COLLEGE DIRECTORY       :      VISIT ELLER      :      LOG IN 

Students Alumni Corporate Visitors
The University of Arizona | Eller College of Management
The University of Arizona Eller College of Management
Eller College Home > Faculty and Research > Research Buzz > Thick as Thieves

Research Buzz

Aleksander Ellis


  • ethics
  • psychological safety
  • teams
  • unethical behavior
  • management


Thick as Thieves

The Effects of Ethical Orientation and Psychological Safety on Unethical Behavior in Teams

The purpose of this study was to uncover compositional and emergent influences on unethical behavior by teams. Results from 126 teams indicated that presence of a formalistic orientation within the team was negatively related to collective unethical decisions. Conversely, the presence of a utilitarian orientation within the team was positively related to both unethical decisions and behaviors.

Results also indicated that the relationship between utilitarianism and unethical outcomes was moderated by the level of psychological safety within the team, such that teams with high levels of safety were more likely to engage in unethical behaviors. Implications are discussed, as well as potential directions for future research.


Aleksander Ellis is the Charles and Candice Nelson Fellow and Associate Professor of Management and Organizations at the Eller College of Management, University of Arizona. Matthew Pearsall is an assistant professor of management at the Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland.

Publication Source

Published in Journal of Applied Psychology, 96(2), 401-411.

Return to Research Buzz, or for assistance with incorporating Eller College research into your media, please contact us.