Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 111, Issue 2, pp 219–235

A Three-Country Study of Unethical Sales Behaviors


DOI: 10.1007/s10551-012-1203-z

Cite this article as:
Li, N. & Murphy, W.H. J Bus Ethics (2012) 111: 219. doi:10.1007/s10551-012-1203-z


A major challenge in global sales research is helping managers understand sales ethics across countries. Addressing this challenge, our research investigates whether a few demographic variables and psychographic variables reduce unethical sales behaviors (USBs) in Canada, Mexico, and the USA. Further, using literatures associated with business ethics, national culture, and customer orientation advocacy, we hypothesize why sales managers should expect similarities and differences in USBs between countries. We tested hypotheses using a sales contest scenario and six USBs, examining survey responses from 948 business-to-business salespeople of a multinational company’s sales force in Canada, Mexico, and the USA. The results reveal that several psychographic variables (such as commitment, relationship to sales manager, and achievement need) affect salespeople’s tendency to engage in USBs differently in each country. In addition, business ethics, individualism, and customer orientation advocacy associated with each country can be used to anticipate similarities and differences in USBs between countries. This research offers important theoretical contributions and implications for more effectively managing sales forces and reducing USBs across countries.


Achievement need Commitment Compensation Customer orientation Leadership National culture Sales ethics Sales management Salespeople Unethical sales behavior 



Corruption perceptions index


Multinational company


North American Free Trade Agreement


Unethical sales behavior

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of ManagementGeorge Mason UniversityFairfaxUSA
  2. 2.Edwards School of BusinessUniversity of SaskatchewanSaskatoonCanada

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