Antecedents to unethical corporate conduct: Characteristics of the complicit follower

Michael Mowchan, David Lowe, Philip Reckers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

Appropriately, researchers are devoting increased attention to the behavioral antecedents to unethical conduct in business. Prior management research, however, has focused primarily on destructive leaders while little research has focused on complicit followers, especially outside of the management literature. Thus, this paper examines three individual characteristics of followers—impulsivity, authoritarianism, and proactivity—in an accounting context. Two quasi-experiments are conducted to determine whether each characteristic influences an individual’s intention for unethical complicity (Study 1) and ability to identify ethical dilemmas (Study 2). Results reveal that both high impulsivity and low authoritarianism lead to greater intention for unethical complicity and reduced ability to identify ethical dilemmas. Consistent with our prediction, high impulsivity and low authoritarianism interactively lead to the greatest intention for unethical complicity and lowest ability to identify ethical dilemmas. Additionally, in Study 1, high proactivity and high authoritarianism interactively lead to the greatest intention to resist supervisors’ requests for compliant misconduct. Important contributions and implications for both theory and practice are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)95-126
Number of pages32
JournalBehavioral Research in Accounting
Volume27
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 2015

Keywords

  • Ethics
  • Impulsivity
  • Proactivity
  • Toxic triangle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Accounting
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management

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