Unethical employees OK as long as they perform

Unethical employees OK as long as they perform

Bosses are more likely to overlook their staff’s questionable morals if they are high performers, new research shows.

A Baylor University study published in Personnel Psychology titled "I Don't Want to be Near You, Unless…: The Interactive Effect of Unethical Behavior and Performance onto Workplace Ostracism" sought to identify why unethical work behaviours are sometimes accepted and sometimes rejected.

Researchers conducted a total of three studies and surveyed 1,040 people - including more than 300 pairs of supervisors and their employees, Phys.org reports.

They found that high job performance provided motivation to ignore moral violations by employees.

"The employees' unethical behaviours can be harmful, but their high job performance is also quite important to the organisation's success. In this vein, high job performance may offset unethical behaviour enough to where the employee is less likely to be ostracised,” the study's lead author, Matthew Quade said.

However the study also found that morally ambiguous employees are quicky to be shunned if they fail to perform to a high standard.

"They not only violate moral norms, but they fail to fulfill role expectations, which would make them particularly difficult to work with as evidenced by relationship conflict," Quade said.

"People, then, are expected to demonstrate their disapproval towards those who create conflict by ostracising them."

Ultimately, the study found that while managers may accept immoral behaviour in order to boost production or profits - it can be detrimental to the organisation.

"Unethical, yet high-performing employees, their work groups, and their organisations may exist on a false foundation that has the potential to crumble and cost employees their jobs and their organisations significant amounts of money," Quade said.


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