Date of Award

8-2019

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

Committee Member

Cynthia L. S. Pury, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Fred S Switzer, III

Committee Member

Mary A Taylor

Committee Member

Robin M Kowalski

Abstract

Unethical workplace behavior has long been a concern for organizations and a topic of interest for researchers. However, despite the vast body of research on the subject, there seems to be no definitive consensus concerning the breadth of the content domain within unethical workplace behavior, what (if any) meaningful dimensions exist within the construct, and which forms of unethical behavior are most prevalent in the workplace (Kaptein, 2008). This lack of construct clarity may in part be due to the fact that much of the research literature has focused on individual subsets of unethical workplace behavior, either studying a single type of unethical behavior, like employee theft (Greenberg, 2002), or examining a specific type of worker, like marketing professionals (Akaah & Lund, 1994). Certain methodological limitations have also contributed to the issue of construct ambiguity, such as the use of inappropriate student samples and an overreliance on restrictive quantitative measurement instruments (Treviño, Nieuwenboer, & Kish-Gephart, 2014). I seek to address the weaknesses in past research and strengthen the current understanding of unethical workplace behavior by studying the construct using methodological strategies that have historically been underrepresented. In this study, I take an exploratory approach and examine the issue of unethical workplace behavior through a qualitative lens by conducting a large-scale content analysis of first-hand reports of unethical workplace behavior using a diverse applied sample. The resulting typography divides unethical workplace behavior into three content categories: Type of Behavior, Type of Victim, and Type of Perpetrator. The Type of Behavior content category contains several new subcategories not included in past research, such as inadequate response to a reported workplace issue and ordering others to engage in illegal or unethical activity. By broadening the spectrum of the types of behaviors that encompass unethical workplace behavior, describing who is affected by it, and describing who is engaging in it, the present study paints a more complete picture of unethical behavior in the workplace. Future research efforts should incorporate the present study's findings into existing scales of unethical workplace behavior. Additionally, increased attention should be placed on inadequate response to a reported workplace issue and how to prevent it.

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