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Boss' immoral acts can kill employees' future

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New research has found that moral suspicion from wrong doings of those higher up in an organization, spilled down to people lower in an organization,...

Washington: New research has found that moral suspicion from wrong doings of those higher up in an organization, spilled down to people lower in an organization, even if they did not work directly under the moral transgressor.


The experiments conducted by Takuya Sawaoka and the study's co-author Benoit Monin from Stanford University found that participants had reported greater moral suspicion towards group members who were exposed to immoral behavior of higher ranking, compared to lower ranking, group membersIn one study, they also found that this moral spillover had damaged people's ability to be hired. The vignettes had included examples from the financial, scientific, and medical sectors, and the results had been similar across all the sectors.


Sawaoka said that according to the experiments the participants were presented with brief vignettes about ethical scandals and received very little information about the target of moral spillover, other than their organizational membership and that they had observed reliable moral spillover effects using the paradigm, participants easily and quickly form moral impressions of others based on limited information.


In another experiment about hire ability, the researchers had asked the participants to read a mock article about a scandal in which an organization's member had committed fraud and crucially, half of the participants had read that this individual was a high-ranking executive, and the other half read that this individual was merely an entry-level employee.


The participants then had to make a hiring recommendation for someone who was a former employee of the organization, and there were no indications made that the person worked directly with the moral transgressor.


The participants, who had read about the unethical behavior of a high-ranking executive, rather than an entry-level employee, had made significantly more negative hiring recommendations for the job applicant.


Researchers found that the participants were morally suspicious about the lower ranking group member, even when the higher ranking member was acting based on self-serving motives.


While past psychology research had looked at how people's moral reputations were tarnished by their own moral failings, this paper was one of the few to examine how people's moral reputations could be damaged by others' moral failings.


The study was published in the Social Psychological and Personality Science.

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