The Hidden Danger of Narcissistic Leaders

Publication: Academy of Management Review (2015)
Article: Narcissistic Organizational Identification: Seeing Oneself as Central to the Organization’s Identity
Reviewed by: Ben Sher


Narcissistic leaders can bring down an organization even when they are trying to build it up. Work by Galvin, Lange, and Ashforth (2015) uses extant organizational research findings to propose a new theory that may explain why this is so. They say that something called narcissistic organizational identification is to blame, and they demonstrate several ways that it happens and discuss how we can make sure this phenomenon doesn’t end up ruining businesses.



The authors begin with a discussion of organizational identification, which is when employees believe that their organization makes up an important part of their own self-identity. Because of this overlap between self and organization, employees who may be motivated to act toward their own self-interest will also act toward the self-interest of the organization. For example, they may engage in behavior that is likely to help the organization, such as organizational citizenship behavior, which means going above and beyond job requirements.

The authors say that there are four major conditions that lead people to identify with their organization. These antecedents include:

  • Sense of control over the organization (which fosters good feelings)
  • Feeling of psychological ownership (that the organization is at least partially “mine”)
  • Sense that the organization is regarded highly by others (that it’s something worthwhile)
  • Others consider you to be fundamental to the organization (creates a sense of connectedness)



In this article, the authors propose a new type of organizational identification. Unlike conventional organizational identification, which is highly desirable, narcissistic organizational identification is just as bad as it sounds. It starts when narcissistic organizational leaders encounter the same four situations listed above. Instead of healthy and productive outcomes, it results in narcissistic organizational leaders considering their own personal identity as paramount to the organization’s identity. In other words, this kind of leader believes that he or she “is” the organization. This is bad, say the authors, because these leaders believe that serving their own interests is just as good as serving the organization’s interests—after all, they “are” the organization. Similarly, they say that narcissistic identification can make leaders feel self-important, grandiose, overly superior, or entitled. It’s not difficult to imagine how that could affect their propensity to behave unethically.

The authors explain that narcissistic organizational identification can encourage leaders to engage in theft or nepotism in an effort to better themselves. Although unethical, it may seem logically sound if they consider that their own success and status is the same exact thing as organizational success and status. And finally, These leaders may also attempt to mold a company so that it reflects their own personal values, because they first consider who “they are” when determining what the organization “should be.” If they are risk taking, they will drive the organization to risk taking.



This article lays groundwork for an emerging area of research that will help us further understand the damage caused by narcissistic leaders. Influential organizational people may want to be on the lookout for narcissistic leaders, especially when exhibiting some of the signs mentioned in this article. It could be a sign of narcissistic organizational identification. This article also helps explain how some of these leaders may appear to be highly committed to their companies at the same time. Just because a CEO works very hard to build or lead an organization, does not mean that the same person will avoid unethical behavior that could damage the organization. This is especially so because the narcissistic leader may believe that acting out of self-interest is doing what’s best for the organization.

Although the authors admit that CEOs and other high level executive are most naturally at risk for narcissistic identification, they say that it could also affect lower level employees who lead a division or team within an organization. The detrimental effects of the narcissistic leader may be affecting workplaces in more places than we might first think. This is another reason why continued research is necessary in this area. In the meantime, be on the lookout for the narcissist in power; he or she may even appear well-intentioned.

Ethical Leadership Inspires Trust and Employee Success

Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology
Article: Ethical Leadership: Meta-Analytic Evidence of Criterion-Related and Incremental Validity
Reviewed by: Ben Sher


Ethical leadership certainly sounds like a good idea, but I-O psychologists will require scientific evidence before being convinced. Is ethical leadership something different from other effective leadership styles or behaviors, and does ethical leadership lead to anything positive in the workplace? New research (Ng & Feldman, 2015) has answered this question. Results show that ethical leadership is a real, distinct idea, and it can indeed lead to positive workplace outcomes that extend beyond the effects of other leadership styles.



This study was a meta-analysis, meaning it statistically combined results from many previous studies. The philosophy of meta-analysis is that combining results from many studies provides a more accurate estimation of reality than a single study in a single situation.

The researchers explain that ethical leadership occurs when leaders display appropriate and morally expected behavior in all situations. They interact ethically with the people they supervise, as well as demonstrate ethical behavior when interacting with other types of people such as their supervisors or customers. When ethical leadership is demonstrated, results show that subordinates feel more satisfaction with the leader, perceive that the leader is more effective, and have greater trust in the leader.

The authors also found that ethical leadership is related to many positive organizational outcomes, including increased job satisfaction, increased motivation, better task performance, more citizenship behavior (this is when employees go beyond formal job descriptions) and lower counterproductive work behavior (i.e. rudeness or sabotage).

Ethical leadership was also associated with lower job strains (or elements of a job that cause stress), increased commitment, increased organizational identification, and lower turnover.



The authors found a factor that explains why all of the positive outcomes listed above were associated with ethical leadership. The authors used advanced statistical models to show that ethical leaders cause their subordinates to trust them more. For example, imagine a leader admits to making a mistake and marginalizing the work of an employee. The leader says that she will not make the same mistake in the future. Because the leader is seen as an ethical leader, the employee will be more likely to trust her and continue to have positive attitudes about the job and continue working hard. If the leader isn’t trusted, the employee might immediately make negative behavioral changes. The bottom line is that ethical leaders inspire trust, which inspires good work on the job.

Finally, the researchers show that ethical leadership can be can used to predict all of the positive outcomes we’ve mentioned, even when similar psychological traits are also being used in prediction. That is to say, there is something unique about ethical leadership that isn’t covered by other positive leadership styles. As an example, transformational leadership, or when leaders inspire followers to believe in some greater purpose, has also been associated with positive organizational outcomes. Yet organizations are not maximizing positive outcomes by merely hiring transformational leaders. Ethical leadership predicts some significant aspect of positive performance that is not covered by transformational leadership or other similar research-supported concepts. Ethical leadership also predicts some aspect of good performance beyond what is caused by an overall ethical organizational environment. Direct supervisors need to be ethical, not just the organizational higher-ups, say the authors.



This study uses an impressive amount of data to show that ethical leadership is a unique concept that has very positive organizational outcomes. This means, say the authors, that organizations benefit from either training managers to display ethical leadership, or hiring ethical leaders from the start. Positive leadership in other regards will not be a substitute for this, but can work in tandem with ethical leadership to allow organizations to maximize positive outcome such as increased performance and lower turnover. Because this study identified trust as the mechanism that allows ethical leadership to work, organizations can better appreciate and focus on the importance of this interpersonal element when training leaders.

Ethics in the Workplace: Anxious Employees May Cause Trouble

Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology
Article: Anxious, threatened, and also unethical: How anxiety makes individuals feel threatened and commit unethical acts
Reviewed by: Kayla Weaver


The factors that affect ethics in the workplace are not as simple as they may seem. For example, imagine that you arrive at work a few minutes late because a large traffic accident caused commuting delays. You finally get settled at your desk and are ready to take on the day, when you get an email saying that your boss wants to see you immediately. The email is vague and does not state why your boss wants to see you. Perhaps she knows you arrived to work late. Maybe she has concerns about the report you turned in yesterday. Suddenly, you feel anxious, nervous, and ill at ease.

The workplace is replete with daily events, like the one described above, that provoke anxiety for employees. Although these events may be common, that does not mean they are benign; in fact, the consequences of workplace anxiety may be quite severe for organizations and individuals. A series of studies conducted by Kouchaki and Desai (2015) suggests that when employees experience anxiety at work they may also feel threatened, and as a result, are more likely to engage in unethical behavior.



Across multiple studies, individuals who were made to feel anxious were more likely to engage in unethical behavior than individuals in a neutral state. These findings were consistent for participants in both lab and online samples. A lab study involving undergraduate students showed that students who were made to feel anxious were more likely to engage in unethical behavior than students in the neutral condition. In the online study, participants were asked to read a workplace scenario in which their boss asked them to include false information in a company report. Participants who were made to fell anxious were more likely to endorse lying in the company report than participants in the neutral state condition.



As previously described, the research findings support the idea that anxious individuals are more likely to commit unethical acts than non-anxious individuals. But why does this occur? Anxiety can engender feelings of threat such that individuals feel their status, resources, or power are being threatened. The existence of both anxiety and threat can create discomfort for employees, thus motivating them to cope with and remove the threat. As a result, individuals who are in an anxious state become more self-interested and protective of their resources, which may make them less mindful of ethical principles.



The final study conducted by Kouchaki and Desai (2015) aimed to test the prior conclusions using a workplace sample. The researchers collected survey responses from 74 employees and their respective supervisors (these two-person combinations are also called “dyads”). Employees reported their general level of anxiety and threat at work, while the supervisors provided ratings of the employees’ ethical behavior at work. The results showed that employees who said they had higher levels of anxiety were rated as more unethical by their supervisors. This relationship was found to be true due to perceived threat, such that employees who were more anxious reported higher perceptions of threat, and in turn, were described as engaging in more unethical behaviors than employees with lower levels of anxiety and threat.



Anxiety is a common occurrence for employees who are faced with daily workplace challenges and stressors. Thus, it is important for organizations to understand that when employees are in an anxious state, they may be more likely to engage in selfish, unethical behavior. To alleviate the consequences related to anxiety, organizations can engage in proactive measures that aim to lessen employee anxiety. The authors suggest that organizations may need to evaluate and restructure their culture in order to eliminate the factors that contribute to anxiety. For example, innovative companies like Google utilize play stations and fun furniture to make the workplace more fun for employees. In addition, physical exercise has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. Therefore, organizations that promote employees’ physical wellness may help employees cope with anxiety via healthy, ethical strategies.

Finally, organizations should ensure that they have set realistic expectations for employees. Employees are humans and cannot ‘do it all’. Creating boundaries that allow employees to accomplish work tasks within realistic work hours and deadlines will help employees maintain a healthy lifestyle (e.g., getting quality sleep), leading to reduced anxiety and fewer negative organizational outcomes.

Corporate Ethics: Good Behavior Leads to Less Turnover

Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology
Article: Does Ethical Membership Matter? Moral Identification and Its Organizational Implications
Reviewed by: Ben Sher


Corporate ethics are always a hot news topic, especially when multi-millionaires are shamefully led away in handcuffs due to widespread criminal behavior. When “cooking the books” or other illegalities can threaten to destroy or tarnish the reputation of any company, ethics and morality need to be at the forefront of organizational concerns. New research (May, Chang, & Shao, 2015) sheds new light on the advantages of businesses engaging in morally responsible behavior. It’s not merely that they avoid the harmful consequences of being caught, but there may be inherent advantages to being an ethical organization, especially in regards to employee behavior.



The authors propose a new concept called moral identification. This is the extent to which employees feel a sense of personal identification with an organization, specifically based upon the organization’s moral behavior. And it makes sense. If I believe that I am a generous and giving person, but I consider my company to be greedy and “blood-sucking”, then I will not consider myself to be “similar” to my company. On the other hand, if I work for a company that is known for its generosity and charitable activities, then it’s as if I am “similar” to my company.



Moral identification may sound like a simple and intuitive matter, but the authors conducted several studies to show that moral identification has important outcomes, and appears to affect employee behavior. In the first study, the authors found that moral identification explains why employees who put extra value on moral behavior are attracted to organizations that themselves behave morally. In other words, moral people want to work at moral organizations because they recognize that the organizations are “similar” to themselves. This dynamic could be used to an organization’s advantage, and allow them to attract employees who have higher ethical standards and are less likely to engage in unethical behavior that compromises productivity.



In a second study, the authors found that employees who morally identify with their organization are less likely to engage in certain unethical behavior on the job. The authors specifically measured unethical pro-organizational behavior, which means something that benefits the organization but still breaks laws or standards. The authors found that this type of behavior was reduced when employees had a moral identification with the company. The authors say that people have a need to be consistent in their thoughts and actions. Basically, if employees consider themselves to be moral and believe they are similar to their company because it is also ethical, then they have greater impetus to maintain their standards by actually acting morally. This second study shows that ethical organizations don’t merely attract ethical employees, but also continue to promote ethical behavior once they are on the job.



The third and final study showed that when employees morally identify with their organizations, they are more likely to remain on the job, resulting in lower turnover. Again, employees need to be consistent in their actions, and if they believe that they work for a company because it is ethical, they naturally would want to remain working for that company. The authors also found that when organizations did not act ethically, all bets were off. Under these circumstances, employees who once had a moral identification would not necessarily remain in the job now that ethical behavior was compromised.



In this study, the authors found that when employees perceive that they are similar to an organization based upon ethical values, three things occur. These type of employees are attracted to the organization, they engage in less unethical behavior when on the job, and are less likely to turnover. In sum, this means that organizations stand to gain when demonstrating and championing ethical behavior. It’s not merely a ruse for publicity, or to avoid the harsh ramifications associated with being caught. Instead, ethical organizations benefit via the type of people they attract, and their behavior while on the job.

How can organizations improve their reputation as ethical organizations? The authors make several recommendations, including espousing ethical values to potential employees during recruitment, and incorporating ethical standards into incentive programs and performance management processes. Finally, this research is important because it helps reframe ethical behavior as something organizations should strive toward—with clear and measurable payoffs for all—as oppose to a set of threatening rules to be wary of in order to avoid jail time.

Unethical Employees May Have Been Socially-Ostracized at Work

Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology
Article: Excluded and Behaving Unethically: Social Exclusion, Physiological Responses, and Unethical Behavior
Reviewed by: Ben Sher


Unethical employees can plague a workplace, costing companies money as well as their reputations. But organizations don’t always have fool-proof ways to combat unethical behavior. New research by Kouchaki and Wareham (2015) has identified one type of workplace activity that may lead employees to increase unethical behavior. Using state-of-the-art equipment, they were able to measure physiological changes in certain employees that may have caused them to act unethically. So what is the culprit? What makes certain employees act unethically?



First, the authors point out that unethical behavior occurs when someone has defied the standards of society in general, as oppose to workplace deviance, which is when employees defy standards specific to a particular place of work. They say that people can usually stop themselves from behaving unethically, because unethical behavior typically makes a person feel anxiety or guilt. These feelings may signal the perpetrator that his or her actions are morally unjust, and the behavior might stop. The real problem occurs when the perpetrator can attribute the feelings of anxiety to some other outside cause. In this situation, the person will not readily consider the moral dilemma at hand, and may continue acting unethically.

In the current study, the authors conducted two studies and found that employees who were socially-ostracized or excluded exhibited a heightened sense of arousal (such as increased anxiety). When these employees were about to act unethically, they could easily attribute the anxiety to their troubling social situation, and not the fact that they were about to do something unethical. This seemed to lead these employees to increase their unethical behavior.



This research is important for several reasons. First, it provides organizations with a better understanding of when unethical behavior can occur. By showing that excluded employees increased their unethical behavior, the study provides organizations with a way to combat the unethical behavior. Leaders can make an effort to help all employees feel like they are part of the team, through their words and their actions. Besides for increasing interpersonal fairness toward potentially excluded employees, this study shows that it will also help the organization as a whole, by likely decreasing unethical behavior.

The authors also note that the specific finding of this study, namely that excluding employees may lead them to increase unethical behavior, can turn into a vicious cycle. When these employees are known to commit unethical behavior, their coworkers may exclude or ostracize them even more. This is a warning call to organizations to try to stop this cycle by mitigating exclusionary behavior in the workplace.

Another contribution of this study, note the authors, is that it highlights the role of emotional or physiological influences on decision making. We like to think of decision making as a completely rational process. But research shows that this is not always the case. In this study, physiological changes in a person’s body were at least partially to blame for unethical behavior. Interestingly, these physiological changes had nothing to do with the unethical behavior itself, and instead emanated from a completely non-related outside source. Organizational leaders need to be aware of this dynamic when trying to explain or influence workplace behavior.

How Forgiveness in the Workplace Can Harm Relationships

Publication: Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes
Article: Forgiveness is Not Always Divine: When Expressing Forgiveness Makes Other Avoid You
Reviewed by: Will Smith


We think of forgiveness in the workplace as a way to reduce tension or maintain relationships. The act of forgiveness can help both victim and victimizer feel better about the wrongdoing that occurred, and in some cases even strengthen the relationship. However, new research (Adams, Zou, Inesi, & Pillutla, 2015) shows that there are some forms of forgiveness that can backfire and prove detrimental to relationships in the workplace.



How can forgiving someone be harmful to a relationship? Let’s say that after making a presentation, a colleague pulls you aside to tell you that he forgives you for taking credit for his ideas in your presentation. Even though you may have briefly discussed the presentation with your colleague, you genuinely believe that the final ideas you proposed were your own ideas. The authors say that in situations such as this, the person who is willing to “forgive” you may seem morally self-righteous. In the end, your colleague walks away feeling better but you feel resentment for being pardoned unjustifiably. When this happens, you are more likely to avoid or otherwise disassociate yourself from your colleague.

The test this, the researchers conducted three different laboratory studies, ultimately using several hundred participants, and confirmed that people who were “forgiven” even though they didn’t think they had done anything wrong were more likely to physically distance themselves from the person who had offered the “forgiveness.” Also, people offering the unnecessary “forgiveness” were seen as self-righteous.



The results of these studies present us with an interesting conundrum. Forgiveness can be a positive mechanism for ensuring that workplace relationships stay intact, and in most instances it can even strengthen ties. Also, offering forgiveness to someone who has actually wronged us can be empowering for all involved while also helping relieve interpersonal tension associated with brewing conflict. However, if a person feels that they have done nothing wrong, then offering forgiveness can greatly weaken a relationship. In the end, someone may end up feeling victimized.

Like many work-related challenges we face on a daily basis, communication plays a major role in success. By establishing clear lines of communications there can at least be a conversation about how each party involved perceives the situation as well as an open discussion about how they can move forward with their working relationship. At the very least, each side can gain a greater understanding of other peoples’ motivation and work to avoid future instances where forgiveness would even be necessary.

How Emotional Expression Affects Workplace Attitudes and Opinions

Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology
Article: The Persuasive Power of Emotions: Effects of Emotional Expressions on Attitude Formation and Change
Reviewed by: Andrew Morris


Whether we like it or not, emotions can be a powerful force when it comes to making workplace decisions. This tendency can be exploited when an argument is framed in emotional terms in order to persuade listeners. While this fact has been recognized for centuries, recent research has been investigating how emotional expression can shape or change others’ attitudes. For example, think of a disgruntled colleague expressing anger at a new policy change within the organization. Would this display of strong emotion affect your attitude and opinions? Recent research (Van Kleef, van der Berg & Heerdink, 2014) explored how emotional expressions influence attitude formation, and helped determine under which circumstances this could happen.



The researchers examined whether expressing emotions contributes to or undermines successful persuasion. In addressing this question, they adopted the “social-functional” theory approach to emotions. This theory explains that other peoples’ emotional expressions can provide social information that can in turn influence thinking, attitudes, and behavior. The theory also explains that the effects of these emotional expressions depend on the observer’s motivation and ability to process the information that they are receiving from the expressions.



Through a series of experiments, participants were shown to “borrow” the emotions of other people (or other sources of information) when forming their own attitudes. For example, when others framed given information (such as a TV show being cancelled) in a negative way with sad expressions, the participants reported negative attitudes towards the information. The same type of influence was also true when information (such as the introduction of kite-surfing into the Olympics) was framed in a positive manner. Some evidence also showed that both newly formed attitudes and previously held opinions can be influenced by others’ emotional expressions. This suggests that the expression of strong emotion isn’t only important in attitude formation, but also in attitude change. These results were similar whether written, pictorial, film or emoticon sources of emotion were used. Findings were further strengthened by showing how the effects of the study were mitigated when participants’ cognitive load (or amount of mental distraction) was either really high or really low.



The results suggest that interpersonal emotional strategies may be another tool with which to influence others. The findings have interesting implications for managers who deal with people, their attitudes, and subsequent behaviors. The study indicates that capitalizing on effective use of emotional expression could be very useful in the workplace. For example, managers can use emotions to help promote organizational or cultural change. This and previous research highlight how a leader’s emotional expression can help shape employee attitudes about organizational issues. The results also highlight how leaders may unwittingly shape organizational culture and beliefs through their non-verbal communication.

How Unethical Customers Cost Organizations Twice


Unethical customers can cost organizations lots of money. For example, customers can steal, cheat, scam, defraud, hoodwink, or make up an overly dramatic story about how the soup of the day was far too salty so that they get a small discount. New research (Greenbaum, Quade, Mawritz, Kim, & Crosby, 2014) shows that there may be hidden costs to organizations that allow customers to consistently get away with these offenses. Specifically, it’s the employees who suffer.


The authors conducted two separate studies and found that customer ethical violations led to employees becoming emotionally exhausted. This is based on the idea that people have a certain amount of internal resources to spend, and when these resources run out, people begin to suffer from emotional exhaustion.

What about unethical customers makes internal resources run low? Specifically, the authors note that we feel an inherent need to live in a law-abiding and just society. When these ideals are threatened, it bothers us, and we become stressed-out. This explains why employees who consistently observe unethical behavior become emotionally exhausted.

In the study, this finding held up even though the authors were only considering unethical behavior targeting the organization, like the stealing that we’ve mentioned. They were not considering unethical behavior targeted against employees, as research has already established that employees can suffer from direct mistreatment. The current study shows that even crimes which occur against others may be disturbing to employees.


Eventually, when unethical customers lead employees to emotional exhaustion, three specific negative outcomes occur. First, affected employees have higher levels of work-family conflict, which means that it becomes more difficult for them to balance the competing demands between their work life and family life. Second, employees have more negative relationships with their coworkers, and third, employees begin to neglect job responsibilities. All of these three things are known to be harmful to employees and can eventually affect the bottom line of the organizations that they work for. Due to this, unethical customers who steal or cheat end up costing companies twice: The value of the theft, as well as the value of the compromised employee who has to witness the theft.


So how can organizations, which typically have little control over customer behavior, cut down on the harmful effects of unethical customers? The authors make two recommendations. First, organizations may need to revisit the mantra of “the customer is always right.” While customer service is undeniably important, organizations may not want to allow their customers to get away with anything. Similarly, employees may be given more leeway when it comes to dealing with and punishing ethical violations that they observe. The authors note that observing unethical behavior is really only stressful when you are unable to do anything about it.

The second recommendation made by the authors is that even when employees witness unethical customer behavior, social support (such as increased encouragement) can help mitigate the consequences. Because the unethical behavior first led to emotional exhaustion and loss of personal resources, social support from the organization or from coworkers can help replenish these resources. Employees in jobs in which we’d expect lots of unethical customer behavior to occur may benefit the most from enhanced social support.

Sleep Deprived Employees Engage in More Unethical Workplace Behavior

Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology
Article: Building a Self-Regulatory Model of Sleep Deprivation and Deception: The Role of Caffeine and Social Influence
Reviewed by: Ben Sher


When employees engage in unethical behavior, organizations suffer. For example, employee theft or dishonesty can hurt organizations both internally and in terms of public reputation. New research (Welsh, Ellis, Christian, & Mai, 2014) has identified several key links in understanding the dynamics that lead to employee deception, which is a type of unethical behavior.



The authors based their research on past findings that show that sleep deprived employees are more likely to engage in unethical behavior (Christian & Ellis, 2011). When faced with an unethical opportunity, people need to use a certain amount of self-control to prevent themselves from doing the unethical thing. Researchers call this self-regulation, and people have a certain “reserve” of resources that they can use to self-regulate themselves. When people are sleep-deprived, the brain undergoes physiological changes that deplete the resources available to self-regulate. When this happens, a person may no longer have the ability to stand up to temptation, and it becomes more likely that they will actually behave unethically.



In the current study, the researchers found that tired employees who also consumed caffeine were less likely to have depleted self-regulation resources. In other words, the lack of sleep did not affect them as much, and they were more likely to maintain the ability to control themselves and stand up to the temptation to behave unethically. As we all know too well, caffeine has the ability to temper some of the effects of sleep deprivation.

A second major finding was that when people’s fatigue lowered their ability to self-regulate, it didn’t always lead to unethical behavior. The authors found a condition that made it more likely that unethical behavior would result. The condition is called social influence, which refers to the influence that people receive from other people, kind of like peer-pressure. One of the pitfalls of having a decreased ability to self-regulate, is that you can be more susceptible to the suggestions of other people who are themselves acting unethically.



The major takeaway from this article is that sleep deprivation among employees is bad for organizations. Besides for some of the more obvious problems that we might expect (i.e. lower productivity, more mistakes or accidents) sleep deprivation can actually cause employees to act unethically. As the authors mention, employees are now being asked to work an increasingly greater number of hours during the week, making sleep deprivation a greater challenge in the workplace.

The easiest solution is to encourage employees to get enough sleep, and to structure work schedules and workloads to support that goal. But that’s not always an easy thing to do. What else can organizations do?

Specifically, this article provides two ways that organizations can lower the amount of deceptive behavior that their employees engage in, even if they are sleep deprived. First, caffeine was shown to help. There may be something to supplying your office with a fresh pot of morning coffee. However, as the authors point out, this doesn’t mean that caffeine is the perfect solution. Technically considered a drug, caffeine does have harmful side effects such as increased anxiety and heart-rate. So don’t go overboard.

Second, organizations should realize the role of social influence. Even when sleep deprived employees lose the ability to stop themselves from unethical behavior, it doesn’t mean that unethical behavior will result. In this circumstance, peer-pressure to behave unethically is the real enemy. If organizations work to create an environment where employees behave ethically, and strive to hire more ethically inclined individuals, then even the occasional sleep-deprived employee won’t be too much of a problem.

Workplace Bullying: Corrupt and Harmful to Organizations

Publication: Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal
Article: Towards Reducing the Harm: Workplace Bullying as Workplace Corruption—A Critical Review
Reviewed by: Amy Fluett


In recent years, there has been a noticeable rise in bullying, and the workplace is no exception. In fact, it has become such a pervasive issue, with such profound effects, that it is considered an extreme threat to the health and wellness of all businesses. Many argue that bullying is not only the newest form of discrimination in the workplace, but that it should also be recognized as a form of corruption.



The mishandling of bullying complaints and the inability of organizations to effectively provide support for employees, have led to the widespread growth of workplace bullying. From physical aggression to unfavorable treatment, bullying has become an increasingly problematic issue that companies must now face. This is especially true considering the health and safety risks to employees and the immense organizational costs through loss of resources and poor performance. Often incredibly distressing to victims, bullying also poses threats to individual health, personal and professional relationships, and can even interfere with career development.



In the past, institutional corruption has typically been defined as blatant illegal acts, including fraud, embezzlement, and extortion. However, this narrow definition fails to encompass all of the complexities that truly define corruption. Researchers now define corruption not only in terms of illegal acts, but also misuse of authority to violate personal rights and workplace norms, misuse of resources for gain, and other oftentimes legal activities that impede an individual’s ability to succeed.



The author provided several examples of workplace bullying that may also be considered corruption:

  • Abusing power through information withholding, manipulation, and misdirection. This makes it difficult for employees to complete work and for organizations to distribute resources.
  • Misuse of power in influencing employment processes like hiring or salary (for example, nepotism), or enacting policies that harm employees’ professional status, job satisfaction, or physical and emotional well-being.
  • Participating in or encouraging unscrupulous behaviors or practices that thwart others’ efforts.
  • Attempting to control employees through purposeful isolation, drastic reduction of workload, or through harassment and intimidation. This may include misusing private information to humiliate, undermine, or isolate employees.



Why should organizations care about workplace bullying? There is burgeoning awareness of the severe consequences bullying behaviors have, not only on victims’ physical, emotional, and mental health, but also on the role of bullying in undermining organizational success. Ultimately, more research in this area will provide greater understanding on how bullying may affect employee retention, development of healthy workplaces, as well as employee motivation and wellness. In the meantime, practitioners should recognize the potentially harmful effects of bullying, and strive to reduce its prevalence in the workplace.