Journal of Applied Social Psychology

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Volume 46 Issue 1 (January 2016), Pages 1-78

Examining the moral grey zone: The role of moral disengagement, authenticity, and situational strength in predicting unethical managerial behavior (pages 65-78)


In the business context, there is a broad spectrum of practices that potentially harm others, yet might benefit the organization. We examined the influence of individual and situational differences in predicting (un)ethical behavior in these moral gray zones using an in‐basket exercise that included covert moral issues in which managers could give unethical instructions to their followers. Results show that individual differences in moral disengagement directly predicted unethical behavior and functioned as a mediator of the relationship between authenticity and unethical behavior. Furthermore, effects differed in weak compared to strong situations. Study 2, replicated the results from Study 1, developed a direct test of the situational strength hypothesis, and showed that high versus low situation strength moderated the relation of moral disengagement to unethical behavior.

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