Salespeople’s unethical behaviors have been the subject of extensive academic research and practitioner outcry. High pressure, complex selling environments and extant methods of monitoring, control and compensation of salespeople have been found to lead to short-term sales behaviors, such as lying, that are detrimental to both customers and firms in the long run. Furthermore, work and family pressures can lead to unethical sales behaviors. However, research on the impact of the social environment on unethical behaviors in sales is scant. This study aims to examine the impact of social factors (e.g. supervisor support and family work support) on salespeople’s unethical behaviors as a social exchange process in an emerging market context where work and family pressures are high. Specifically, the mediating role of emotional and cognitive engagement on the relationship between social support and unethical behaviors is investigated.
An empirical study was conducted to examine the relationship between social support (family work support and supervisor support), engagement (emotional and cognitive) and unethical behaviors. Survey data were collected from 496 salespeople from multiple industries in India, and partial least squares structural equation modeling was used to test the hypothesized relationships. In addition, post hoc qualitative interviews were conducted with 15 salespeople to corroborate the findings.
Supervisor support is positively related to emotional and cognitive engagement and negatively related to unethical behaviors. Contrary to our hypothesis, family work support is positively related to unethical behaviors. However, this relationship becomes negative when the salesperson is emotionally and cognitively engaged with their work.
This research enhances the understanding of the antecedents of unethical behaviors in sales. Supervisor support, emotional engagement and cognitive engagement reduce unethical behaviors. However, family work support increases unethical behaviors. The relationship between social support (supervisor and family work) and unethical behaviors is mediated by emotional and cognitive engagement. These findings offer sales managers dealing with increasing work and family pressures and the blurring of personal and professional life a way to motivate their sales force to act in a manner that benefits customers and the firm in the long run.
The findings offer insights on how sales managers and organizations can help design supportive work environments for their salespeople to help reduce unethical behaviors. The findings also highlight the importance of understanding salesperson family values during the hiring process and keeping salespeople engaged, especially while they work from home, are isolated from their work environment and spend more working hours at home with family members.
To the best of the authors’ knowledge, the current research is the first to investigate the impact of family work support on unethical behaviors. This is timely and valuable as the current COVID-19 pandemic has increased the number of salespeople working from home, reduced sales performance and increased anxiety due to economic uncertainty, all of which could encourage unethical sales behaviors. This paper is also the first to investigate the mediating role of engagement on the effects of social support on unethical behaviors.
The authors would like to thank the three anonymous reviewers for their helpful and constructive feedback.
Funding: This study has not received any funding or grant. All authors contributed equally to the article.
Lyngdoh, T., Chefor, E. and Lussier, B. (2022), "Exploring the influence of supervisor and family work support on salespeople’s engagement and unethical behaviors", Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/JBIM-05-2021-0243
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