Advertisement

Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Self-Construal and Unethical Behavior

Abstract

We suggest that understanding unethical behavior in organizations involves understanding how people view themselves and their relationships with others, a concept known as self-construal. Across multiple studies, employing both field and laboratory settings, we examine the impact of three dimensions of self-construal (independent, relational, and collective) on unethical behavior. Our results show that higher levels of relational self-construal relate negatively to unethical behavior. We also find that differences in levels of relational self for men and women mediate gender differences in unethical behavior. We discuss both the theoretical and practical implications of these findings.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Abbreviations

CFA:

Confirmatory factor analysis

SRMR:

Standardized root mean square residual

RMSEA:

Root mean square error of approximation

CFI:

Comparative fit index

PANAS:

Positive and negative affect schedule

MEV:

Measure of ethical viewpoints

Bca CI:

Bias corrected and accelerated confidence interval

References

  1. Ambrose, M., & Schminke, M. (2009). The role of overall justice judgments in organizational justice research: A test of mediation. Journal of Applied Psychology, 94, 491–500.

  2. Bakan, D. (1966). The duality of human existence. Chicago, IL: Rand McNally.

  3. Baldwin, M. W. (1992). Relational schemas and the processing of social information. Psychological Bulletin, 3, 461–484.

  4. Brady, F. N. (1990). Ethical managing: Rules and results. New York: Macmillan.

  5. Brady, F. N., & Wheeler, G. E. (1996). An empirical study of ethical predispositions. Journal of Business Ethics, 15, 927–940.

  6. Brass, D. J., Butterfield, K. D., & Skaggs, B. C. (1998). Relationships and unethical behavior: A social network perspective. Academy of Management Review, 23, 14–31.

  7. Brewer, M. B., & Gardner, W. L. (1996). Who is this “we”? Levels of collective identity and self representations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 71, 83–93.

  8. Carroll, A., Houghton, S., Khan, U., & Tan, C. (2008). Delinquency and reputational orientations of adolescent at-risk and not-at-risk males and females. Educational Psychology, 28, 777–793.

  9. Cross, S. E., Bacon, P. L., & Morris, M. L. (2000). The relational-interdependent self-construal and relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78, 191–208.

  10. Cross, S. E., & Madson, L. (1997). Models of the self, self-construals and gender. Psychological Bulletin, 122, 5–37.

  11. Cross, S. E., & Morris, M. L. (2003). Getting to know you: the relational self-construal, relational cognition, and wellbeing. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 29, 512–523.

  12. Cross, S. E., Morris, M. L., & Gore, J. S. (2002). Thinking about oneself and others: the relational-interdependent selfconstrual and social cognition. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 3, 399–418.

  13. Dawson, L. M. (1997). Ethical differences between men and women in the sales profession. Journal of Business Ethics, 16, 1143–1152.

  14. Eagley, A. (2009). The his and hers of prosocial behavior: an examination of the social psychology of gender. American Psychologist, 64, 644–658.

  15. Efron, B., & Tibshirani, R. (1993). An introduction to the bootstrap. New York: Chapman and Hall.

  16. Eisenberg, N., & Miller, P. (1987). The relation of empathy to prosocial and related behaviors. Psychological Bulletin, 101, 91–119.

  17. Fehr, R., & Gelfand, M. J. (2010). When apologies work: How matching apology components to victims’ self-construals facilitates forgiveness. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 113, 37–50.

  18. Fredrickson, B. L. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. American Psychologist, 56, 218–226.

  19. Gardner, W. L., Gabriel, S., & Hochschild, L. (2002). When you and I are “we”, you are no longer threatening: The role of self-expansion in social comparison process. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82, 239–251.

  20. Gardner, W. L., Gabriel, S., & Lee, A. Y. (1999). “I” value freedom, but “we” value relationships: Self-construal priming mirrors cultural differences in judgment. Psychological Science, 10, 321–326.

  21. Gaudine, A., & Thorne, L. (2001). Emotion and ethical decision-making. Journal of Business Ethics, 31, 175–187.

  22. Gelfand, M. J., Erez, M., & Aycan, Z. (2007). Cross-cultural approaches to organizational behavior. Annual Review of Psychology, 58, 479–515.

  23. Gelfand, M. J., Major, V. S., Raver, J. L., Nishii, L. H., & O’Brien, K. (2006). Negotiating relationally: The dynamics of the relational self in negotiations. Academy of Management Review, 31, 427–451.

  24. Gilligan, C. (1982). In a different voice: psychological theory and women’s development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

  25. Gino, F., Ayal, S., & Ariely, D. (2009). Contagion and differentiation in unethical behavior: The effect of one bad apple on the barrel. Psychological Science, 20, 393–398.

  26. Goncalo, J., & Staw, B. (2006). Individualism-collectivism and group creativity. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 100, 96–109.

  27. Gore, J. S., & Cross, S. E. (2006). Pursuing goals for us: relationally-autonomous reasons in long-term goal pursuit. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90, 858–861.

  28. Gottfredson, M., & Hirschi, T. (1990). A general theory of crime. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

  29. Hannover, B., Birkner, N., & Pohlmann, C. (2006). Ideal self and self-esteem in people with independent and interdependent self-construal. European Journal of Social Psychology, 36, 119–133.

  30. Hazan, C., & Shaver, P. R. (1994). Attachment as an organizational framework for research on close relationships. Psychological Inquiry, 5, 1–22.

  31. Hershcovis, M. S., Turner, N., Barling, J., Arnold, K. A., Dupré, K. E., Inness, M., et al. (2007). Predicting workplace aggression: A meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92, 228–238.

  32. Hogg, M. A., & Turner, J. C. (1985). Interpersonal attraction, social identification and psychological group formation. European Journal of Social Psychology, 26, 325–340.

  33. Hu, L., & Bentler, P. M. (1999). Cutoff criteria for fit indexes in covariance structure analysis: Conventional criteria versus new alternatives. Structural Equation Modeling, 6, 1–55.

  34. International Personality Item Pool. 2001. A Scientific collaboratory for the development of advanced measures of personality traits and other individual differences. Retrieved from http://ipip.ori.org/.

  35. Johnson, R., & Chang, C. (2006). “I” is to continuance as “we” is to affective: The relevance of the self-concept for organizational commitment. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 27, 549–570.

  36. Johnson, R., & Lord, R. (2010). Implicit effects of justice on self-identity. Journal of Applied Psychology, 95, 681–695.

  37. Johnson, R., Selenta, C., & Lord, R. (2006). When organizational justice and the self-concept meet. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 99, 175–201.

  38. Jones, T. (1991). Ethical decision making by individuals in organizations: An issue-contingent model. Academy of Management Review, 16, 366–395.

  39. Judd, C. M., & Kenny, D. A. (1981). Process analysis: Estimating mediation in treatment evaluations. Evaluation Review, 5, 602–619.

  40. Kashima, Y., Yamaguchi, S., Kim, U., Choi, S.-C., Gelfand, J. M., & Yuki, M. (1995). Culture, gender, and self: A perspective from individualism-collectivism research. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69, 925–937.

  41. Kish-Gephart, J. J., Harrison, D. A., & Treviño, L. K. (2010). Bad apples, bad cases, and bad barrels: Meta-analytic evidence about sources of unethical decisions at work. Journal of Applied Psychology, 95, 1–31.

  42. Lalwani, A. K., & Shavitt, S. (2009). The “me” I claim to be: The effects of cultural self-construal on self-presentations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 97, 88–102.

  43. Lalwani, A. K., Shavitt, S., & Johnson, T. (2006). What is the relation between cultural orientation and socially desirable responding? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90, 165–178.

  44. MacKinnon, D. P., Lockwood, C. M., & Williams, J. (2004). Confidence limits for the indirect effect: Distribution of the product and resampling methods. Multivariate Behavioral Research, 39, 99–128.

  45. Markus, H. (1977). Self-schemata and processing information about the self. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 35, 63–78.

  46. Markus, H., & Kitayama, S. (1991). Culture and the self: Implications for cognition, emotion, and motivation. Psychological Review, 98, 224–253.

  47. Miller, P., & Eisenberg, N. (1988). The relation of empathy to aggressive and externalizing/antisocial behavior. Psychological Bulletin, 103, 324–344.

  48. Moffitt, T. (1993). Adolescence-limited and life-course-persistent antisocial behavior: A developmental taxonomy. Psychological Review, 100, 674–701.

  49. Moorman, R. H., & Blakely, G. L. (1995). Individualism-collectivism as an individual difference predictor of organizational citizenship behavior. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 2, 127–142.

  50. O’Fallon, M., & Butterfield, K. D. (2005). A review of the empirical ethical decision-making literature: 1996–2003. Journal of Business Ethics, 59, 375–413.

  51. Oyserman, D., & Lee, S. W. S. (2008). Does culture influence what and how we think? Effects of priming individualism and collectivism. Psychological Bulletin, 134, 311–342.

  52. Pearsall, M., & Ellis, A. (2011). Thick as thieves: The effects of ethical orientation and psychological safety on unethical team behavior. Journal of Applied Psychology, 96, 401–411.

  53. Pratto, F., Sidanius, J., Stallworth, L., & Malle, B. (1994). Social dominance orientation: A personality variable predicting social and political attitudes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67, 741–763.

  54. Preacher, K. J., & Hayes, A. F. (2004). SPSS and SAS procedures for estimating indirect effects in simple mediation models. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments and Computers, 36, 717–731.

  55. Preacher, K. J., & Hayes, A. F. (2008). Asymptotic and resampling strategies for assessing and comparing indirect effects in multiple mediator models. Behavior Research Method, 40, 879–891.

  56. Reis, H. T., & Shaver, P. (1988). Intimacy as an interpersonal process. In S. Duck (Ed.), Handbook of personal relationships (pp. 367–389). Chichester: Wiley.

  57. Rest, J. R. (1986). Moral development: Advances in research and theory. New York: Praeger.

  58. Robinson, S. L., & Bennett, R. J. (1995). A typology of unethical workplace behavior: A multidimensional scaling study. Academy of Management Journal, 38, 555–572.

  59. Schminke, M. (1997). Gender differences in ethical frameworks and evaluation of others’ choices in ethical dilemmas. Journal of Business Ethics, 16, 55–65.

  60. Sedikides, C., & Brewer, M. B. (2001). Individual self, relational self, collective self. Philadelphia: Psychology Press.

  61. Shrout, P. E., & Bolger, N. (2002). Mediation in experimental and nonexperimental studies: New procedures and recommendations. Psychological Methods, 7, 422–445.

  62. Strahan, R., & Gerbasi, K. C. (1972). Short, homogeneous versions of the Marlowe-Crowne social desirability scale. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 28, 191–193.

  63. Tenbrunsel, A. E., & Smith-Crowe, K. (2008). Ethical decision making: Where we’ve been and where we’re going. The Academy of Management Annals, 2(1), 545–607.

  64. Treviño, L. K., & Weaver, G. R. (2001). Organizational justice and ethics program follow through: Influences on employees’ helpful and harmful behavior. Business Ethics Quarterly, 11, 651–671.

  65. Treviño, L. K., Weaver, G. R., & Reynolds, S. J. (2006). Behavioral ethics in organizations: A review. Journal of Management, 32, 951–990.

  66. Triandis, H. C., Carnevale, P. J., Gelfand, M., Robert, C., Wasti, A., Probst, T. M., et al. (2001). Culture and deception in business negotiations: A multi-level analysis. International Journal of Cross Cultural Management, 1, 73–90.

  67. Turner, J. C., Hogg, M. A., Oakes, P. J., Reicher, S. D., & Wetherell, M. (1987). Rediscovering the social group: A self-categorization theory. Oxford: Blackwell.

  68. Vaughan, D. (1999). The dark side of organizations: Mistake, misconduct, and disaster. Annual Review of Sociology, 25, 271–305.

  69. Vetlesen, A. I. (1994). Perception, empathy, and judgment: An inquiry into the preconditions of moral performance. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press.

  70. Watson, D., Clark, L. A., & Tellegen, A. (1988). Development and validation of brief measures of positive and negative affect: The PANAS scales. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54, 1063–1070.

  71. Weiss, H. M., & Adler, S. (1984). Personality and organizational behavior. Research in Organizational Behavior, 6, 1–50.

  72. Wiltermuth, S. (2010). Cheating more when the spoils are split. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 115, 157–168.

Download references

Acknowledgment

This research was funded by Grant PTDC/EGE-GES/098856/2008 of the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) with funds co-financed by the state budget through the program PIDDAC.

Author information

Correspondence to Irina Cojuharenco.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Cojuharenco, I., Shteynberg, G., Gelfand, M. et al. Self-Construal and Unethical Behavior. J Bus Ethics 109, 447–461 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-011-1139-8

Download citation

Keywords

  • Unethical behavior
  • Self-construal
  • Relational self