BYU studies show reasons for unethical behavior in the office

Employees who love their company and hustle to please their bosses sound like a recipe for success. But two recent studies co-authored by a BYU business professor found that those two factors can lead to a higher likelihood of unethical behavior.

Studying such "pro-organizational" unethical conduct flies in the face of the common media accounts and most ethics research, which focuses on employees siphoning funds or sabotaging bosses and co-workers, said John Bingham, assistant professor of organizational behavior at BYU's Marriott School of Management.

"But unethical behavior can also be done with very good intentions — people can do bad things with the intention to actually help the organization," he said. "People lie to placate customers, sell unsafe products or shred documents to cover up — even when these actions may jeopardize their own positions within the organization."

Brother Bingham and colleagues explored this concept in a paper forthcoming in Organization Science and tested it in a study recently published in the "Journal of Applied Psychology."

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