their goals. This study explores what occurs when Machiavellian employees have a Machiavellian leader with the same negative, manipulative disposition. The authors argue that Machiavellian employees have a negative worldview and are likely to trust their leaders less.

This reduced trust likely results in these employees experiencing higher stress and engaging in more unethical behaviour. In addition, the authors expect these negative relationships to be exacerbated when such followers experience Machiavellian leadership. Thus, the investigators tested a moderated mediation model assessing whether Machiavellianism affects employees and whether combining Machiavellian leaders and Machiavellian employees is toxic in the sense of exacerbating the negative impact of Machiavellianism on employee trust.

Results do not support the proposed conditional indirect effect of trust for either stress or unethical behaviour. Instead, they find a conditional direct effect of employee Machiavellianism on both trust and stress: When Machiavellian employees have Machiavellian leaders, their trust in their leader significantly decreases, and their level of stress significantly increases.

The researchers also find support for an unconditional indirect effect of trust for employee stress (but not for unethical work behaviours), Machiavellianism in employees relates to stress via lowered trust in the leader. For unethical behaviour, they only find a main effect of employee Machiavellianism.

Read this Open Access article for free online

Frank D. Belschak, Rabiah S. Muhammad and Deanne N. Den Hartog. 2018. Birds of a Feather can Butt Heads: When Machiavellian Employees Work with Machiavellian Leaders.
Journal of Business Ethics, 151(3) 613–626.