Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 159, Issue 2, pp 473–489 | Cite as

A Social Exchange Perspective of Employee–Organization Relationships and Employee Unethical Pro-organizational Behavior: The Moderating Role of Individual Moral Identity

  • Taolin Wang
  • Lirong Long
  • Yong ZhangEmail author
  • Wei He
Original Paper


Prior research on employee–organization relationships (EORs) has exclusively focused on the positive consequences of high-inducement EORs (i.e., mutual- and over-investment EORs). Drawing from social exchange theory , we develop a model theorizing employee unethical pro-organizational behavior (UPB) as one potential negative outcome of high-inducement EORs, as mediated by high-quality social exchange relationship between the employee and the employer. Empirical findings from two field studies provided convergent support to the mediation relationship between mutual-investment EORs and employee UPB via perceived social exchange. Moreover, the results in Study 2 further revealed that the relationship was less significant among employees with higher levels of moral identity, because the positive relationship between perceived social exchange and employee UPB was weakened by high moral identity. The theoretical and managerial implications were discussed.


Employee–organization relationships Unethical pro-organizational behavior Social exchange Moral identity 



This study was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (71232001, 71671077, 71772072, 71772073) and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities of China (2662015PY027).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of ManagementHuazhong University of Science and TechnologyWuhanPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.College of Economics and ManagementHuazhong Agricultural UniversityWuhan CityPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.School of BusinessNanjing UniversityNanjing CityPeople’s Republic of China

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