Supervisors, coworkers tolerate unethical behavior when production is good, Baylor study

April 06, 2016

WACO, Texas (April 6, 2016) - Your coworker wastes time. He mismanages resources. He's been known to engage in activities that you and others consider conflicts of interest. Yet, he seems to "do no wrong" in the eyes of the company.

Why?

Because he's producing.

A new Baylor University study published in Personnel Psychology - ""I Don't Want to be Near You, Unless...": The Interactive Effect of Unethical Behavior and Performance onto Workplace Ostracism" - investigates why employees' unethical behaviors may be tolerated versus rejected.

"In this study, we're asking the questions: When and why are people ostracized - or excluded from the group - while at work?" said the study's lead author, Matthew J. Quade, Ph.D., assistant professor of management in Baylor's Hankamer School of Business. "Our research contributes to an ongoing conversation regarding whether people's competence is more important than morality within the context of organizations."

Researchers conducted a total of three studies and surveyed 1,040 people - including more than 300 pairs of supervisors and their employees.

Study results show:

"Unethical, high-performing employees provide contrasting worth to the organization," researchers wrote. "The employees' unethical behaviors can be harmful, but their high job performance is also quite important to the organization's success. In this vein, high job performance may offset unethical behavior enough to where the employee is less likely to be ostracized."

On the flip side, unethical, low-performing individuals do not fare as well.

"[They] not only violate moral norms, but they fail to fulfill role expectations, which would make them particularly difficult to work with as evidenced by relationship conflict," researchers said. "People, then, are expected to demonstrate their disapproval towards those who create conflict by ostracizing them."

Quade said the research ultimately shows that unethical behavior, while overlooked in some cases, and ostracism are detrimental to the organization and all involved.

"Unethical, yet high-performing employees, their work groups, and their organizations may exist on a false foundation that has the potential to crumble and cost employees their jobs and their organizations significant amounts of money," researchers said.

The study offered two ways that organizations can curtail improper behavior and curb workplace ostracism:

1. Make it clear that employees' unethical behaviors, regardless of performance, will not be tolerated.

"Leaders need to be particularly diligent in swiftly disciplining unethical behavior," researchers said. "Organizations might consider hiring and training ethical leaders who will demonstrate and espouse the importance of behaving ethically."

2. Provide a more functional way for employees to respond to unethical employees.

"Relationship conflict and workplace ostracism can adversely affect the organization's bottom line because of reduced performance and satisfaction and increased withdrawal," researchers said. "Employees could be encouraged, and even rewarded, for discussing suspect behaviors with their leaders."
-end-
Study co-authors include Rebecca L. Greenbaum, Ph.D., associate professor of management at Oklahoma State University, Spears School of Business, and Oleg V. Petrenko, Ph.D., assistant professor of management at Texas Tech University, Rawls College of Business.

ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY

Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.

ABOUT HANKAMER SCHOOL OF BUSINESS

Baylor University's Hankamer School of Business provides a rigorous academic experience, consisting of classroom and hands-on learning, guided by Christian commitment and a global perspective. Recognized nationally for several programs, including Entrepreneurship and Accounting, the school offers 24 undergraduate and 14 graduate areas of study, as well as Ph.D. programs in Information Systems, Entrepreneurship and Health Services Research. Visit http://www.baylor.edu/business and follow on Twitter @Baylor_Business.

Baylor University

Related Employees Articles from Brightsurf:

How initiatives empowering employees can backfire
Strategies meant to motivate people in the workplace may have unintended consequences -- depending on who's in charge.

Some employees more likely to adhere to information security policies than others
Information security policies (ISP) that are not grounded in the realities of an employee's work responsibilities and priorities exposes organizations to higher risk for data breaches, according to new research from Binghamton University, State University of New York.

Covert tobacco industry marketing tactics exposed by former employees
Tobacco companies use covert marketing tactics and exploit loopholes in Australian tobacco control laws to promote their products despite current tobacco advertising bans, finds new research from University of Sydney and Cancer Council NSW.

How employees' rankings disrupt cooperation and how managers can restore it
First prize is a Cadillac Eldorado, second prize a set of steak knives, third prize you're firedĀ».

Employees less upset at being replaced by robots than by other people
Generally speaking, most people find the idea of workers being replaced by robots or software worse than if the jobs are taken over by other workers.

Some LGBT employees feel less supported at federal agencies
Workplace inequality is visible when it involves gender and race, but less so with sexual identity and gender expression.

Workplace interventions may improve sleep habits and duration for employees
Simple workplace interventions, like educating employees about the importance of sleep and providing behavioral sleep strategies, may produce beneficial results, according to a new review.

To keep the creative juices flowing, employees should be receptive to criticism
Though most firms today embrace a culture of criticism, when supervisors and peers dispense negative feedback it can actually stunt the creative process, according to a new study co-authored by Yeun Joon Kim, a Ph.D. student at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management.

How a positive work environment leads to feelings of inclusion among employees
Fostering an inclusive work environment can lead to higher satisfaction, innovation, trust and retention among employees, according to new research from Binghamton University, State University of New York.

How susceptible are hospital employees to phishing attacks?
A multicenter study finds high click rate for simulated phishing emails, potential benefit in phishing awareness training.

Read More: Employees News and Employees Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.