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The effects of moral disengagement and organizational ethical climate on insiders’ information security policy violation behavior

Hao Chen (School of Business, Qingdao University, Qingdao, China)
Patrick Y.K. Chau (School of Business, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong)
Wenli Li (Faculty of Management and Economics, Dalian University of Technology, Dalian, China)

Information Technology & People

ISSN: 0959-3845

Article publication date: 30 October 2018

Issue publication date: 23 September 2019




The purpose of this paper is to develop a model that integrates moral disengagement (MD) and organizational ethical climate (OEC) to understand information security policy (ISP) violation behavior in the workplace. This study extends prior work by identifying the moderating mechanisms of the ethical culture of OECs in the relationship between employees’ MD and ISP violation behavior intention.


By using scenario-based survey data from 433 employees in Chinese enterprises and by applying PLS-based structural equation modeling, the authors test a series of hypotheses.


Our empirical results highlight that the concept of MD has a significant effect on employees’ intention to violate ISPs. The authors also find that the OEC has a moderating role in the relationship between MD and ISP violation intention: the moderating role of law-and-rule-oriented OEC is significantly negative, but instrumentalism-oriented OEC positively moderates this relationship.


This study contributes to the literature on information security behavior by integrating two ethical theory frameworks MD and OECs into one theoretical model, and it calls attention to how ethical factors at the individual cognition level and organizational climate level work together to influence personal information security behavior. This study provides a new perspective of OEC from which to understand policy violation caused by moral self-regulation failure, and empirically explores its moderating role.



This study is supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China under Grant Nos 71431002, 71731003 and 71421001.


Chen, H., Chau, P.Y.K. and Li, W. (2019), "The effects of moral disengagement and organizational ethical climate on insiders’ information security policy violation behavior", Information Technology & People, Vol. 32 No. 4, pp. 973-992.



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