A Newcomer Socialization Perspective on the Proliferation of Unethical Conduct in Organizations: The Influences of Peer Coaching Practices and Newcomers’ Goal Orientations

Abstract

Drawing on conservation of resources theory, we contribute to the behavioral ethics literature by examining how and why organizational socialization processes can affect newcomers’ adoption of unethical behaviors. Specifically, we contend that quality peer coaching (i.e., providing newcomers with job-related guidance and social support) provides newcomers with enhanced self-resources that diminishes emotional exhaustion and thus indirectly reduces newcomer unethical conduct. Conversely, peer coach unethical conduct (i.e., violating ethical norms) increases newcomers’ emotional exhaustion, and thus indirectly increases newcomers’ own unethical acts. Our research also identifies newcomers’ goal orientations as important individual differences that moderate the proposed mediation effects. Newcomers with high mastery orientations respond to high emotional exhaustion by harnessing more resources and identifying new work strategies, thereby engaging in less unethical conduct. Conversely, newcomers with high performance orientations give into emotional exhaustion and engage in unethical conduct as a way of outperforming others while conserving resources. We tested our theoretical model using a sample of peer coaches and newcomers from the Real Estate industry, using objective reporting of peer coaches’ and newcomers’ unethical conduct over a nine-month period.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Elliot et al. suggested a refinement of these constructs (Elliot and McGregor 2001; Elliot and Harackiewicz 1996; Vandewalle 1997): a mastery-approach goal focuses on developing knowledge and skills; a mastery-avoidance goal focuses on preventing developmental stagnation or skill loss; a performance-approach goal focuses on attaining favorable judgments of competence; and a performance-avoidance goal focuses on preventing perceptions of failure and incompetence. Although it is useful to distinguish the approach and avoidance forms of goal orientations among learners in self-controlled educational settings, researchers found that employees’ avoidance tendencies in the work setting typically are confounded by managerial supervision and workplace rules (VandeWalle et al. 2001). This is further complicated by the criticism that existing measures seem to capture negative affectivity rather than the theoretical construct of avoidance goals (Elliot and Murayama 2008). Indeed, Janssen and van Yperen (2004) suggested that unless there is a clear theory guiding the effects of mastery and performance avoidance orientations, researchers should focus on the approach facets. Following their recommendation, we focus only on approach goals and do not develop formal hypotheses regarding mastery or performance avoidance goals. We restrict the use of the terms “mastery goals” and “performance goals” to the approach components of these goal orientations in this study.

  2. 2.

    For more information, see University of California Berkeley Committee for the Protection of Human Subjects. (2016). Research involving the secondary use of existing data. Retrieved from https://cphs.berkeley.edu/secondarydata.pdf.

  3. 3.

    Additional analysis suggests that if no control variables are included, Hypothesis 4 is supported at a 90% CI but not at a 95% CI (indirect effect = 0.049, bias-corrected bootstrap 95% CI [− 0.006, 0.173], 90% CI [0.001, 0.150]).

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Liu, X., Greenbaum, R.L., Allen, D. et al. A Newcomer Socialization Perspective on the Proliferation of Unethical Conduct in Organizations: The Influences of Peer Coaching Practices and Newcomers’ Goal Orientations. J Bus Ethics (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-020-04730-y

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Keywords

  • Newcomer socialization
  • Coaching
  • Goal orientation