Asia Pacific Journal of Management

, Volume 30, Issue 2, pp 373-408

First online:

Perceptions of the ethicality of favors at work in Asia: An 11-society assessment

  • Charlotte M. KaramAffiliated withAmerican University of Beirut
  • , David A. RalstonAffiliated withFlorida International University Email author 
  • , Carolyn P. EgriAffiliated withSimon Fraser University
  • , Arif ButtAffiliated withLahore University of Management Sciences
  • , Narasimhan SrinivasanAffiliated withUniversity of Connecticut
  • , Ping Ping FuAffiliated withChinese University of Hong Kong
  • , Chay Hoon LeeAffiliated withNanyang Technological University
  • , Yong-lin MoonAffiliated withSeoul National University
  • , Yongjuan LiAffiliated withChinese Academy of Science
    • , Mahfooz AnsariAffiliated withAmerican University of BeirutUniversity of Lethbridge
    • , Christine KuoAffiliated withAmerican University of BeirutYuan-Ze University
    • , Vu Thanh HungAffiliated withAmerican University of BeirutNational Economics University
    • , Andre PekertiAffiliated withAmerican University of BeirutUniversity of Queensland
    • , Philip HallingerAffiliated withAmerican University of BeirutAnabas Learning Ltd.
    • , Yongqing FangAffiliated withAmerican University of BeirutUniversity of Canberra
    • , Ho-Beng ChiaAffiliated withAmerican University of BeirutNational University of Singapore

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We explore macro-level factors that shape perceptions of the ethicality of favors in Asian workplaces using the subordinate influence ethics (SIE) measure. We also expand and use the crossvergence model to examine the cross-level relationship between socio-cultural (i.e., traditional/secular; survival/self-expression; in-group favoritism) and business ideology influences (i.e., human development level, control of corruption) on perceptions of favor-seeking at work. This study examines the perceptions of a total of 4,325 managers and professionals in a diverse set of 11 Asian societies: China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam. Our investigation focuses on both the “softer” (image management) and “harder” (self-serving) sides of subordinate influence attempts to seek favors, as well as the degree of ethical differentiation across these societies. Key results based on hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) suggest that both the World Value Survey’s socio-cultural values as well as in-group favoritism contribute to our understanding of influence behaviors in Asia. Likewise, level of human development and control of corruption also appear to be promising predictors of influence ethics. In sum, our results suggest that widening the scope of the crossvergence conceptualization of socio-cultural and business ideology influences engender a better understanding of differences in attitudes toward subordinate use of favoritism across Asian societies.


Favor-seeking Favoritism Subordinate influence ethics Cross-cultural behavior Asia Hierarchical linear modeling