Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 57, Issue 4, pp 377–388 | Cite as

Supervising the Unethical Selling Behavior of Top Sales Performers: Assessing the Impact of Social Desirability Bias



This study measures social desirability bias (SD bias) by comparing the level of discipline sales managers believe they would administer when supervising unethical selling behavior with the level of discipline they perceive other sales managers would select. Results indicate the presence of SD bias; the sales manager respondents consistently claimed that they would be stricter while their peers would be more lenient. Using an analytical technique that takes social desirability bias into account, it appears that sales managers’ use of discipline is affected by the sales performance of the salesperson being disciplined resulting in more lenient discipline for top sales performers. In addition, the more lenient treatment for top sales performers persists even when there is a pattern of a prior ethical infraction and the existence of an explicit organizational policy proscribing the act in question. Sales managers believe that, like themselves, others would be stricter when an unethical act is committed for the second time but not as strict as they personally would be. A within-subjects interaction effect indicates more SD bias under the condition of the unethical act being committed for the second time.


ethics in sales ethical violations and employee supervision 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of ManagementArizona State University WestPhoenixU.S.A

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