Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Applied Psychology

Committee Member

Dr. Cynthia L.S. Pury, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Fred S. Switzer, III

Committee Member

Dr. DeWayne Moore

Committee Member

Dr. Robin M. Kowalski


Unethical pro-organizational behavior (UPB) occurs when employees engage in unethical actions for the purpose of benefiting their organization. UPB shares antecedents with counterproductive work behavior, but also with organizational citizenship behavior. In order to explain UPB's unique combination of antecedents, this study examined the opposing motivational mechanisms behind UPB: organizational concern and ethical sensitivity. This study's central focus was to empirically substantiate the conflicting positive and negative effects of ethical climate on UPB, demonstrating support for organizational climate theory and UPB theory. Perceptions of ethical climate and goals climate (operationalized at the department level) were used to show the effect of environmental factors on UPB. Individuals' organizational identification, moral potency, and ethical ideology were included to demonstrate the effect of individual attributes on UPB. To accurately represent the complex relationships between these factors and UPB, structural equation modeling was used to create a single interconnected model. Survey responses were collected online from 400 participants from a wide variety of organizations. Ethical climate was found to decrease department-wide UPB and individuals' willingness towards UPB through direct effects, but increased individuals' willingness towards UPB through a mediation effect involving organizational identification. The direct effect of ethical climate on individuals' UPB was curvilinear, such that only highly ethical climates exerted an appreciable direct negative effect on individuals' UPB. The total causal effect of ethical climate on individuals' UPB resulted in an inverse U-shaped relationship. Ethical climate and goals climate interacted to influence individuals' willingness towards UPB: goals climate increased individuals' UPB when ethical climate was high and decreased individuals' UPB when ethical climate was low. Moral potency demonstrated the single largest direct effect and the largest total effect on individuals' UPB, drastically reducing individuals' willingness to engage in UPB. Individuals' idealistic ethical ideology also decreased individuals' willingness towards UPB. The results of this study advance UPB and organizational climate research by deconstructing the multifaceted relationship between ethical climate and UPB and also by demonstrating the effect of multiple climates interacting to predict UPB. This study was also the first to identify moral potency as a powerful influencing factor on UPB.



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