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    Antecedents to Unethical Corporate Conduct: Characteristics...
    research summary posted November 15, 2016 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 04.0 Independence and Ethics, 04.04 Moral Development and Individual Ethics Decisions, 04.06 Reporting Ethics Breaches – Self & Others 
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    Title:
    Antecedents to Unethical Corporate Conduct: Characteristics of the Complicit Follower
    Practical Implications:

    The findings from these two studies illustrate that the susceptible follower problem associated with these characteristics is pervasive, influencing two steps within the ethical decision-making process. Furthermore, the results suggest that more than one in ten individuals are vulnerable in ethical dilemmas.  

    Citation:

    Mowchan, M., D. J. Lowe and P. M. J. Reckers. 2015. Antecedents to Unethical Corporate Conduct: Characteristics of the Complicit Follower. Behavioral Research in Accounting 27 (2): 95-126. 

    Keywords:
    ethics, toxic triangle, impulsivity and proactivity.
    Purpose of the Study:

    Despite the importance of ethical conduct in the accounting profession, many scandals in recent years have worked to shake public confidence in the ethics of the profession. Although the companies themselves, as well as members of the executive team, are often blamed for fraud, complicit fraudulent conduct by lower ranking accounting employees was also found in wrongdoing companies. Some court cases claim that if lower level staff accountants had refused to do as their supervisors asked and blown the whistle on the request, fraud could have been stopped entirely. Because of this, examining the characteristics of individuals at all levels of an organization to determine their impact on ethical conduct is important. The bulk of existing research has examined destructive leaders; very little research has centered on complicit followers. As such, the focus of this research is on complicit followers and, specifically, on three individual follower characteristics: impulsivity, authoritarianism/conventionalism, and proactivity. 

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    Two quasi-experiments were conducted among two separate groups of graduate accountancy students. 

    Findings:
    • The data show significant variations in the levels of these characteristics among master’s student participants.
    • The authors find that two of the characteristics individually, as well as two of the three interactions, have significant associations with intention for unethical complicity among subordinates and the ability to correctly identify ethical dilemmas in various accounting accruals earnings management and real earnings management contexts.
    • The authors find that low authoritarianism and high impulsivity, individually, lead to greater intention for unethical complicity among followers and reduced ability to identify ethical dilemmas.
    • The results reveal that individuals who are both low in authoritarianism and high in impulsivity are most willing to comply with supervisors’ requests for compliant misconduct and least able to identify ethical dilemmas.
    • The results reveal that willingness to resist requests for complicity in unethical conduct is strongest among individuals who are high in authoritarianism and high in proactivity.
    • The results reveal that the ability to identify ethical dilemmas is strongest among individuals who exhibit high authoritarianism and low proactivity.
    Category:
    Independence & Ethics
    Sub-category:
    Moral Development and Individual Ethics Decisions, Reporting Ethics Breaches - Self & Others