Whatever it Takes: Rivalry and Unethical Behavior
70 Pages Posted: 1 Jul 2012
Date Written: June 15, 2012
We investigate rivalry as a driver of unethical behavior. We first distinguish it from general competition, both conceptually and in terms of its consequences for behavior. Then, across four experiments and one archival study, we find evidence that rivalry fuels greater unethical behavior than general competition. Specifically, rivalry was associated with increased Machiavellianism, over-reporting of performance, willingness to employ unethical negotiation tactics, and unsportsmanlike behavior. Further, several of these effects carried over to subsequent situations that occurred outside of the rivalrous relationship itself, suggesting that rivalry activates a mindset that can subsequently influence unrelated decisions and behaviors. These findings highlight the importance of rivalry as a widespread, powerful, and yet largely unstudied phenomenon with significant organizational implications. Further, they help to inform when and why unethical behavior occurs within organizations, and ultimately suggest that the nature of competition is dependent upon actors’ relationships and prior interactions.
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