To read the full version of this content please select one of the options below:

Influence of an individual’s unethical behaviour on peers’ vicarious learning in organisations: the role of moral anger

Kai Zeng (School of Management, Zhejiang University of Technology, Hangzhou, China)
Duanxu Wang (School of Management, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China)
Qingyan Ye (School of Business Administration, Zhejiang Gongshang University, Hangzhou, China)
Zhengwei Li (School of Management, Zhejiang University of Technology, Hangzhou, China)
Xianwei Zheng (School of Management, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China)

Chinese Management Studies

ISSN: 1750-614X

Article publication date: 17 May 2021

Issue publication date: 17 June 2021

Abstract

Purpose

Because unethical behaviour pervades in organisations, how to inhibit the interpersonal influence of unethical behaviour has become increasingly important. This study aims to integrate the deontic justice theory and affective events theory to examine the relationship between an individual’s unethical behaviour and his or her peers’ vicarious learning by highlighting the mediating effect of peers’ moral anger and the moderating effect of task interdependence on this relationship.

Design/methodology/approach

Data were collected in two waves from 254 employees of a large manufacturing company in the People’s Republic of China.

Findings

The hypothesised moderated mediation model was supported. Specifically, as expected, peers’ moral anger mediated the negative relationship between an individual’s unethical behaviour and peers’ vicarious learning. Task interdependence moderated the direct relationship between the individual’s unethical behaviour and his or her peers’ moral anger and the indirect relationship between an individual’s unethical behaviour and his or her peers’ vicarious learning via the peers’ moral anger such that these relationships were stronger when the level of task interdependence was higher.

Originality/value

This study argues that the deontic justice theory is a supplement for the social learning theory in explaining the interpersonal influence of unethical behaviour. Drawing on the deontic justice theory, this study demonstrates that an individual’s unethical behaviours are unlikely to be rewarded or accepted, and by integrating the theories of deontic justice and affective events, offers a rationale for the emotional mechanism that underlies the interpersonal influence of unethical behaviour.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

China Postdoctoral Science Foundation.

2019M662110.

National Natural Science Foundation of China.

71672175.

Zhejiang Provincial Natural Science Foundation of China x.

LQ20G020003.

LY20G020017.

The authors would like to sincerely thank Zhengwei Li for helpful comments on several drafts, particularly the detailed suggestions on introduction and methodology.

Citation

Zeng, K., Wang, D., Ye, Q., Li, Z. and Zheng, X. (2021), "Influence of an individual’s unethical behaviour on peers’ vicarious learning in organisations: the role of moral anger", Chinese Management Studies, Vol. 15 No. 3, pp. 557-574. https://doi.org/10.1108/CMS-08-2019-0281

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited