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A Three-Country Study of Unethical Sales Behaviors


  • Ning Li


  • William Murphy



A major challenge in global sales research is helping managers understand sales ethics across countries. Addressing this challenge, our research investigates whether a few demographic variables and psychographic variables reduce unethical sales behaviors (USBs) in Canada, Mexico, and the USA. Further, using literatures associated with business ethics, national culture, and customer orientation advocacy, we hypothesize why sales managers should expect similarities and differences in USBs between countries. We tested hypotheses using a sales contest scenario and six USBs, examining survey responses from 948 business-to-business salespeople of a multinational company’s sales force in Canada, Mexico, and the USA. The results reveal that several psychographic variables (such as commitment, relationship to sales manager, and achievement need) affect salespeople’s tendency to engage in USBs differently in each country. In addition, business ethics, individualism, and customer orientation advocacy associated with each country can be used to anticipate similarities and differences in USBs between countries. This research offers important theoretical contributions and implications for more effectively managing sales forces and reducing USBs across countries. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Suggested Citation

  • Ning Li & William Murphy, 2012. "A Three-Country Study of Unethical Sales Behaviors," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 111(2), pages 219-235, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:jbuset:v:111:y:2012:i:2:p:219-235
    DOI: 10.1007/s10551-012-1203-z

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Denis Collins & Julie Whitaker, 2009. "Introduction to Central America and Mexico: Efforts and Obstacles in Creating Ethical Organizations and an Ethical Economy," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 88(2), pages 225-230, September.
    2. Charles Pettijohn & Linda Pettijohn & A. Taylor, 2008. "Salesperson Perceptions of Ethical Behaviors: Their Influence on Job Satisfaction and Turnover Intentions," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 78(4), pages 547-557, April.
    3. Bert Scholtens & Lammertjan Dam, 2007. "Cultural Values and International Differences in Business Ethics," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 75(3), pages 273-284, October.
    4. Robert Peterson & Gerald Albaum & Dwight Merunka & Jose Munuera & Scott Smith, 2010. "Effects of Nationality, Gender, and Religiosity on Business-Related Ethicality," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 96(4), pages 573-587, November.
    5. Cohen, Deborah Vidaver, 1993. "Creating and Maintaining Ethical Work Climates: Anomie in the Workplace and Implications for Managing Change," Business Ethics Quarterly, Cambridge University Press, vol. 3(04), pages 343-358, October.
    6. Roman, Sergio & Ruiz, Salvador, 2005. "Relationship outcomes of perceived ethical sales behavior: the customer's perspective," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 58(4), pages 439-445, April.
    7. Goran Svensson & Greg Wood & Jang Singh & Emily Carasco & Michael Callaghan, 2009. "Ethical Structures and Processes of Corporations Operating in Australia, Canada, and Sweden: A Longitudinal and Cross-Cultural Study," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 86(4), pages 485-506, June.
    8. Steenkamp, Jan-Benedict E M & Baumgartner, Hans, 1998. " Assessing Measurement Invariance in Cross-National Consumer Research," Journal of Consumer Research, Oxford University Press, vol. 25(1), pages 78-90, June.
    9. Nancy J Adler, 1983. "A Typology of Management Studies Involving Culture," Journal of International Business Studies, Palgrave Macmillan;Academy of International Business, vol. 14(2), pages 29-47, June.
    10. Murphy, William H., 2004. "In pursuit of short-term goals: anticipating the unintended consequences of using special incentives to motivate the sales force," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 57(11), pages 1265-1275, November.
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    Cited by:

    1. Verbeke, Willem & Bagozzi, Richard P. & Belschak, Frank D., 2016. "The role of status and leadership style in sales contests: A natural field experiment," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 69(10), pages 4112-4120.
    2. repec:kap:jbuset:v:144:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s10551-015-2817-8 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Kumaran, Palanisamy & Hephzibah, David & Sivasankari, Ranganathan & Saifuddin, Normanbay & Shamsuddin, Abd. Halim, 2016. "A review on industrial scale anaerobic digestion systems deployment in Malaysia: Opportunities and challenges," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 56(C), pages 929-940.


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