Skip to main content

Please enter a keyword and click the arrow to search the site

Why employees do bad things: Moral disengagement and unethical organizational behavior


Personnel Psychology


Organisational Behaviour

Authors / Editors

Moore C;Detert J R;Treviño L K;Baker V L;Mayer D M

Publication Year



We examine the influence of individuals’ propensity to morally disengage on a broad range of unethical organizational behaviors. First, we develop a parsimonious, adult-oriented, valid, and reliable measure of an individual's propensity to morally disengage, and demonstrate the relationship between it and a number of theoretically relevant constructs in its nomological network. Then, in 4 additional studies spanning laboratory and field settings, we demonstrate the power of the propensity to moral disengage to predict multiple types of unethical organizational behavior. In these studies we demonstrate that the propensity to morally disengage predicts several outcomes (self-reported unethical behavior, a decision to commit fraud, a self-serving decision in the workplace, and supervisor- and coworker-reported unethical work behaviors) beyond other established individual difference antecedents of unethical organizational behavior, as well as the most closely related extant measure of the construct. We conclude that scholars and practitioners seeking to understand a broad range of undesirable workplace behaviors can benefit from taking an individual's propensity to morally disengage into account. Implications for theory, research, and practice are discussed.

Available on ECCH


Select up to 4 programmes to compare

Select one more to compare
subscribe_image_desktop 5949B9BFE33243D782D1C7A17E3345D0

Sign up to receive our latest news and business thinking direct to your inbox


Sign up to receive our latest course information and business thinking

Leave your details above if you would like to receive emails containing the latest thought leadership, invitations to events and news about courses that could enhance your career. If you would prefer not to receive our emails, you can still access the case study by clicking the button below. You can opt-out of receiving our emails at any time by visiting: or by unsubscribing through the link provided in our emails. View our Privacy Policy for more information on your rights.