Can Perceptions of Supervisor-Related Ethical Climate Influence How High-Impression Managers Admit Past Unethical Behavior?

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Abstract

In this study, we investigated how the perceptions of ethical climate as it relates to supervisor behavior and impression management are related to admission of past unethical behavior in a sample of Canadian Army personnel. We expected that among respondents who perceive less ethical supervisor-related climate, the relationship between Impression Management (IM) and the admission of past unethical behavior should be significant and positive. In contrast, among respondents who perceive a more ethical supervisor-related climate, the relationship between IM and self-report past unethical behavior should be weak or nonsignificant, and the frequency of admission of past unethical behavior should be low. Although moderation occurred, it was not as hypothesized. IM predicted admission of having obeyed, or witnessed others obey an unlawful command when perceptions of supervisor-related ethical climate were low, and not when perceptions of supervisor-related ethical climate were high. However, higher (vs. lower) impression managers admitted less past unethical behavior, regardless of their perceptions of supervisor-related ethical climate. These results suggest that high impression managers do not admit to having obeyed or witnessed others obey an unlawful command in the past, regardless of their perceptions of the ethical climate as it relates to supervisor behavior.

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