The psychic cost of doing wrong: Ethical conflict, divestiture socialization, and emotional exhaustion

John D. Kammeyer-Mueller, Lauren S. Simon, Bruce L. Rich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations

Abstract

Many employees feel ethically conflicted at work, but research has yet to identify the specific mechanisms that give rise to this sense of ethical conflict. The authors propose that ethical conflicts occur when companies encourage employees to behave counter to their own sense of right and wrong during the process of organizational socialization. Employees who are subject to these pressures experience psychological distress. The authors' study of 371 early career lawyers found that divestiture socialization was positively related to ethical conflict and that ethical conflict was related to higher emotional exhaustion and lower career fulfillment. Ethical conflict partially mediated the relationship between divestiture socialization and emotional exhaustion. Narrative comments provided by respondents reinforced the relationship between divestiture socialization and ethical conflict.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)784-808
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Management
Volume38
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2012

Keywords

  • Burnout
  • Ethics
  • Socialization
  • Stress

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