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    The Influence of Mood on Subordinates’ Ability to Resist C...
    research summary posted August 30, 2016 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 04.0 Independence and Ethics, 04.04 Moral Development and Individual Ethics Decisions, 05.0 Audit Team Composition, 05.04 Staff Hiring, Turnover and Morale, 11.0 Audit Quality and Quality Control, 11.03 Management/Staff Interaction 
    The Influence of Mood on Subordinates’ Ability to Resist Coercive Pressure in Public Accounting
    Practical Implications:

     This study should give pause to investors, auditors and regulators about the potential willingness of subordinate auditors to acquiesce to a superior’s unethical request. As such, the accounting profession should make sure to have a better understanding of the nature of and solutions to the problem such as changes in firm/team culture, personnel placement, etc. Additionally, audit firms can better use this information to understand which employees may be most susceptible to such negative influence and preempt such events.


     Johnson, E. N., D. J. Lowe, and P. M. Reckers. 2016. The Influence of Mood on Subordinates’ Ability to Resist Coercive Pressure in Public Accounting. Contemporary Accounting Review 33 (1): 261-287.

    Affect, Mood States, Unethical Acts, Obedience Pressure, Superior-Subordinate Relationships
    Purpose of the Study:

    This study examines the relationship between subordinate auditors’ various affective states (i.e. mood/emotion) and their effect on auditors’ willingness to comply with a superiors’ unethical directive in six common auditing scenarios.  The authors also employ more real-world event triggers and scenarios compared with previous research.  This study seeks to better refine and test the broad constructs of mood used in previous research.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    Sample: 118 audit seniors from two large international public accounting firms

    Experiment: Create a broad distribution of arousal, fear and insignificance among participants by manipulating two aspects of the audit client CEO (high/low dominance and high/low prestige) and one aspect of the auditor (above/below average work-life history).

    Analyses: 2x2x2 between subjects ANOVA using median splits on each measured variable: fear, insignificance and arousal


    Regardless of affective state manipulations, the audit seniors express a high level of willingness to comply with a superiors’ unethical direction.  However, this willingness to comply is increased when auditors are made to feel more insignificant (i.e. weak/low power position relative to others) and fearful (i.e. elevated uncertainty and lower perceptions of control regarding future events and circumstances) but decreased when auditors are in an active, positive mood state (i.e. arousal).  Interestingly, these results obtain despite significant doubt by the firms’ senior management who reviewed the task that any of their subordinates would express willingness to engage in such behavior.  As such, auditors may be more willing to engage in or overlook unethical behavior than previously thought.  

    Audit Quality & Quality Control, Audit Team Composition, Independence & Ethics
    Management/Staff Interaction, Moral Development and Individual Ethics Decisions, Staff Hiring - Turnover & Morale