Performance appraisals are widely used as an HR instrument. This study among 332 police officers examines the effects of performance appraisals from a behavioral ethics perspective. A mediation model relating justice perceptions of police officers’ last performance appraisal to their work affect, perceived supervisor and organizational support and, in turn, their ethical (pro-organizational proactive) and unethical (counterproductive) work behavior was tested empirically. The relationship between justice perceptions and both, ethical and unethical behavior was mediated by perceived support and work affect. Hence, a singular yearly performance appraisal was linked to both ethical and unethical behaviors at work. The finding that ethical and unethical aspects of employee behavior share several of the same organizational antecedents, namely organizational justice perceptions, has strong practical implications which are discussed as well.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Aquino, K., & Reed, A. (2002). The self-importance of moral identity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83(6), 1423–1440.
Aquino, K., Lewis, M. U., & Bradfield, M. (1999). Justice constructs, negative affectivity, and employee deviance: A proposed model and empirical test. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 20(7), 1073–1091.
Armeli, S., Eisenberger, R., Fasolo, P., & Lynch, P. (1998). Perceived organizational support and police performance: The moderating influence of socioemotional needs. Journal of Applied Psychology, 83(2), 288–297.
Ashforth, B. E., & Anand, V. (2003). The normalization of corruption in organizations. Research in Organizational Behavior, 25, 1–52.
Belschak, F. D., & Den Hartog, D. N. (2009). Consequences of positive and negative feedback: The impact on emotions and extra-role behaviors. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 58(2), 274–303.
Bidder, S. L., Chang, C. C., & Tyler, T. R. (2001). Procedural justice and retaliation in organizations: Comparing cross-nationally the importance of fair group processes. International Journal of Conflict Management, 12(4), 295–311.
Brady, F. N., & Wheeler, G. E. (1996). An empirical study of ethical predispositions. Journal of Business Ethics, 15(9), 927–940.
Brown, M., & Treviño, L. K. (2006). Ethical leadership: A review and future directions. Leadership Quarterly, 17(6), 595–616.
Brown, M., Treviño, L. K., & Harrison, D. (2005). Ethical leadership: A social learning perspective for construct development and testing. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 97(2), 117–134.
Chang, M. K. (1998). Predicting unethical behavior: A comparison of the theory of reasoned action and the theory of planned behavior. Journal of Business Ethics, 17(16), 1825–1834.
Chen, P. Y., & Spector, P. E. (1992). Relationships of work stressors with aggression, withdrawal, theft, and substance use: An exploratory study. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 65(3), 117–184.
Colquitt, J. A. (2001). On the dimensionality of organizational justice: A construct validation of a measure. Journal of Applied Psychology, 86(3), 386–400.
Conlon, D. E., Meyer, C. J., & Nowakowski, C. J. (2001). How does organizational justice affect performance, withdrawal, and counterproductive behavior? In J. Greenberg & J. Colquitt (Eds.), Handbook of organizational justice (pp. 301–328). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Cropanzano, R., & Stein, J. H. (2009). Organizational justice and behavioral ethics: Promises and prospects. Business Ethics Quarterly, 2(2), 193–233.
Cropanzano, R., Goldman, B., & Folger, R. (2003a). Deontic justice: The role of morale principles in workplace fairness. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 24(8), 1019–1024.
Cropanzano, R., Weiss, H. M., Hale, J. M. S., & Reb, J. (2003b). The structure of affect: Reconsidering the relationship between negative and positive affectivity. Journal of Management, 29(6), 831–857.
Cropanzano, R., Stein, J. H., & Nadisic, T. (2011). Social justice and the experience of emotion. New York: Routledge.
De Cremer, D., Mayer, D., & Schminke, M. (2010). Guest editors’ introduction on understanding ethical behavior and decision making: A behavioral ethics approach. Business Ethics Quarterly, 20(1), 1–6.
Den Hartog, D. N., & Belschak, F. D. (2007). Personal initiative, commitment and affect at work. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 80(4), 601–622.
Den Hartog, D. N., & Belschak, F. D. (2012). Work engagement and Machiavellianism in the ethical leadership process. Journal of Business Ethics, 107(1), 35–47.
Eisenberg, N. (2000). Emotion, regulation, and moral development. Annual Review of Psychology, 51(1), 665–697.
Eisenberger, R., Huntington, R., Hutchison, S., & Sowa, D. (1986). Perceived organizational support. Journal of Applied Psychology, 71(3), 500–507.
Eisenberger, R., Fasolo, P., & Davis-LaMastro, V. (1990). Perceived organizational support and employee diligence, commitment, and innovation. Journal of Applied Psychology, 75(1), 51–59.
Eisenberger, R., Armeli, S., Rexwinkel, B., Lynch, P. D., & Rhoades, L. (2001). Reciprocation of perceived organizational support. Journal of Applied Psychology, 86(1), 42–51.
Eisenberger, R., Stinglhamber, F., Vandenberghe, C., Sucharski, I. L., & Rhoades, L. (2002). Perceived supervisor support: Contributions to perceived organizational support and employee retention. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87(3), 565–573.
Fay, D., & Frese, M. (2001). The concept of personal initiative: An overview of validity studies. Human Performance, 14(1), 97–124.
Fay, S., & Sonnentag, S. (2002). Rethinking the effects of stressors: A longitudinal study on personal initiative. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 7(3), 221–234.
Fay, D., & Sonnentag, S. (2010). A look back to move ahead: New directions for research on proactive performance and other discretionary work behaviours. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 59(1), 1–20.
Fisher, C. D. (2000). Mood and emotions while working: Missing pieces of job satisfaction? Journal of Organizational Behavior, 21(2), 185–202.
Fitness, J. (2000). Anger in the workplace: An emotion script approach to anger episodes between workers and their superiors, co-workers and subordinates. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 21(2), 147–162.
Folger, R., & Cropanzano, R. (1998). Organizational justice and human resource management. Thousand Oaks: Sage.
Folger, R., & Cropanzano, R. (2001). Fairness theory: Justice as accountability. In J. Greenberg & R. Cropanzano (Eds.), Advances in organizational justice (pp. 89–118). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Folger, R., & Salvador, R. (2008). Is management theory too “self-ish”? Journal of Management, 34(6), 1127–1151.
Fox, S., & Spector, P. E. (1999). A model of work frustration–aggression. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 20(6), 915–931.
Fox, S., Spector, P. E., & Miles, D. (2001). Counterproductive work behavior (CWB) in response to job stressors and organizational justice: Some mediator and moderator tests for autonomy and emotions. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 59(3), 291–309.
Fredrickson, B. L. (1998). What good are positive emotions? Review of General Psychology, 2(3), 300–319.
Fredrickson, B. L. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. American Psychologist, 56(3), 218–226.
Frese, M., & Fay, D. (2001). Personal initiative (PI): An active performance concept for work in the 21st century. Research in Organizational Behavior, 23, 133–187.
Frese, M., Kring, W., Soose, A., & Zempel, J. (1996). Personal initiative at work: Differences between East and West Germany. Academy of Management Journal, 39(1), 37–63.
Frese, M., Fay, D., Hilburger, T., Leng, K., & Tag, A. (1997). The concept of personal initiative: Operationalization, reliability and validity in two German samples. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 70(2), 139–161.
Frese, M., Teng, E., & Wijnen, C. J. D. (1999). Helping to improve suggestion systems: Predictors of making suggestions in companies. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 20(7), 1139–1155.
Fritz, C., & Sonnentag, S. (2009). Antecedents of day-level proactive behavior: A look at job stressors and positive affect during the workday. Journal of Management, 35(1), 827–856.
Gaudine, A., & Thorne, L. (2001). Emotion and ethical decision-making in organizations. Journal of Business Ethics, 31(2), 175–187.
Greenberg, J. (1990). Organizational justice: Yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Journal of Management, 16(2), 399–432.
Greenberg, J. (2002). Who stole the money and when? Individual and situational determinants of employee theft. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 89(1), 985–1003.
Heslin, P. A., & VandeWalle, D. (2011). Performance appraisal procedural justice: The role of a manager’s implicit person theory. Journal of Management, 37(6), 1694–1718.
Holbrook, R. L. (2002). Contact points and flash points: Conceptualizing the use of justice mechanisms in the performance appraisal interview. Human Resource Management Review, 12(1), 101–123.
Isen, A. M., & Levin, P. F. (1972). The effect of feeling good on helping: Cookies and kindness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 21(3), 384–388.
Jacobs, G., Christe-Zeyse, J., Keegan, A., & Polos, L. (2008). Reactions to organizational identity threats in times of change: Illustrations from the German police. Corporate Reputation Review, 11(3), 245–261.
Kalshoven, K., Den Hartog, D. N., & De Hoogh, A. H. B. Ethical leadership and followers’ helping and initiative: The role of demonstrated responsibility and job autonomy. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology (in press).
Kaplan, S., Bradley, J. C., Luchman, J. N., & Haynes, D. (2009). On the role of positive and negative affectivity in job performance: A meta-analytic investigation. Journal of Applied Psychology, 94(1), 162–176.
Kaptein, M. (2008). Developing a measure of unethical behavior in the workplace: A stakeholder perspective. Journal of Management, 34(5), 978–1008.
Kaptein, M. (2009). Ethics programs and ethical culture: A next step in unravelling their multi-faceted relationship. Journal of Business Ethics, 89(2), 261–281.
Korsgaard, M. A., & Roberson, L. (1995). Procedural justice in performance evaluation: The role of instrumental and non-instrumental voice in performance appraisal discussions. Journal of Management, 21(4), 657–669.
Kottke, J. L., & Sharafinski, C. E. (1988). Measuring perceived supervisory and organizational support. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 48(4), 1075–1079.
Krehbiel, P. J., & Cropanzano, R. (2000). Procedural justice, outcome favorability and emotion. Social Justice Research, 13(4), 339–360.
Latham, G. P., & Mann, S. (2006). Advances in the science of performance appraisal: Implications for practice. In G. P. Hodgkinson & J. K. Ford (Eds.), International review of industrial and organizational psychology (Vol. 21, pp. 295–337). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Levin, P. F., & Isen, A. M. (1975). Further studies on the effect of feeling good on helping. Sociometry, 38(1), 141–147.
MacKenzie, S. B., Podsakoff, P. M., & Fetter, R. (1991). Organizational citizenship behavior and objective productivity as determinants of managerial evaluations of salespersons’ performance. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 50(1), 123–150.
Manz, C. C., & Sims, H. P. (1987). Leading workers to lead themselves: The external leadership of self-managing work teams. Administrative Science Quarterly, 32(1), 106–129.
Marcus, B., & Schuler, H. (2004). Antecedents of counterproductive behavior at work: A general perspective. Journal of Applied Psychology, 89(4), 647–660.
Mayer, R. C., & Davis, J. H. (1999). The effect of the performance appraisal system on trust for management: A field quasi-experiment. Journal of Applied Psychology, 84(1), 123–136.
Mesmer-Magnus, J. R., & Viswesvaran, C. (2005). Whistleblowing in organizations: An examination of correlates of whistleblowing intentions, actions, and retaliation. Journal of Business Ethics, 62(3), 277–297.
Michie, S., & West, M. A. (2004). Managing people and performance: An evidence based framework applied to health service. International Journal of Management Reviews, 5(2), 91–111.
Miles, D. E., Borman, W. E., Spector, P. E., & Fox, S. (2002). Building and integrative model of extra role work behaviors: A comparison of counterproductive work behavior with organizational citizenship behavior. International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 10(1/2), 51–57.
Moorman, R. H., Blakely, G. L., & Niehoff, B. P. (1998). Does perceived organizational support mediate the relationship between procedural justice and organizational citizenship behavior? Academy of Management Journal, 41(3), 351–357.
Organ, D. W., & Ryan, K. (1995). A meta-analytic review of attitudinal and dispositional predictors of organizational citizenship behavior. Personnel Psychology, 48(4), 775–802.
Parker, S. K., Williams, H. M., & Turner, N. (2006). Modeling the antecedents of proactive behavior at work. Journal of Applied Psychology, 91(3), 636–652.
Penney, L. M., & Spector, P. E. (2005). Job stress, incivility, and counterproductive work behavior: The moderating role of negative affectivity. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 26(7), 775–796.
Peterson, D. (2002). The relationship between unethical behavior and the dimensions of the ethical climate questionnaire. Journal of Business Ethics, 41(4), 313–326.
Rhoades, L., & Eisenberger, R. (2002). Perceived organizational support: A review of the literature. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87(4), 698–714.
Richardson, H. A., Simmering, M. J., & Sturman, M. C. (2009). A tale of three perspectives: Examining post hoc statistical techniques for detection and correction of common method variance. Organizational Research Methods, 12(4), 762–800.
Rotundo, M., & Sackett, P. R. (2002). The relative importance of task, citizenship, and counterproductive performance to global ratings of job performance: A policy-capturing approach. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87(1), 66–80.
Shanock, L. R., & Eisenberger, R. (2006). When supervisors feel supported: Relationships with subordinates’ perceived supervisor support, perceived organizational support, and performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 91(3), 689–695.
Shore, L. M., & Shore, T. H. (1995). Perceived organizational support and organizational justice. In R. Cropanzano & K. Kacmar (Eds.), Organizational politics, justice, and support (pp. 149–164). Westport, CT: Quorum.
Skarlicki, D. P., & Folger, R. (1997). Retaliation in the workplace: The roles of distributive, procedural, and interactional justice. Journal of Applied Psychology, 82(3), 434–443.
Skarlicki, D. P., & Kulik, C. (2005). Third party reactions to employee (mis) treatment: A justice perspective. Research in organizational behavior: An annual series of analytical essays and critical reviews, 26, 183–229.
Skarlicki, D. P., Folger, R., & Tesluk, P. (1999). Personality as a moderator in the relationship between fairness and retaliation. Academy of Management Journal, 42(1), 100–108.
Spector, P. E., & Fox, S. (2002). An emotion-centered model of voluntary work behavior: Some parallels between counter productive work behavior and organizational citizenship behavior. Human Resource Management Review, 12(2), 269–292.
Tenbrunsel, A. E., Smith-Crowe, K., & Umphress, E. (2003). Building houses on rocks: The role of the ethical infrastructure in organizations. Social Justice Research, 16(3), 223–235.
Treviño, L. K., & Brown, M. E. (2004). Managing to be ethical: Debunking five business ethics myths. Academy of Management Executive, 18(2), 69–83.
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(4), 651–671.
Treviño, L. K., & Weaver, G. R. (2003). Managing ethics in business organizations. Stanford, CA: Stanford Business Books.
Treviño, L. K., Weaver, G. R., Gibson, D., & Toffler, B. (1999). Managing ethics and legal compliance: What works and what hurts. California Management Review, 41(2), 131–151.
Treviño, L. K., Weaver, G. R., & Reynolds, S. J. (2006). Behavioral ethics in organizations: A review. Journal of Management, 32(6), 951–989.
Treviño, L. K., & Youngblood, S. A. (1990). Bad apples in bad barrels: A causal analysis of ethical decision-making behavior. Journal of Applied Psychology, 75(4), 378–385.
Van Maanen, J. (1975). Police socialization: A longitudinal examination of job attitudes in an urban police department. Administrative Science Quarterly, 20(2), 207–228.
Vardi, Y., & Weitz, E. (2004). Misbehavior in organizations: Theory, research, and management. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Velasquez, M. G. (2005). Business ethics: Concepts and cases. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Watson, D., Clark, L. A., & Tellegen, A. (1988). The development and validation of brief measures of positive and negative affect: The PANAS scales. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54(6), 1063–1070.
Weaver, G. R., & Agle, B. R. (2002). Religiosity and ethical behavior in organizations: A symbolic interactionist perspective. Academy of Management Review, 27(1), 77–97.
Weaver, G. R., Treviño, L. K., & Cochran, P. L. (1999). Integrated and decoupled corporate social performance: Management commitments, external pressure, and corporate ethics practices. Academy of Management Journal, 42(5), 539–552.
Weaver, G. R., Treviño, L. K., & Agle, B. R. (2005). “Somebody I look up to”: Ethical role modeling in organizations. Organizational Dynamics, 34(4), 313–330.
Weiss, H. M., & Cropanzano, R. (1996). Affective events theory: A theoretical discussion of the structure, causes, and consequences of affective experiences at work. Research in Organizational Behavior, 18, 1–74.
Weiss, H. M., Suckow, K., & Cropanzano, R. (1999). Effects of justice conditions on discrete emotions. Journal of Applied Psychology, 84(5), 786–794.
Wimbush, J. C., Shepard, J. M., & Markham, S. E. (1997). An empirical examination of the relationship between ethical climate and ethical behavior from multiple levels of analysis. Journal of Business Ethics, 16(1), 1705–1716.
About this article
Cite this article
Jacobs, G., Belschak, F.D. & Den Hartog, D.N. (Un)Ethical Behavior and Performance Appraisal: The Role of Affect, Support, and Organizational Justice. J Bus Ethics 121, 63–76 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-013-1687-1
- Ethical behavior
- Counterproductive work behavior
- Performance appraisal
- Organizational justice
- Proactive behavior
- Work affect