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Winning Through Cheating or Creativity: How Emotions Influence Behavioral Choice in Competition

Journal

Academy of Management Perspectives

Subject

Organisational Behaviour

Authors / Editors

Steinhage A L;Cable D;Wardley D P

Biographies

Publication Year

2015

Abstract

In this paper we investigate the role of emotions in determining when and why employees try to beat competitors using creativity versus resorting to unethical behaviors. Building on theories of action and appraisal tendencies, we propose that when competition elicits anxiety, people will be more likely to focus on how they can increase their performance through unethical means. Drawing on theories of positive emotions and creativity, we predict that when competition elicits excitement, people will be more likely to strive for creative means to get ahead of their competitors. We tested these ideas experimentally with a sample of managers in a large retail bank. We find that when a negative career outcome was salient, managers experienced more anxiety in response to the competition, and subsequently were more likely they were to respond unethically to typical scenarios. When a positive career outcome was salient, managers experienced more excitement in response to the competition, and subsequently were more likely to choose creative rather than unethical behaviors.

Keywords

Competition; Emotions; Unethical Behavior

Available on ECCH

No


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