Unethical for the sake of the group: Risk of social exclusion and pro-group unethical behavior
Author(s): Stefan Thau, Rellie Derfler-Rozin, Marko Pitesa, Marie S. Mitchell, Madan M. Pillutla
Abstract: This research tested the idea that the risk of exclusion from one’s group motivates group members to engage in unethical behaviors that secure better outcomes for the group (pro-group unethical behaviors). We theorized that this effect occurs because those at risk of exclusion seek to improve their inclusionary status by engaging in unethical behaviors that benefit the group; we tested this assumption by examining how the effect of exclusion risk on pro-group unethical behavior varies as a function of group members’ need for inclusion. A 2-wave field study conducted among a diverse sample of employees working in groups (Study 1) and a constructive replication using a laboratory experiment (Study 2) provided converging evidence for the theory. Study 1 found that perceived risk of exclusion from one’s workgroup predicted employees’ engagement in pro-group unethical behaviors, but only when employees have a high (not low) need for inclusion. In Study 2, compared to low risk of exclusion from a group, high risk of exclusion led to more pro-group (but not pro-self) unethical behaviors, but only for participants with a high (not low) need for inclusion. We discuss implications for theory and the management of unethical behaviors in organizations.
Publication Title: Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol. 100(1)
Pub Year: 2015
Pages: 98 – 113
URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0036708
Keywords: group status, inclusion, exclusion

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