Journal of Business Ethics 167 (4):643-662 (2020)

Previous research indicates that the depletion of self-regulatory resources can promote unethical behavior that benefits the self. Extending this literature, we focus on norm-transgressing behavior that is intended to primarily benefit others. In particular, we predicted a differing effect of self-regulatory resource depletion on dishonesty that benefits one’s group, depending on the degree of identification with the group. Following a dual process approach, we argue that if identification with the group is strong, then people may have an automatic inclination to benefit their group even perhaps by lying. In contrast, if identification with the group is weak, then the default, uncontrolled impulse may be to tell the truth. Accordingly, identification with the social group should interact with self-regulatory resource depletion in predicting group-benefiting dishonesty. Focusing on pro-organizational dishonesty, we tested our hypotheses in one field study with 1269 employees and in one experimental study with 71 university students. As predicted, the results revealed a highly significant interaction of organizational identification and self-control strength: Depletion of self-regulatory resources increased the level of pro-organizational dishonesty among those who identify highly with the organization, but decreased the level of such behavior among those who identify less.
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DOI 10.1007/s10551-019-04162-3
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