The Slippery Slope: How Organizational Instrumental Climate Socializes Newcomers into Unethical Pro-Organizational Behaviour

Dr Zhen Zhang, School of Business, Southern Methodist University, examines how organizational socialization affects newly hired employees’ slippery slope of unethical pro-organizational behaviour.

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Drawing on the normalization theory of organizational corruption and sensemaking theory, we examine how organizational socialization affects newly hired employees’ slippery slope of unethical pro-organizational behaviour (UPB). We conducted a quantitative longitudinal field survey and a follow-up qualitative study. Multilevel latent growth modelling analyses of the survey data showed that existing instrumental climates predict the increase of newcomers’ UPB over time through the serial mediation of perceived instrumental climate, organization-serving cognitions, and moral disengagement. This mediated relationship is enhanced by the strength of the climate and weakened by newcomers’ moral identity. Content analysis of interviews and secondary data shed light on how newcomers shifted their orientation over time from one of public service to one of organizational profit as a result of intensive socialization efforts coordinated between the organization and work units. Our research contributes to the behavioural ethics literature by highlighting the normalizing effect of pro-organization instrumental climates on UPB slippery slope and the dark side of organizational socialization.



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Welcome and introduction


Presentation, discussion and questions

About the speaker:

Dr Zhen Zhang is the O. Paul Corley Distinguished Chair in Organizational Behavior and Administration in the Management and Organizations Department at the Cox School of Business, Southern Methodist University (SMU). He received his PhD from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Tsinghua University in China. Before joining SMU in 2020, he worked at the W. P. Carey School of Business, Arizona State University for twelve years.  Dr Zhang’s research focuses on leadership process and leadership development, work teams and groups, the biological basis of work behaviour, start-ups and entrepreneurship, and advanced research methods. His work has appeared in several leading management journals including the Academy of Management Journal, Journal of Applied Psychology, Personnel Psychology, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, and the Leadership Quarterly, and has been cited in media outlets such as the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and the Globe and Mail. Dr Zhang served as an Associate Editor at Personnel Psychology between 2018 and 2022, and he is currently the Editor-in-Chief of Personnel Psychology.