Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 154, Issue 1, pp 127–145 | Cite as

Peer Influence on Managerial Honesty: The Role of Transparency and Expectations

  • Markus BrunnerEmail author
  • Andreas Ostermaier
Original Paper


We investigate peer influence on managerial honesty under varying levels of transparency. In a laboratory experiment, managers report their costs to a superior to request budget. We manipulate whether the managers learn each other’s report and cost (full transparency) or the report but not the cost (partial transparency). The results show, first, that managers are susceptible to peer influence, as they join peers in reporting honestly and dishonestly both under full and partial transparency. Second, however, the effect of peer influence is asymmetric. While managers’ dishonesty increases much when peers’ reports are higher than they have expected, the opposite is not true. Third, partial transparency reinforces this asymmetry in peer influence. Unlike full transparency, it allows managers to substitute self-serving assumptions for missing information and to thus justify their own dishonesty more easily. The contribution of this study is twofold: It provides evidence for the interaction between transparency and peer influence and it highlights the role of (disappointed) expectations in fueling dishonesty. Our findings warn firms that especially partial transparency may spread dishonesty more than honesty. Transparency may also hurt firms that push honesty norms (as in ethics codes) but fail to enforce compliance, thus raising and disappointing managers’ expectations.


Honesty Motivated reasoning Peer influence Reporting Social norms Transparency 


Compliance with Ethical Standard

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in this study that involved human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.TUM School of ManagementTechnische Universität MünchenMunichGermany

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