Holding People Responsible for Ethical Violations: The Trust Benefits of Accusing Others

Posted: 30 Aug 2017

See all articles by Jessica Kennedy

Jessica Kennedy

Vanderbilt University - Organizational Behavior

Maurice E. Schweitzer

University of Pennsylvania - Operations & Information Management Department

Date Written: August 28, 2017

Abstract

Individuals who accuse others of unethical behavior can derive significant benefits. Compared to individuals who do not make accusations, accusers engender greater trust and are perceived to have higher ethical standards. We found this to be true even when the accuser had a conflict of interest when making the accusation. However, both moral hypocrisy and the veracity of the accusation moderated the relationship between accusations and trust in the accuser. Accusers who had acted unethically themselves failed to signal high ethical standards when they accused others, and accusers who had made false accusations lost, rather than gained, trust. Overall, accusations have significant interpersonal consequences. In addition to harming accused targets, accusations can substantially benefit accusers.

Keywords: Ethics; Ethical Violations; Accusations; Trust

Suggested Citation

Kennedy, Jessica and Schweitzer, Maurice E., Holding People Responsible for Ethical Violations: The Trust Benefits of Accusing Others (August 28, 2017). Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management Research Paper No. 3028328. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3028328

Jessica Kennedy (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University - Organizational Behavior ( email )

Nashville, TN 37203
United States

Maurice E. Schweitzer

University of Pennsylvania - Operations & Information Management Department ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States
215-898-4776 (Phone)
215-898-3664 (Fax)

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