Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 95, Supplement 1, pp 89–103 | Cite as

Lying to Level the Playing Field: Why People May Dishonestly Help or Hurt Others to Create Equity

Article

Abstract

Unethical and dishonest behavior has increasingly attracted the attention of scholars from various disciplines. Recent work has begun to focus on a previous overlooked factor predicting dishonest behavior: the beneficiary or victim of dishonest acts. In two laboratory experiments, we manipulate the level of resources allocated to our participants (their “wealth”) and investigate whether perceived inequity from wealth that is randomly or subjectively assigned leads individuals to cross ethical boundaries through helping or hurting others. The results show that dishonest behavior is influenced by positive and negative inequity that motivates helping and hurting acts. Furthermore, a third experiment shows that people tend to discount the wrongness of crossing ethical boundaries to hurt or help others when the action restores equity.

Keywords

unethical behavior judgment ethics equity self-interest 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Harvard Business SchoolBostonU.S.A.
  2. 2.Washington University in St. LouisSt. LouisU.S.A.

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