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Compliant sinners, obstinate saints: How power and self-focus determine the effectiveness of social influences in ethical decision making

Author

Listed:
  • Marko Pitesa

    () (GEM - Grenoble Ecole de Management - Grenoble École de Management (GEM))

  • Stefan Thau

    () (LBS - London Business School - London Business School)

Abstract

In this research, we examine when and why organizational environments influence how employees respond to moral issues. Past research proposed that social influences in organizations affect employees' ethical decision making, but did not explain when and why some individuals are affected by the organizational environment and some disregard it. To address this problem, we drew on research on power to propose that power makes people more self-focused, which, in turn, makes them more likely to act upon their preferences and ignore (un)ethical social influences. Using both experimental and field methods, we tested our model across the three main paradigms of social influence: informational influence (Study 1 and 2), normative influence (Study 3), and compliance (Study 4). Results offer converging evidence for our theory.

Suggested Citation

  • Marko Pitesa & Stefan Thau, 2013. "Compliant sinners, obstinate saints: How power and self-focus determine the effectiveness of social influences in ethical decision making," Grenoble Ecole de Management (Post-Print) hal-00814614, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:gemptp:hal-00814614
    DOI: 10.5465/amj.2011.0891
    Note: View the original document on HAL open archive server: http://hal.grenoble-em.com/hal-00814614v2
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    File URL: http://hal.grenoble-em.com/hal-00814614v2/document
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Strudler, Alan, 1995. "On the Ethics of Deception in Negotiation," Business Ethics Quarterly, Cambridge University Press, vol. 5(04), pages 805-822, October.
    2. Treviño, Linda Klebe & Butterfield, Kenneth D. & McCabe, Donald L., 1998. "The Ethical Context in Organizations: Influences on Employee Attitudes and Behaviors," Business Ethics Quarterly, Cambridge University Press, vol. 8(03), pages 447-476, July.
    3. Lamar Pierce & Jason Snyder, 2008. "Ethical Spillovers in Firms: Evidence from Vehicle Emissions Testing," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 54(11), pages 1891-1903, November.
    4. McCabe, Donald L. & Trevino, Linda Klebe & Butterfield, Kenneth D., 1996. "The Influence of Collegiate and Corporate Codes of Conduct on Ethics-Related Behavior in the Workplace," Business Ethics Quarterly, Cambridge University Press, vol. 6(04), pages 461-476, October.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Yip, Jeremy A. & Schweitzer, Maurice E., 2016. "Mad and misleading: Incidental anger promotes deception," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 137(C), pages 207-217.
    2. Pitesa, Marko & Thau, Stefan & Pillutla, Madan M., 2013. "Cognitive control and socially desirable behavior: The role of interpersonal impact," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 122(2), pages 232-243.
    3. Otto, Philipp E. & Bolle, Friedel, 2016. "The advantage of hierarchy: Inducing responsibility and selecting ability?," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 65(C), pages 49-57.
    4. Franziska Zuber & Muel Kaptein, 2014. "Painting with the Same Brush? Surveying Unethical Behavior in the Workplace Using Self-Reports and Observer-Reports," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 125(3), pages 401-432, December.
    5. Pettit, Nathan C. & Doyle, Sarah P. & Lount, Robert B. & To, Christopher, 2016. "Cheating to get ahead or to avoid falling behind? The effect of potential negative versus positive status change on unethical behavior," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 137(C), pages 172-183.
    6. Kennedy, Jessica A. & Anderson, Cameron, 2017. "Hierarchical rank and principled dissent: How holding higher rank suppresses objection to unethical practices," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 139(C), pages 30-49.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    ethical decision making; power; social influences; self-focus;

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