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Exploring the Impact of Job Insecurity on Employees’ Unethical Behavior

  • Ericka R. Lawrence (a1) and K. Michele Kacmar (a2)

The multitude of corporate scandals has prompted research that examines factors that influence an individual’s engagement in unethical behavior. This article extends previous research by examining the psychological processes through which unethical behavior may occur. We develop and test a model that uses self-regulation theory to explain and predict how and under what circumstances individuals are likely to engage in unethical behavior. Results from data collected from 107 professionals at two points in time and 205 employees from various industries confirm that job insecurity increases emotional exhaustion, which subsequently impairs an employee’s ability to activate self-regulating processes to avoid engaging in unethical behavior. However, the link between job insecurity and emotional exhaustion as well as the mediated relationship between job insecurity and unethical behavior through emotional exhaustion are weaker for employees who have high adaptability and stronger for employees who are highly embedded in their organization.

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