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The Relation of Trust in Leaders to Reporting Unethical Conduct: A Factorial Vignette Study

  POSTED ON: Thursday, May 24, 2018 1:06 PM by Spencer

This article investigates factors related to the reporting of unethical conduct. While accounting for known individual, organizational and situational correlates, the focus is particularly on leaders and especially on trust in leaders as whistle-blowing research to date has neglected the well-developed sociological literature of trust. Leveraging the benefits of experimental methods, a factorial vignette study tests the relative effect of trust in leaders on the reporting outcome. As study participants view multiple vignettes, multi-level analyses best model the vignette-level data nested within participants. Vignette analyses find greater trust in leaders is related to increased reporting only for non-supervisors, highlighting the additional importance trust plays for lower-status individuals. Also, good behavior by the leader accepting a report is related to increased reporting for all participants. These data bolster previous findings, including relating a lesser orientation towards Machiavellianism to increased reporting, and find the severity of observed misconduct has the largest relative effect on the reporting outcome. Counter to expectations, vignette participants are less likely to report unethical conduct perpetrated by a supervisor, supporting the notion that fear of retaliation may factor into the reporting decision. By revealing obstacles to reporting, these findings may assist leaders in addressing such barriers ultimately contributing to the identification and correction of unethical conduct. 
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Category: Midshipmen

Lead Department

Spenser Weddington CPT, CM, US Army USNA Instructor
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