To Help My Supervisor: Identification, Moral Identity, and Unethical Pro-supervisor Behavior

Journal of Business Ethics 159 (2):519-534 (2019)
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Abstract

Under some circumstances, individuals are willing to engage in unethical behaviors that benefit another entity. In this research we advance the unethical pro-organizational behavior construct by showing that individuals also have the potential to behave unethically to benefit their supervisors. Previous research has not examined if employees engage in unethical acts to benefit an entity that is separate from oneself and if they will conduct these acts to benefit a supervisor. Our research helps to address these gaps. We also demonstrate that unethical behavior to benefit a supervisor, what we term unethical pro-supervisor behavior, is more likely to occur if individuals are more identified with their organization or supervisor. That is, feeling a sense of oneness with one’s organization or supervisor can result in employees engaging in unethical behavior to help their supervisor. Further, this positive relationship is weakened if the employee possesses higher levels of moral identity. We test our hypotheses with a two-part laboratory study, a field study, and a time-lagged field study. Theoretical and practical implications of this work are discussed.

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