The Step-by-Step Guide to How Unethical Behaviour in the Workplace Develops

The Step-by-Step Guide to How Unethical Behaviour Develops

unethical behaviour in the workplace

The Step-by-Step Guide to How Unethical Behaviour in the Workplace Develops

In the the last of my three part series on how to predict unethical behaviour in the workplace develops.

Part One – How to predict unethical behaviour

Part Two – Moral disengagement: How it predicts unethical behaviour

To wrap up this research briefing today I will look at the role situation or the context plays in promoting unethical behaviour in the workplace and the stages people undergo.

Get your free research briefings, infographics and more… – 

Situational Strength

The researchers also found that what is known as ‘situational strength’ or the cues provided by the environment or context (other people, the culture, observed behaviours, actions and inaction, rewards and punishments etc.) regarding the desirability of potential behaviours, has a significant impact on whether an individual or indeed a team or group of people will engage in unethical behaviour.

Situational strength is a measure of the ability of a situation or set of circumstances to create psychological pressure on the individual to engage in and/or refrain from particular behaviours.

How unethical behaviour in the workplace develops

So the pattern for the development of unethical behaviour in the workplace appears to be:

  1. Firstly the level of authenticity an individual has, predicts how likely they are to morally disengage in the first place. Authenticity largely appears to be an antidote to the chances of moral disengagement and consequently unethical behaviour.
  2. Therefore, when a manager or leader with lower levels of authenticity finds themselves in a environment or situation (Situational Strength) that suggests:
    1. The primacy of the task or goal above all else (task focused) and
    2. The situation promotes or doesn’t actively disapprove of or takes action against moral disengagement, and
    3. The individual morally disengages by:
      1. Creating a narrative or story about why the action is necessary and/or not unethical or out of the ordinary
      2. Reducing their own sense of involvement or importance in the decision or actions
      3. Failing to see or being wilfully blind to the consequences, and
      4. Reducing the impact their actions will have on/or blaming the victims

Then the chances are very high that they will engage in unethical behaviour in the workplace.


Reference – available to members

Be impressively well informed

Get the very latest research intelligence briefings, video research briefings, infographics and more sent direct to you as they are published

Be the most impressively well-informed and up-to-date person around...

Powered by ConvertKit
Like what you see? Help us spread the word

David Wilkinson

David Wilkinson is the Editor-in-Chief of the Oxford Review. He is also acknowledged to be one of the world's leading experts in dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty and developing emotional resilience. David teaches and conducts research at a number of universities including the University of Oxford, Medical Sciences Division, Cardiff University, Oxford Brookes University School of Business and many more. He has worked with many organisations as a consultant and executive coach including Schroders, where he coaches and runs their leadership and management programmes, Royal Mail, Aimia, Hyundai, The RAF, The Pentagon, the governments of the UK, US, Saudi, Oman and the Yemen for example. In 2010 he developed the world's first and only model and programme for developing emotional resilience across entire populations and organisations which has since become known as the Fear to Flow model which is the subject of his next book. In 2012 he drove a 1973 VW across six countries in Southern Africa whilst collecting money for charity and conducting on the ground charity work including developing emotional literature in children and orphans in Africa and a number of other activities. He is the author of The Ambiguity Advanatage: What great leaders are great at, published by Palgrave Macmillian. See more: About: About David Wikipedia: David's Wikipedia Page