How the Designated Rule-Breaker Impacts Team Performance

Breaking the rules can result in a competitive advantage, and some organizations or teams will therefore designate a specific member to engage in unethical or illegal activity. These designees occupy “illicit roles.” Although most organizational roles are formalized and have well-defined responsibilities, illicit roles resist formalization for a variety of reasons, including the fact that any organization that formalized them would be admitting that they sanction illegal or unethical behavior. Furthermore, formalizing the role could implicate other members of the organization in the illegal activity. […]


The Hidden Danger of Narcissistic Leaders

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.



Ethical Leadership Inspires Trust and Employee Success

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.


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Ethics in the Workplace: Anxious Employees May Cause Trouble

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.


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Corporate Ethics: Good Behavior Leads to Less Turnover

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.



Unethical Employees May Have Been Socially-Ostracized at Work

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?



How Forgiveness in the Workplace Can Harm Relationships

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.


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How Emotional Expression Affects Workplace Attitudes and Opinions

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.


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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.


Sleep Deprived Employees Engage in More Unethical Workplace Behavior

Sleep Deprived Employees Engage in More Unethical Workplace Behavior

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.


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Workplace Bullying: Corrupt and Harmful to Organizations

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.


How Corporate Social Performance Attracts Job Seekers

In recent years the topic of Corporate Social Performance (CSP) has become increasingly of interest to major corporations.

It’s becoming more important for organizations to have a social presence, display their dedication to the community and adopt positive practices that go beyond the company’s bottom line. Some may wonder just how important corporate social performance actually is to a company’s stakeholders.


The Connection Between Sleep Deprivation, Caffeine and Self-Control

Many of us can’t imagine going a day without our caffeine of choice—coffee, energy drinks, tea, soda, or any number of others. A recent study cited in this article claims that 90% of Americans ingest some form of caffeine daily in order to overcome the effects of sleep loss. But did you know that caffeine could also help you maintain better self-control?


Leave a Penny, Take a Penny: Effective Giving

You don’t have to be an I/O psychologist or HR professional to have observed that there are people in the world who are “givers” and others who are “takers.” Givers provide support and assistance to their colleagues, friends, and family expecting nothing in return. They’re classic ‘do-gooders.’ Then you’ve got the takers; the people who take what they can and rarely reciprocate.


Everyone On Board: Encouraging Employee Whistle-Blowing (IO Psychology)

With the prevalence of corporate scandals seemingly increasing in recent years, organizations are concerned with preventing unethical behavior like never before. One way some organizations may combat unethical behavior is through employee whistle-blowing programs, in which they encourage employees who witness unethical behavior to report it internally. In this way, organizations hope to find out about problematic behavior quickly, before the issue grows and becomes more damaging and difficult to deal with. However, whistle-blowing programs have an inherent drawback: they rely on employees to take the initiative to report unethical behavior, which many employees may be reluctant to do, especially if the unethical behavior involves their manager or another powerful figure.


Explaining Unethical Decision Making: The Problem with Tunnel-Vision

Topic: Ethics, Judgement
Publication: Judgment and Decision Making
Article: Is that the answer you had in mind? The effect of perspective on unethical
Authors: Schurr, A., Ritov, I., Kareev, Y., and Avrahami, J.
Reviewer: Neil Morelli

When someone makes a “bad” or unethical decision inside or outside the workplace, we oftentimes ask the question: why? Perhaps answering this question is important because it helps us make sense of the behavior, as well as helping us prevent it from happening again in the future.


Need Ethics? Here, Take Mine (IO Psychology)

Topic: Ethics
Publication: Journal of Management (2012)
Article: The psychic cost of doing wrong: Ethical conflict, divestiture socialization, and emotional exhaustion
Authors: Kammeyer-Mueller, J. D., Simon, L. S., & Rich, B. L.
Reviewed By: Katie Bachman

It’s sweet, albeit naïve, to think that the ethical training we learned in pursuit of a degree or on the job during seemingly endless training sessions will do the trick. We will always be upstanding corporate citizens, ready to fight evil. But that’s not really what happens. It’s all well and good to make your employees take ethics training, but what about when their supervisor or even the organizational culture pushes them to break their ethical rules? Sure, we have a moral dilemma, but it goes deeper than that. Ethical lapses have an effect on the employees who make or see them.


Predicting someone’s propensity to morally disengage (IO Psychology)

Topic: Assessment, Personality, Ethics, Counter-Productive Work Behavior, Workplace Deviance
Publication: Personnel Psychology (SPRING 2012)
Article: Why employees do bad things: Moral disengagement and unethical organizational behavior
Authors: Celia Moore, James R. Detert, Linda Klebe Treviño, Vicki L. Baker, & David M. Mayer
Reviewed by: Alexandra Rechlin

Organizations obviously want their employees to be ethical. While there are existing measures that are used to predict who will act immorally, the authors of this paper proposed a new construct that they called an individual’s propensity to morally disengage – an individual difference in how people think about ethical decisions and behavior that allows them to act unethically without feeling bad about it.


Big Decision? Take some time to think about it (IO Psychology)

Topic: Decision Making, Ethics
Publication: Academy of Management Journal (FEB 2012)
Article: Contemplation and conversation: Subtle influences on moral decision making
Authors: Gunia, B. C., Wang, L., Huang, L., Wang, J., & Murninghan, J. K.
Reviewed By: Katie Bachman

In the workplace, important decisions can hinge on the ethical strength of your decision makers. It may be more profitable to make an unethical or self-interested choice, but long term consequences can be dire (I’m lookin’ at you, Wall Street). When it comes to choosing between right and wrong, it is sad to think how easily employees can be swayed. Good news! It works the other way too! You can encourage your employees to make more ethical decisions with just a couple of simple actions. How? Oh, let me tell you!


The Makings of Morality: The Factors Behind Ethical Behavior (IO Psychology)

Topic: Ethics
Publication: Academy of Management Review
Article: Moral maturation and moral conation: A capacity approach to explaining moral thought and action
Authors: Hannah, S. T., Avolio, B. J., & May, D. R.
Reviewer: Neil Morelli

When it comes to identifying unethical behavior in politics, business, and sport, all it takes is a casual flip through your Sunday paper. With a greater spotlight being placed on understanding and promoting ethical practices in the workplace, Hannah, Avolio, and May’s goal was to help determine what it means to have “moral capacity” in the workplace and how that capacity affects ethical behavior.


Responding to Mistreatment of Others

Topic: Motivation, Human Resource Management, Ethics
Publication: Academy of Management Review
Article: A Model of Third Parties’ Morally Motivated Responses to Mistreatment in Organizations
Authors: O’Reilly, J. & Aquino, K.
Reviewer: Rachel Marsh

Have you ever noticed a college student being mistreated by someone else in the organization, be it peer, subordinate or superior? What actions did you take because of what you witnessed? According to O’Reilly and Aquino you have several choices. You could rally against the perpetrator, going to their superior to explain what happened. You also have the option of punishing the offender on your own, vigilante style. There is also the possibility that you could comfort the victim or you could just ignore the situation. The authors propose that your actions are determined by your moral identity, the perception of power, and your belief in your organization’s justice system.


Teams Behaving Badly: A Combination of the People and the Environment

Topic: Ethics, Teams, Decision Making
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology (MAR 2011)
Article: Thick as Thieves: The Effects of Ethical Orientation and Psychological
Safety on Unethical Team Behavior
Authors: M.J. Pearsall & A.P. Ellis
Reviewed By: Ben Sher

Individuals faced with ethical dilemmas are always free to choose between their perceptions of right and wrong. But some situations are more complicated than that. What happens when an entire team must collectively decide what to do? What factors might sway the group decision in favor of acting unethically? According to research by Pearsall and Ellis (2011), certain types of groups are more prone to ethical violations than others.


The need for ethical leadership in a global and capitalist world

Topic: Ethics, Leadership
Publication: Journal of Business Ethics (2010)
Article: Ethical leadership and global citizenship: Considerations for a just and sustainable future
Authors:  Deborah C. Poff
Reviewed By: Bobby Bullock

In a scathing critique of global capitalism and its effects on social, economic, and environmental justice, Poff (2010) lays out the argument for a realignment of values.  The problems associated with global capitalism, Poff argues, are numerous.  It threatens the environment in order to support the massive production of material goods, its problems are being used by charismatic extremists to win over the populations of developing nations, and the tenets of consumerism are distorting values towards possession of material goods over quality relationships and meaningful pursuits.  How, then, is the world to shift away from such a destructive course?  Through a massive realignment of values; championed by ethical leaders in business, education, and government.


Ethical Leadership and OCBs?

Topic: Organizational Citizenship Behavior, Ethics, Gender
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology (DEC 2010)
Article: Fostering good citizenship through ethical leadership:  Exploring the moderating role of gender and organizational politics.
Authors:  Michele Kacmar, Daniel Bachrach, Kenneth Harris, and Suzanne Zivnuska
Reviewed By: Bobby Bullock

Kacmar, Bachrach, Harris, and Zivnuska (2010) sought to expand on ethical leadership research by examining its relationship with organizational citizenship behavior.  First, they examined the direct relationship between ethical leadership (honest, fair, and transparent leadership) and organizational citizenship behavior (OCB- prosocial behavior at work such as helping fellow employees with difficult tasks).  The results of their blanket study indicated that the presence of ethical leadership in an organization led to higher rates of OCB.  This showed that when employees feel indebted to ethical leaders, they may seek to “repay” them with OCB.  If it were that simple it would be great- make sure leaders act ethically and you could create a positive, prosocial work environment just like that!  Things aren’t always so simple, as we find out in the latter parts of their study.


Implicit Assumptions and Organizational Context- A Recipe for Immoral Behavior?

Topic: Ethics
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology
Article: Automatic ethics: The effects of implicit assumptions and contextual cues on moral behavior.
Authors: Reynolds, S. J., Leavitt, K., & DeCelles, K. A.
Reviewed By: Bobby Bullock

 In recent years, the news has been filled with stories about organizations committing gross violations against the environment, their stakeholders, and even the American public.  So it’s not a stretch to imagine that many people view business itself as inherently immoral.  What are the effects of such implicit assumptions about the moral nature of business?


Cheating on Unproctored Internet-Based Tests – is it a big deal?

Topic:  Personality Assessment
Publication: International Journal of Selection and Assessment (MAR 2010)
ArticleThe magnitude and extent of cheating and response distortion effects on unproctored internet-based tests of cognitive ability and personality
Authors: W. Arthur, R.M. Glaze, A.J. Villado, and J.E. Taylor
Reviewed By: Benjamin Granger

The future of employment testing is upon us and many organizations have turned to unproctored internet-based testing in lieu of proctored paper-and-pencil testing.

Among its many advantages, internet-based testing is often faster, more efficient, and more convenient than proctored paper-and-pencil methods (e.g., can be scored immediately, distributed to geographically dispersed applicants).  One concern, however, is that unproctored internet-based testing allows for cheating or response distortion (i.e., faking).  But is this a realistic concern?  Is cheating really more prevalent in unproctored internet-based settings?


It’s Easier to Deceive via e-Mail

Topic: Workplace Deviance, Ethics
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology (MAR 2010)
ArticleThe finer points of lying online: E-mail versus pen and paper
Authors: C.E. Naquin, T.R. Kurtzberg, and L.Y. Belkin
Reviewed By: Benjamin Granger

While lying and deception may come easily to some (certain politicians come to mind…), research suggests that generally, people find face-to-face deception to be more difficult than deception through a communication medium (telephone, letter, etc.).


How Ethical Leadership Drives Performance

Topic: Ethics, Leadership, Job Performance
Publication: Journal of Organizational Behavior (2010)
Article: The relationship between ethical leadership and core job characteristics
Authors: R.F. Piccolo, R. Greenbaum, D.N., Den Hartog, and R. Folger
Reviewed By: Benjamin Granger

It has long been thought that the characteristics of an employees’ job affects their motivation and ultimately their work performance.  Indeed, job characteristics such as autonomy (degree of discretion employees have over their work) and task significance (degree to which work tasks have a meaningful impact on others) are well known to predict positive workplace outcomes such as employee satisfaction and performance.

Importantly, a recent study by Piccolo et al. (2010) suggests that ethical leadership is one factor that contributes to these job characteristics.


Corporate Social Responsibility – An Inevitable Paradox?

Topic: Culture, Ethics
Publication: Academy of Management Perspectives
Article: Is the socially responsible corporation a myth?  The good, the bad and the ugly of corporate responsibility.
Author: T.M. Devinney
Featured by: Lit Digger

Is it even possible to have a corporation that is truly socially responsible?  Sure, some companies  like Johnson & Johnson and Ben & Jerry’s are perceived to demonstrate more corporate social responsibility (CSR) than others, but let’s stop pointing fingers for a moment and instead think critically about what CSR actually means, shall we? Timothy Devinney has added his two cents to an ongoing debate about CSR, a topic that has been difficult to scientifically examine in part due to the looseness of its definition.

Devinney presents three perspectives in his examination of the issue, which I will broadly summarize below.


Understanding the Ethical Leadership Waterfall

Topic: Ethics, Leadership
Publication: Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes
Article: How low does ethical leadership flow? Test of a trickle-down model.
Author: D.M. Mayer, M. Kuenzi, R. Greenbaum, M. Bardes, R. Salvador
Featured by: Benjamin Granger

Past research has shown that organizational leaders play a substantial role in influencing the behaviors of their subordinates (monkey see, monkey do). In fact, there is some evidence that leaders’ behaviors play an important role in predicting how likely employees engage in counterproductive or unethical behaviors.