, Volume 98, Issue 3, pp 407-424
Date: 01 Aug 2010

Status Differentiation and the Protean Self: A Social-Cognitive Model of Unethical Behavior in Organizations

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Based on social-cognitive theory, this article proposes a model that seeks to explain why high status organizational members engage in unethical behavior. We argue that status differentiation in organizations creates social isolation which initiates activation of high status group identity and a deactivation of moral identity. We further argue that high status group identity results in insensitivity to the needs of out-group members which, in turn, results in lessened motivation to self-regulate ethical decision making. As a result of this identity activation, we demonstrate how high status individuals will be more vulnerable to engaging in unethical activities. Individual-level moderators of the relationships are also discussed.

All authors contributed equally.