It's bad for business: the association between psychopathic traits and immoral decision-making in the workplace

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University of Alabama Libraries

Stories of corporate scandal have garnered significant media attention in recent years. Tales of embezzlement, fraud, and other immoral workplace behaviors plastered news headlines, and society demanded answers. One proposed explanation was the presence of psychopaths among businesses’ employees. However, empirical support for this notion is sparse. To reduce the dearth in the literature, the present study investigated the relationship between psychopathic traits and immoral decision-making in the workplace. Approximately 100 businesspeople from the community and 15 Masters of Business Administration students were recruited to complete the Triarchic Psychopathy Measure and a brief assessment of moral disengagement. They were then presented with business-related moral scenarios and answered questions related to Rest’s 1986 model of moral decision-making (i.e., moral awareness, judgment, intention, and action). Triarchic domains (i.e., boldness, meanness, and disinhibition) did not predict moral awareness, judgment, intention, or action. However, Triarchic meanness predicted moral disengagement, such that individuals with higher TriPM meanness scores were more likely to morally disengage. Findings provide support for the notion that psychopathic traits are not associated with significant deficits in moral decision-making. Results also indicate employers may decrease the likelihood of immoral workplace behavior by promoting morally engaged thinking in the workplace.

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