Do moral disengagers experience guilt following workplace misconduct? Consequences for emotional exhaustion and task performance

Babatunde Ogunfowora, Viet Quan Nguyen, Clara S. Lee, Mayowa T. Babalola, Shuang Ren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

According to Bandura, moral disengagement facilitates misconduct by minimizing feelings of guilt that normally arise when one contemplates wrongdoing. While trait moral disengagement has been negatively associated with anticipatory guilt, scholars have yet to fully consider its impact on guilt post-misconduct. In this paper, we examine the indirect effects of trait moral disengagement on post-misconduct guilt, and downstream effects on employees' mental health and performance. Lastly, we explore the moderating role of post-misconduct state moral disengagement in shaping the effects of trait moral disengagement. Across three studies, we find that trait moral disengagement is positively linked to guilt following interpersonal deviance, unethical work behavior, and objective cheating behavior. Further, trait moral disengagement is indirectly, positively linked to emotional exhaustion and negatively related to executive function (specifically, the capacity to inhibit distraction during tasks). In a fourth study, we find that trait moral disengagement is positively associated with guilt and subsequent emotional exhaustion when individuals employ little to no state moral disengagement immediately post-misconduct. In contrast, trait moral disengagement is negatively linked to guilt and emotional exhaustion when individuals employ state moral disengagement post-misconduct. We discuss the implications of these findings for advancing moral disengagement theory and research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)476-494
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Organizational Behavior
Volume44
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • cheating
  • emotional exhaustion
  • guilt
  • interpersonal deviance
  • moral disengagement
  • self-condemning moral emotions
  • task performance
  • unethical work behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management

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