Skip to main content
Log in

Investigating When and Why Psychological Entitlement Predicts Unethical Pro-organizational Behavior

  • Original Paper
  • Published:
Journal of Business Ethics Aims and scope Submit manuscript

Abstract

In this research, we examine the relationship between employee psychological entitlement (PE) and employee willingness to engage in unethical pro-organizational behavior (UPB). We hypothesize that a high level of PE—the belief that one should receive desirable treatment irrespective of whether it is deserved—will increase the prevalence of this particular type of unethical behavior. We argue that, driven by self-interest and the desire to look good in the eyes of others, highly entitled employees may be more willing to engage in UPB when their personal goals are aligned with those of their organizations. Support for this proposition was found in Study 1, which demonstrates that organizational identification accentuates the link between PE and the willingness to engage in UPB. Study 2 builds on these findings by examining a number of mediating variables that shed light on why PE leads to a greater willingness among employees to engage in UPB. Furthermore, we explored the differential effects of PE on UPB compared to counterproductive work behavior (CWB). We found support for our moderated mediation model, which shows that status striving and moral disengagement fully mediate the link between PE and UPB. PE was also linked to CWB and was fully mediated by perceptions of organizational justice and moral disengagement.

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

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Similar content being viewed by others

References

  • Adams, J. S. (1965). Inequity in social exchange. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 2, pp. 267–299). New York: Academic Press.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Aiken, L. S., & West, S. G. (1991). Multiple regression testing and interpreting interactions. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Albert, S., Ashforth, B. E., & Dutton, J. E. (2000). Organizational identity and identification: Charting new waters and building new bridges. Academy of Management Review, 25, 13–17.

    Article  Google Scholar 

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

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Arendt, H. (1994 [1945]). Organized guilt and universal responsibility. In H. Arendt (Ed.), Essays in understanding, 19301954: Formation, exile, and totalitarianism (pp. 121–132). New York: Harcourt Brace.

  • Ashforth, B. E., & Mael, F. (1989). Social identity theory and the organization. Academy of Management Review, 14, 20–39.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bandura, A. (1999). Moral disengagement in the perpetration of inhumanities. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 3, 193–209.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Barnett, T., & Vaicys, C. (2000). The moderating effect of individuals’ perceptions of ethical work climate on ethical judgments and behavioral intentions. Journal of Business Ethics, 27, 351–362.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Barrick, M. R., Stewart, G. L., & Piotrowski, M. (2002). Personality and job performance: Test of the mediating effects of motivation among sales representatives. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87, 43–51.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Barsky, A. (2011). Investigating the effects of moral disengagement and participation on unethical work behavior. Journal of Business Ethics, 104, 59–75.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bauer, D. J., Preacher, K. J., & Gil, K. M. (2006). Conceptualizing and testing random indirect effects and moderated mediation in multilevel models: New procedures and recommendations. Psychological Methods, 11, 142–163.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bauman, Z. (1991). Modernity and the Holocaust. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bennett, R. J., & Robinson, S. L. (2000). Development of a measure of workplace deviance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 85, 349–360.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bishop, J., & Lane, R. C. (2002). The dynamics and dangers of entitlement. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 19, 739–758.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bliese, P. D. (1998). Group size, ICC values, and group-level correlations: A simulation. Organizational Research Methods, 1, 355–373.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Brief, A. P., Dietz, J., Cohen, R. R., Pugh, S. D., & Vaslow, J. B. (2000). Just doing business: Modern racism and obedience to authority as explanations for employment discrimination. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 81, 72–97.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Brislin, R. (1993). Understanding culture’s influence on behavior. Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  • Brown, A. D., & Starkey, K. (2000). Organizational identity and learning: A psycho-dynamic perspective. Academy of Management Review, 25, 102–120.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Campbell, W. K., Bonacci, A. M., Shelton, J., Exline, J. J., & Bushman, B. J. (2004). Psychological entitlement: Interpersonal consequences and validation of a self-report measure. Journal of Personality Assessment, 83, 29–45.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Carless, S. A., Wearing, A. J., & Mann, L. (2000). A short measure of transformational leadership. Journal of Business and Psychology, 14, 389–405.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Castille, C. M., Bucker, J. M., & Thoroughgood, C. N. (2016). Prosocial citizens without a moral compass? Examining the relationship between Machiavellianism and unethical pro-organizational behavior. Journal of Business Ethics. doi:10.1007/s10551-016-3079-9.

  • Chen, M., Chen, C. C., & Sheldon, O. J. (2016). Relaxing moral reasoning to win: How organizational identification relates to unethical pro-organizational behavior. Journal of Applied Psychology, 101, 1082–1096.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cohen, J. (1992). A power primer. Psychological Bulletin, 112, 155–159.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cropanzano, R., Byrne, Z. S., Bobocel, D. R., & Rupp, D. E. (2001). Moral virtues, fairness heuristics, social entities, and other denizens of organizational justice. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 58, 164–209.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dahling, J. J., Whitaker, B. G., & Levy, P. E. (2009). The development and validation of a new Machiavellianism scale. Journal of Management, 35, 219–257.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dalal, R. S. (2005). A meta-analysis of the relationship between organizational citizenship behavior and counterproductive work behavior. Journal of Applied Psychology, 90, 1241–1255.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • De Cremer, D. (2006). Unfair treatment and revenge taking: The roles of collective identification and feelings of disappointment. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, 10, 220–232.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • De Cremer, D., van Dijk, E., & Folmer, C. P. R. (2009). Why leaders feel entitled to take more: Feelings of entitlement as a moral rationalization strategy. In D. De Cremer (Ed.), Psychological perspectives on ethical behavior and decision making (pp. 107–119). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

  • Deutsch, M. (1985). Distributive justice: A social-psychological perspective. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Dietz, G., & Gillespie, N. (2012). The recovery of trust: Case studies of organizational failures and trust repair. London: Institute of Business Ethics.

    Google Scholar 

  • Donaldson, T., & Dunfee, T. W. (1994). Toward a unified conception of business ethics: Integrative social contracts theory. Academy of Management Review, 19, 252–284.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dougherty, C. (2007). Bribery trial deepens Siemens woes. New York Times, 13 March.

  • Effelsberg, D., Solga, M., & Gurt, J. (2014). Transformational leadership and follower’s unethical behavior for the benefit of the company: A two-study investigation. Journal of Business Ethics, 120, 81–93.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Egan, V., Hughes, N., & Palmer, E. J. (2015). Moral disengagement, the dark triad, and unethical consumer attitudes. Personality and Individual Differences, 76, 123–128.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Exline, J. J., Baumeister, R. F., Bushman, B. J., Campbell, W. K., & Finkel, E. J. (2004). Too proud to let go: Narcissistic entitlement as a barrier to forgiveness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87, 894–912.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Graen, G. B., & Uhl-Bien, M. (1995). Relationship-based approach to leadership: Development of leader-member exchange (LMX) theory of leadership over 25 years: Applying a multi-level multi-domain perspective. Leadership Quarterly, 6, 219–247.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Graham, K. A., Ziegert, J. C., & Capitano, J. (2015). The effect of leadership style, framing, and promotion regulatory focus on unethical pro-organizational behavior. Journal of Business Ethics, 6, 423–436.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Greenbaum, R. L., Hill, A., Mawritz, M. B., & Quade, M. J. (2017). Employee Machiavellianism to unethical behavior: The role of abusive supervision as a trait activator. Journal of Management, 43, 585–609.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Harvey, P., & Dasborough, M. T. (2015). Entitled to solutions: The need for research on workplace entitlement. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 36, 460–465.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Harvey, P., & Harris, K. J. (2010). Frustration-based outcomes of entitlement and the influence of supervisor communication. Human Relations, 63, 1639–1660.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Harvey, P., & Martinko, M. J. (2009). An empirical examination of the role of attributions in PE and its outcomes. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 30, 459–476.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Harvey, P., Harris, K. J., Gillis, W. E., & Martinko, M. J. (2014). Abusive supervision and the entitled employee. The Leadership Quarterly, 25(2), 204–217.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hayes, A. F. (2013). Introduction to mediation, moderation, and conditional process analysis: A regression-based approach. New York: Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Heilman, M. E., Block, C. J., & Lucas, J. A. (1992). Presumed incompetent? Stigmatization and affirmative action efforts. Journal of Applied Psychology, 77, 536–544.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hogan, R. (1996). A socioanalytic perspective on the five-factor model. In J. S. Wiggins (Ed.), The five-factor model of personality (pp. 163–179). New York: Guilford.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jordan, P. J., Ramsay, S., & Westerlaken, K. M. (2016). A review of entitlement implications for workplace research. Organizational Psychology Review. doi:10.1177/2041386616647121.

  • Kalshoven, K., van Dijk, H., & Boon, C. (2016). Why and when does ethical leadership evoke unethical follower behavior? Journal of Managerial Psychology, 31, 500–515.

    Article  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, 1–31.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kong, D. T. (2016). The pathway to unethical pro-organizational behavior: Organizational identification as a joint function of work passion and trait mindfulness. Personality and Individual Differences, 93, 86–91.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mael, F., & Ashforth, B. E. (1992). Alumni and their alma mater: A partial test of the reformulated model of organizational identification. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 13, 103–123.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Matherne, C. F., III, & Litchfield, S. R. (2012). Investigating the relationship between affective commitment and unethical pro-organizational behaviors: The role of moral identity. Journal of Leadership, Accountability and Ethics, 9, 35–46.

    Google Scholar 

  • Meyer, J. P., Allen, N. J., & Smith, C. A. (1993). Commitment to organizations and occupations: Extension and test of a three-component conceptualization. Journal of Applied Psychology, 78, 538–555.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Miao, Q., Newman, A., Yu, J., & Xu, L. (2013). The relationship between ethical leadership and unethical pro-organizational behavior: Linear or curvilinear effects? Journal of Business Ethics, 116, 641–653.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Miles, E. W., Hatfield, J. D., & Huseman, R. C. (1989). The equity sensitivity construct: Potential implications for worker performance. Journal of Management, 15, 581–588.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Miller, B. K., & Konopaske, R. (2014). Dispositional correlates of perceived work entitlement. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 29, 808–828.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Moore, C., Detert, J. R., Treviño, L. K., Baker, V. L., & Mayer, D. M. (2012). Why employees do bad things: Moral disengagement and unethical organizational behavior. Personnel Psychology, 65, 1–48.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Newman, A., Schwarz, G., Cooper, B., & Sendjaya, S. (2015). How servant leadership influences organizational citizenship behaviors: The roles of LMX, empowerment and proactive personality. Journal of Business Ethics. doi:10.1007/s10551-015-2827-6.

    Google Scholar 

  • Palazzo, G., Krings, F., & Hoffrage, A. (2012). Ethical blindness. Journal of Business Ethics, 109, 323–338.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Paulhus, D. L., & Williams, K. M. (2002). The dark triad of personality: Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. Journal of Research in Personality, 36, 556–563.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pierce, J. R., & Aguinis, H. (2015). Detrimental citizenship behavior: A multilevel framework of antecedents and consequences. Management and Organization Review, 11, S69–S99.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Podsakoff, P. M., MacKenzie, S. B., & Podsakoff, N. P. (2012). Sources of method bias in social science research and recommendations on how to control it. Annual Review of Psychology, 63, 539–569.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rose, K. C., & Anastasio, P. A. (2014). Entitlement is about ‘others’, narcissism is not: Relations to sociotropic and autonomous interpersonal styles. Personality and Individual Differences, 59, 50–53.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rosenberg, M., Schooler, C., Schoenbach, C., & Rosenberg, F. (1995). Global self-esteem and specific self-esteem: Different concepts, different outcomes. American Sociological Review, 60, 141–156.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Schmeichel, B. J., & Baumeister, R. F. (2004). Self-regulatory strength. In R. F. Baumeister & K. D. Vohs (Eds.), Handbook of self-regulation: Research, theory, and applications (pp. 84–98). New York: Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Schwarz, G., Newman, A., Cooper, B., & Eva, N. (2016). Servant leadership behavior and follower job performance in the public sector: The mediating effect of public service motivation. Public Administration, 94, 1025–1041.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Snow, J. N., Kern, R. M., & Curlette, W. L. (2001). Identifying personality traits associated with attrition in systematic training for effective parenting groups. The Family Journal: Counseling and Therapy for Couples and Families, 9, 102–108.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Spector, P. E., & Fox, S. (2005). A model of counterproductive work behavior. In S. Fox & P. E. Spector (Eds.), Counterproductive workplace behavior: Investigations of actors and targets (pp. 151–174). Washington, DC: APA.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Tajfel, H. (1978). Social categorization, social identity and social comparison. In H. Tajfel (Ed.), Differentiation between social groups: Studies in the social psychology of intergroup relations (pp. 61–76). London: Academic Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Thau, S., Derfler-Rozin, R., Pitesa, M., Mitchell, M. S., & Pillutla, M. M. (2015). Unethical for the sake of the group: Risk of social exclusion and pro-group unethical behavior. Journal of Applied Psychology, 100, 98–113.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tsang, J. (2002). Moral rationalization and the integration of situational factors and psychological processes in immoral behavior. Review of General Psychology, 6, 25–50.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Umphress, E. E., & Bingham, J. B. (2011). When employees do bad things for good reasons: Examining unethical pro-organizational behaviors. Organization Science, 22, 621–640.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Umphress, E. E., Bingham, J. B., & Mitchell, M. S. (2010). Unethical behavior in the name of the company: The moderating effect of organizational identification and positive reciprocity beliefs influencing unethical pro-organizational behavior. Journal of Applied Psychology, 95, 769–780.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Van Knippenberg, D. (2000). Work motivation and performance: A social identity perspective. Applied Psychology, 49, 357–371.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Warren, D. E. (2003). Constructive and destructive deviance in organizations. Academy of Management Review, 28, 622–632.

    Google Scholar 

  • Whitman, M. V., Halbesleben, J. R. B., & Shanine, K. K. (2013). Psychological entitlement and abusive supervision: Political skill as a self-regulatory mechanism. Health Care Management Review, 38, 248–257.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wink, P. (1991). Two faces of narcissism. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 61, 590–597.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Zoogah, D. B. (2010). Why should I be left behind? Employees’ perceived relative deprivation and participation in development activities. Journal of Applied Psychology, 95, 159–173.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Gary Schwarz.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Lee, A., Schwarz, G., Newman, A. et al. Investigating When and Why Psychological Entitlement Predicts Unethical Pro-organizational Behavior. J Bus Ethics 154, 109–126 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-017-3456-z

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-017-3456-z

Keywords

Navigation