Skip to main content

Villains, Victims, and Verisimilitudes: An Exploratory Study of Unethical Corporate Values, Bullying Experiences, Psychopathy, and Selling Professionals’ Ethical Reasoning

Abstract

This study assesses the relationships among unethical corporate values, bullying experiences, psychopathy, and selling professionals’ ethical evaluations of bullying. Information was collected from national/regional samples of selling professionals. Results indicated that unethical values, bullying, and psychopathy were positively interrelated. Psychopathy and unethical values were negatively associated with moral intensity, while moral intensity was positively related to ethical issue importance. Psychopathy and unethical values were negatively related to issue importance, and issue importance and moral intensity were positively related to ethical judgment. Finally, ethical judgment and moral intensity were positively linked to ethical intention; psychopathy was negatively associated with ethical intention.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1

References

  • Ajzen, I. (1991). The theory of planned behavior. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 50, 179–212.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Alexander, C., & Becker, H. J. (1978). The use of vignettes in survey research. Public Opinion Quarterly, 42(1), 93–104.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Andersson, L. M., & Pearson, C. M. (1999). Tit for tat? The spiraling effect of incivility in the workplace. Academy of Management Review, 24(3), 452–471.

    Google Scholar 

  • Aquino, K., & Bradfield, M. (2000). Perceived victimization in the workplace: The role of situational factors and victim characteristics. Organizational Science, 11(5), 525–537.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Aquino, K., Grover, S. L., Bradfield, M., & Allen, D. G. (1999). The effects of negative affectivity, hierarchical status, and self-determination on workplace victimization. Academy of Management Journal, 42(3), 260–272.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Aquino, K., & Thau, S. (2009). Workplace victimization: Aggression from the target’s perspective. Annual Review of Psychology, 60, 717–741.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Armstrong, J. S., & Overton, T. S. (1977). Estimating nonresponse bias in mail surveys. Journal of Marketing Research, 14(3), 396–402.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ayoko, O. (2007). Communication openness, conflict events and reaction to conflict in culturally diverse workgroups. Cross Cultural Management, 14(2), 105–124.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Baillien, E., De Cuyper, N., & De Witte, H. (2011). Job Autonomy and workload as antecedents of workplace bullying: A two-wave test of Karasek’s job demand control model for targets and perpetrators. Journal of Occupational & Organizational Psychology, 84(1), 191–208.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Baillien, E., & De Witte, H. (2009). Why is organizational change related to workplace bullying? Role conflict and job insecurity as mediators. Economic & Industrial Democracy, 30(3), 348–371.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Barnett, T. (2001). Dimensions of moral intensity and ethical decision-making: An empirical study. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 31(5), 1038–1057.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Barnett, T., Bass, K., & Brown, G. (1996). Religiosity, ethical ideology, and intentions to report a Peer’s Wrongdoing. Journal of Business Ethics, 15(11), 1161–1174.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Barnett, T., & Valentine, S. (2004). Issue contingencies and marketers’ recognition of ethical issues, ethical judgments and behavioral intentions. Journal of Business Research, 57(4), 338–346.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Baughman, H. H., Dearing, S., Giammarco, E., & Vernon, P. A. (2012). Relationships between bullying behaviours and the dark triad: A study with adults. Personality and Individual Differences, 52, 571–575.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bellizzi, J. A., & Hasty, R. W. (2003). Supervising unethical sales force behavior: How strong is the tendency to treat top sales performers leniently. Journal of Business Ethics, 43, 337–351.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Boddy, C. R. (2005). The implications of corporate psychopaths for business and society: An initial examination and a call to arms. Australasian Journal of Business and Behavioral Sciences, 1(2), 30–40.

    Google Scholar 

  • Boddy, C. R. (2010). Corporate psychopaths and productivity. Management Services, 54(1), 26–30.

    Google Scholar 

  • Boddy, C. R. (2011). Corporate psychopaths, bullying, and unfair supervision in the workplace. Journal of Business Ethics, 100(3), 367–379.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Boddy, C. R., Ladyshewsky, R. K., Richard, K., & Galvin, P. (2010). The influence of corporate psychopaths on corporate social responsibility and organizational commitment to employees. Journal of Business Ethics, 97(1), 1–19.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Brown, M. E., & Trevino, L. K. (2006). Ethical leadership: A review and future directions. The Leadership Quarterly, 17(6), 595–616.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Caponecchia, C., Sun, A. Y. Z., & Wyatt, A. (2012). ‘Psychopaths’ at work? Implications for lay persons’ use of labels and behavioural criteria for psychopathy. Journal of Business Ethics, 107, 399–408.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Carlson, D. S., Michele Kacmar, K., & Wadsworth, L. L. (2002). The impact of moral intensity dimensions on ethical decision making: Assessing the relevance of orientation. Journal of Managerial Issues, 14(1), 15–30.

    Google Scholar 

  • Caywood, C. L., & Laczniak, G. R. (1986). Ethics and personal selling: Death of a salesman as an ethical primer. Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, 6(2), 81–88.

    Google Scholar 

  • Claybourn, M. (2011). Relationships between moral disengagement, work characteristics and workplace harassment. Journal of Business Ethics, 100, 283–301.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cooke, D. J., & Michie, C. (2001). Refining the construct of psychopathy: towards a hierarchical model. Psychological Assessment, 13(2), 171–188.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cortina, L. (2008). Unseen injustice: Incivility as modern discrimination in organizations. Academy of Management Review, 33(1), 55–75.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cronan, T. P., Leonard, L. N. K., & Kreie, J. (2005). An empirical validation of perceived importance and behavioral intention in IT ethics. Journal of Business Ethics, 56(3), 231–238.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Crowne, D. P., & Marlowe, D. (1960). A new scale of social desirability independent of psychopathology. Journal of Consulting Psychology, 24(4), 349–354.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Darrat, M., Amyx, D., & Bennett, R. (2010). An investigation into the effects on work-family conflict and job satisfaction on salesperson deviance. Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, 30(3), 239–251.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Douglas, P. C., Davidson, R. A., & Schwartz, B. N. (2001). The effect of organizational culture and ethical orientation on accountant’s ethical judgments. Journal of Business Ethics, 34(2), 101–121.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dubinsky, A. J., Jolson, M. A., Michaels, R. E., Kotabe, M., & Lim, C. U. (1992). Ethical perceptions of field sales personnel: An empirical assessment. Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, 12(4), 10–21.

    Google Scholar 

  • Einarsen, S. (1999). The nature and causes of bullying at work. International Journal of Manpower, 20(1/2), 16–27.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Einarsen, S, & Hoel, H. (2001). The Negative Acts Questionnaire: Development, Validation and Revision of a Measure of Bullying at Work. In 10th European Congress on Work and Organisational Psychology, Prague.

  • Einarsen, S., Hoel, H., & Notelaers, G. (2009). Measuring exposure to bullying and harassment at work: Validity, factor structure and psychometric properties of the negative acts questionnaire-revised. Work and Stress, 23(1), 24–44.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Einarsen, S., & Skogstad, A. (1996). Bullying at work: Epidemiological findings in public and private organizations. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 5(2), 185–201.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ferrell, O. C., Johnston, M. W., & Ferrell, L. (2007). A framework for personal selling and sales management ethical decision making. Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, 27(4), 291–299.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fischer, D. G., & Fick, C. (1993). Measuring social desirability: Short forms of the Marlowe-Crowne social desirability scale. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 53(2), 417–424.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fox, S., & Stallworth, L. E. (2006). How effective is an apology in resolving workplace bullying disputes? Dispute Resolution Journal, 61(2), 54–63.

    Google Scholar 

  • Glasø, L., Nielsen, M. B., & Einarsen, S. (2009). Interpersonal problems among perpetrators and targets of workplace bullying. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 39(6), 1316–1333.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Glomb, T. M., & Liao, H. (2003). Interpersonal aggression in work groups: Social influence, reciprocal, and individual effects. Academy of Management Journal, 46(4), 486–496.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Granstra, K. (2015). Nurse against nurse: Horizontal bullying in the nursing profession. Journal of Healthcare Management, 60(4), 249–257.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Haines, R., Street, M. C., & Haines, D. (2008). The influence of perceived importance of an ethical issue on moral judgment, moral obligation, and moral intent. Journal of Business Ethics, 81(2), 387–399.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hare, R. D. (1991). The hare psychopathy checklist revised. New York/Ontario): Multi-Health Systems Inc.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hare, R. D. (1999). Without conscience: The disturbing word of the psychopaths among us. New York: Guildford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Harvey, M. G., Buckley, R. M., Heames, J. T., Zinko, R., Brouer, R. L., & Ferris, G. R. (2007). A bully as an archetypal destructive leader. Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies, 14(2), 117–129.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Harvey, M. G., Treadway, D., Heames, J. T., & Duke, A. (2009). Bullying in the 21st century global organization: An ethical perspective. Journal of Business Ethics, 85(1), 27–40.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hauge, L. J., Skogstads, A., & Einarsen, S. (2009). Individual and Situational predictors of workplace bullying: Why do perpetrators engage in the bullying of others? Work and Stress, 23(4), 349–358.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Heames, J. T., Harvey, M. G., & Treadway, D. (2006). Status inconsistency: An antecedent to bullying behavior in groups. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 17(2), 348–361.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hodson, R., Roscigno, V. J., & Lopez, S. H. (2006). Chaos and the abuse of power: Workplace bullying in organizational and interactional context. Work and Occupations, 33(4), 382–416.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hoffman, K. D., Howe, V., & Hardigree, D. W. (1991). Ethical dilemmas faced in the selling of complex services: Significant others and competitive pressures. Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, 11(4), 13–25.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hunt, S. D., & Vitell, S. J. (1986). A general theory of marketing ethics. Journal of Macromarketing, 8(1), 5–16.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hunt, S. D., & Vitell, S. J. (2006). A general theory of marketing ethics: A revision and three questions. Journal of Macromarketing, 26(2), 1–11.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hunt, S. D., Wood, V. R., & Chonko, L. B. (1989). Corporate ethical values and organizational commitment in marketing. Journal of Marketing, 53(3), 79–90.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hymel, S., & Swearer, S. M. (2015). Four decades of research on school bullying. American Psychologist, 70(4), 293–299.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ingram, T. N., LaForge, R. W., & Schwepker, C. H, Jr. (2007). Salesperson ethical decision making: The impact of sales leadership and sales management control strategy. Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, 27(4), 301–315.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jones, T. M. (1991). Ethical decision-making by individuals in organizations: An issue-contingent model. Academy of Management Review, 16(2), 366–395.

    Google Scholar 

  • Keashly, l, & Neuman, J. H. (2005). Bullying in the workplace: Its impact and management. Employee Rights and Employment Policy Journal, 8(2), 335–373.

    Google Scholar 

  • Keashly, L., & Neuman, J. H. (2010). Faculty experiences with bullying in higher education. Administrative Theory & Praxis, 32(1), 48–70.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Keashly, L., & Neuman, J. H. (2013). Bullying in higher education: what current research, theorizing, and practice tell us. In J. Lester (Ed.), Workplace bullying in higher education (pp. 1–22). New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • 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), 1–31.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Langan-Fox, J., & Sankey, M. (2008). Tyrants and workplace bullying. In J. Langan-Fox, C. L. Cooper, & R. J. Klimoski (Eds.), Research companion to the dysfunctional workplace: Management challenges and symptoms (pp. 58–74). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

    Google Scholar 

  • Levenson, M. R., Kiehl, K. A., & Fitzpatrick, C. M. (1995). assessing psychopathic attributes in a noninstitutionalized population. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 68(1), 151–158.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Leymann, H., & Gustafsson, A. (1996). Mobbing at work and the development of post-traumatic stress disorders. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 5(2), 251–275.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Loe, T. W., Ferrell, L., & Mansfield, P. (2000). A review of empirical studies assessing ethical decision making in business. Journal of Business Ethics, 25(3), 185–204.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lutgen-Sandvik, P., Tracy, S. J., & Alberts, J. K. (2007). Burned by bullying in the american workplace: Prevalence, perception, degree and impact. Journal of Management Studies, 44(6), 837–862.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lynam, D. R., Whiteside, S., & Jones, S. (1999). Self-reported psychopathy: A validation study. Journal of Personality Assessment, 73(1), 110–132.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mikkelsen, E. G., & Einarsen, S. (2001). Bullying in Danish work-life: Prevalence and health correlates. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 10(4), 393–413.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Morris, S. A., & McDonald, R. A. (1995). The role of moral intensity in moral judgments: An empirical investigation. Journal of Business Ethics, 14(9), 715–726.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Neuman, J., & Baron, R. A. (1998). Workplace violence and workplace aggression: Evidence concerning specific forms, potential causes, and preferred targets. Journal of Management, 24(3), 391–419.

    Article  Google Scholar 

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

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Paolillo, J. G., & Vitell, S. J. (2002). An empirical investigation of the influence of selected personal, organizational and moral intensity factors on ethical decision-making. Journal of Business Ethics, 35(1), 65–74.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Parzefall, M.-R., & Salin, D. M. (2010). Perceptions of and reactions to workplace bullying: A social exchange perspective. Human Relations, 63(6), 671–780.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pilch, I., & Turska, E. (2015). Relationships between machiavellianism, organizational culture, and workplace bullying: Emotional abuse from the target’s and the perpetrator’s perspective. Journal of Business Ethics, 128(1), 83–93.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Randall, D. M., & Fernandes, M. F. (1991). The social desirability response bias in ethics research. Journal of Business Ethics, 10(11), 805–817.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Reidenbach, R. E., & Robin, D. P. (1990). Toward the development of a multidimensional scale for improving evaluations of business ethics. Journal of Business Ethics, 9, 639–653.

    Article  Google Scholar 

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

    Google Scholar 

  • Robin, D. P., ER, R., & Forrest, P. J. (1996). The perceived importance of an ethical issue as an influence on the ethical decision-making of Ad managers. Journal of Business Research, 35(1), 17–28.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Salin, S. (2001). Prevalence and forms of bullying among business professionals: A comparison of two different strategies for measuring bullying. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 10(4), 425–441.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Salin, D. (2003). Ways of explaining workplace bullying: A review of enabling, motivating, and precipitating structures and processes in the work environment. Human Relations, 56(10), 1213–1232.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Samnani, S.-K., & Singh, P. (2014). Performance-enhancing compensation practices and employee productivity: The role of workplace bullying. Human Resource Management Review, 24(1), 5–16.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Schein, E. H. (1992). Organizational culture and leadership. San-Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

    Google Scholar 

  • Schein, E. H. (2009). The corporate culture survival guide. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

    Google Scholar 

  • Seevers, M. T., Skinner, S. J., & Kelley, S. W. (2007). A social network perspective on sales force ethics. Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, 27(4), 341–353.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Serviere-Munoz, L., & Mallin, M. L. (2013). How do unethical salespeople sleep at night? The role of neutralizations in the justification of unethical sales intentions. Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, 33(3), 289–306.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Singer, M. S. (1996). The role of moral intensity and fairness perceptions in judgments of ethicality: A comparison of managerial professionals and the general public. Journal of Business Ethics, 15(4), 469–474.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Singhapakdi, A. (1993). Ethical perceptions of marketers: The interaction of effects of machiavellianism and organizational ethical culture. Journal of Business Ethics, 12(5), 407–418.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Singhapakdi, A., Salyachivin, S., Virakul, B., & Veerayangkur, V. (2000). Some important factors underlying ethical decision making of managers in Thailand. Journal of Business Ethics, 27(3), 271–284.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Singhapakdi, A., & Vitell, S. J. (1991). Analyzing the ethical decision making of sales professionals. Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, 11(4), 1–12.

    Google Scholar 

  • Singhapakdi, A., & Vitell, S. J. (1992). Marketing ethics: Sales professionals versus other marketing professionals. Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, 12(2), 27–38.

    Google Scholar 

  • Singhapakdi, A., Vitell, S. J., & Franke, G. R. (1999). Antecedents, consequences, and mediating effects of perceived moral intensity and personal moral philosophies. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 27(1), 19–36.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Singhapakdi, A., Vitell, S. J., & Kraft, K. L. (1996). Moral intensity and ethical decision-making of marketing professionals. Journal of Business Research, 36(3), 245–255.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Spector, P. E. (2006). Method variance in organizational research: Truth or urban legend. Organizational Research Methods, 9(2), 221–232.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Strahan, R., & Gerbasi, K. C. (1972). Short, homogeneous versions of the Marlowe-Crowne social desirability scale. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 28(2), 191–193.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sweeney, P. (2007). Organizational chaos and relative powerlessness: Breeding ground for bullies? Academy of Management Perspectives, 21(2), 77–78.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tellefsen, T., & Eyuboglu, N. (2002). The impact of a salesperson’s in-house conflicts and influence attempts on buyer commitment. Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, 22(3), 157–172.

    Google Scholar 

  • Trevino, L. K., Kenneth, D. B., & McCabe, D. L. (1998). The ethical context in organizations: Influences on employee attitudes and behaviors. Business Ethics Quarterly, 8(3), 447–476.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Trevino, L. K., & Nelson, K. A. (2011). Managing business ethics: Straight talk about how to do it right (5th ed.). New York: Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  • Tsalikis, J., & Fritzsche, D. J. (1989). Business ethics: A literature review with a focus on marketing ethics. Journal of Business Ethics, 8(9), 695–743.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Valentine, S., & Barnett, T. (2002). Ethics codes and sales professionals’ perceptions of their organizations’ ethical values. Journal of Business Ethics, 40(3), 191–200.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Valentine, S., & Barnett, T. (2007). Perceived organizational ethics and the ethical decision of sales and marketing personnel. Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, 27(4), 373–388.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Valentine, S., Fleischman, G., & Godkin, L. (2015). Rogues in the ranks of selling organizations: Using corporate ethics to manage workplace bullying and job satisfaction. Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, 35(2), 143–163.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Valentine, S., Fleischman, G., Sprague, R., & Godkin, L. (2010). Exploring the ethicality of firing employees who blog. Human Resource Management, 49(1), 87–108.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Vartia, M. (1996). The sources of bullying: Psychological work environment and organizational climate. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 5(2), 203–214.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Vega, G., & Comer, D. R. (2005). Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can break your spirit: Bullying in the workplace. Journal of Business Ethics, 58(1), 101–109.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Vickers, M. H. (2014). Workplace bullying as workplace corruption: A higher education, creative nonfiction case study. Administration & Society, 46(8), 960–985.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Walters, G. D., Brinkley, C. A., Magaletta, P. R., & Dianmond, P. M. (2008). Taxometric analysis of the Levenson self-report psychopathy scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 90(5), 491–498.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wotruba, T. R. (1990). A comprehensive framework for the analysis of ethical behavior, with a focus on sales organizations. Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, 10, 29–42.

    Google Scholar 

  • Zapf, D., Escartin, J., Einarsen, S., Hoel, H., & Vartia, M. (2003). Empirical findings on prevalence and risk groups of bullying in the workplace. In S. Einarsen, H. Hoel, D. Zapf, & C. L. Cooper (Eds.), Bullying and emotional abuse in the workplace. International perspectives in research and practice. London: Taylor & Francis Group.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Sean Valentine.

Appendix: Ethics Scenario and Measures

Appendix: Ethics Scenario and Measures

Situation

Kim is a seasoned salesperson in an office supply firm that services many large corporate clients. A year ago, she was given several new sales accounts that had high potential, mainly because of her seniority in the sales department, as well as her popularity, easy-going nature, and preferences for teamwork (i.e., she sometimes gives sales leads away to help struggling associates). Unfortunately, she has been unable to sell enough merchandise to these new clients, and her current level of sales performance only “meets expectations” according to recent appraisals received from her sales manager. Jocelyn, a relatively new member of the sales department, subscribes to a different approach to selling that involves individualistic and assertive tactics, excessive networking with others, and impression management around important people, qualities that have often enabled her to get good sales leads and assignments and to effectively close deals. Jocelyn is upset because she thinks that Kim is not selling enough given her good sales leads, she is too concerned about getting along with others, and she’s not political enough. Consequently, Jocelyn believes that Kim’s new accounts should be assigned to her to oversee and manage.

Actions

Jocelyn meets individually with members of the sales department to convince them that Kim’s new accounts should be assigned to her. While many disagree with Jocelyn, she convinces a core group of salespeople, including the sales manager, that Kim’s new clients should be given to her, which occurs during Kim’s next performance appraisal. Feeling empowered by this decision, Jocelyn begins to ignore, isolate, and criticize those who disagreed with her, while at the same time strengthening her relationships with those who supported her.

Moral Intensity

  1. 1.

    The overall harm (if any) done as a result of Jocelyn’s actions would be very small. (R)

  2. 2.

    There is a very small likelihood that Jocelyn’s actions will actually cause any harm. (R)

  3. 3.

    Jocelyn’s actions will not cause any harm in the immediate future. (R)

  4. 4.

    Jocelyn’s actions will harm very few people (if any). (R)

Perceived Importance of Ethical Issue

Ethical Judgment

Ethical Intention

Psychopathy

  1. 1.

    For me, what’s right is whatever I can get away with.

  2. 2.

    I enjoy manipulating other people’s feelings.

  3. 3.

    I often admire a really clever scam.

  4. 4.

    People who are stupid enough to get ripped off usually deserve it.

  5. 5.

    I tell other people what they want to hear so that they will do what I want them to do.

  6. 6.

    In today’s world, I feel justified in doing anything I can get away with to succeed.

Bullying Experiences (Negative Acts)

During the past year, how often have you been subjected to the following negative acts in the workplace?

  1. 1.

    Had gossip and rumors spread about you

  2. 2.

    Had insulting/offensive remarks made about you

  3. 3.

    Been ignored, excluded or isolated from others

  4. 4.

    Received hints or signals from others that you should quit your job

  5. 5.

    Been intimidated with threatening behavior

  6. 6.

    Been ignored or faced hostile reactions when you approach others

  7. 7.

    Had false allegations made against you

  8. 8.

    Subjected to excessive teasing and sarcasm

  9. 9.

    Been shouted at or targeted with spontaneous anger (or rage)

  10. 10.

    Pressured into not claiming something to which entitled

  11. 11.

    Experienced threats of violence or abused/attacked

Unethical Corporate Values

  1. 1.

    Managers in my organization often engage in behaviors that I consider to be unethical.

  2. 2.

    In order to succeed in my organization, it is often necessary to compromise one’s ethics.

  3. 3.

    Top management in my organization has let it be known in no uncertain terms that unethical behaviors will not be tolerated. (R)

  4. 4.

    If a manager in my organization is discovered to have engaged in unethical behavior that results primarily in personal gain (rather than organizational gain), he or she will be promptly reprimanded. (R)

  5. 5.

    If a manager in my organization is discovered to have engaged in unethical behavior that results primarily in organizational gain (rather than personal gain), he or she will be promptly reprimanded. (R)

Social Desirability

  1. 1.

    I like to gossip at times. (R)

  2. 2.

    There have been occasions when I took advantage of someone. (R)

  3. 3.

    I’m always willing to admit it when I make a mistake.

  4. 4.

    I always try to practice what I preach.

  5. 5.

    I sometimes try to get even, rather than forgive and forget. (R)

  6. 6.

    At times I have really insisted on having things my own way. (R)

  7. 7.

    There have been occasions when I felt like smashing things. (R)

  8. 8.

    I never resent being asked to return a favor.

  9. 9.

    I have never been irked when people expressed ideas very different from my own.

  10. 10.

    I have never deliberately said something that hurt someone’s feelings.

(R) = reverse-coded

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Valentine, S., Fleischman, G. & Godkin, L. Villains, Victims, and Verisimilitudes: An Exploratory Study of Unethical Corporate Values, Bullying Experiences, Psychopathy, and Selling Professionals’ Ethical Reasoning. J Bus Ethics 148, 135–154 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-015-2993-6

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-015-2993-6

Keywords

  • Workplace bullying
  • Psychopathy
  • Corporate ethical values
  • Ethical reasoning