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How cheating undermines the perceived value of justice in the workplace: the mediating effect of shame

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journal contribution
posted on 21.05.2021, 16:41 by Annika Hillebrandt, Laurie J. Barclay
Scholars have devoted significant attention to investigating whenand whypeople cheat in organizations. However, there is increasing recognition that these behaviors can be difficult to eradicate, which points to the importance of understanding the consequencesof cheating. Given that cheating violatesmoral norms that govern social relationships, it is critical to understand how cheating can influence social dynamics in the workplace. Drawing upon appraisal theories, we argue that cheating can have damaging consequences for individuals and their social relationships by eliciting shame. In turn, shame can reduce the extent to which individuals value receiving justice –a critical facilitator of social relationships in the workplace. We test our predictions across sixstudies using different samples and methodologies. In Study 1, we find that cheatingis negatively associated with the importance people place on others upholding justicefor them (i.e., overall justice values). In Studies 2-6, we demonstrate that shame plays a mediating role in this relationship, even in the presence of guilt and embarrassment.In Studies 3-5, we identify organizational identificationas a moderator and show that the effect of cheating on shame isstronger for those with high (versus low) identification. Theoretical implications include theimportance of identifying the outcomes of cheating for individuals within organizational contexts, understanding the functionaland dysfunctional consequences of shame, recognizing the differential effects of discrete emotions, and elucidating the role of identity within the context of cheating. We conclude with practical recommendations formanaging cheating behaviors and their outcomes in the workplace. Keywords: cheating, behavioral ethics, justice, shame, organizational identification