Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 80, Issue 2, pp 327–347 | Cite as

Perceptions of Deception: Making Sense of Responses to Employee Deceit

  • Karen A. Jehn
  • Elizabeth D. Scott
Open Access


In this research, we examine the effects that customer perceptions of employee deception have on the customers’ attitudes toward an organization. Based on interview, archival, and observational data within the international airline industry, we develop a model to explain the complex effects of perceived dishonesty on observer’s attitudes and intentions toward the airline. The data revealed three types of perceived deceit (about beliefs, intentions, and emotions) and three additional factors that influence customer intentions and attitudes: the players involved, the beneficiaries of the deceit, and the harm done by the perceived lie. We develop a model with specific propositions to guide organizations with respect to apparently deceitful behavior of their employees. Implications and directions for future research are provided, focusing on the question of whether organizations should consistently encourage honesty or train their employees to be effective liars.


blame causal attributions customer’s perception of a company (CPC) customer service employee deception image perceived dishonesty reputation sensemaking qualitative research 



The authors would like to thank the Zicklin Center for Business Ethics Research for financial support and two anonymous reviewers from this journal for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this work.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Social SciencesLeiden UniversityLeiden The Netherlands
  2. 2.Eastern Connecticut State UniversityWillimanticU.S.A.

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