Unethical Behavior as a Stressor

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Book Chapter

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A large and growing body of research on occupational stress has established the existence of a variety of environmental conditions termed stressors that have detrimental physical and psychological effects on people, termed strains. Whereas some stressors are inherent in the nature of job tasks (e.g., role ambiguity and role conflict, see Katz and Kahn, 1978), social stressors involve interpersonal interactions among people and are considered as particularly stressful (e.g., Bolger et al., 1989). Social stressors have been studied under different labels, such as interpersonal conflict (Spector and Jex, 1998), bullying (Einarsen et al., 2010), injustice (Greenberg, 2004), incivility (Andersson and Pearson, 1999), emotional abuse (Keashly and Harvey, 2005), social undermining (Duffy, Ganster, and Pagon, 2002), abusive supervision (Tepper, 2007), and sexual harassment (Fitzgerald et al., 1997). A common feature of all these stressors is that they can involve instances of unethical behavior, which in many cases imply threats to self-esteem through expressions of disrespect, a lack of acceptance, and social exclusion. Such behaviors are unethical when they are intended to harm others for no legitimate purpose, or when they aim at attaining illegitimate advantages at the expense of others. In this chapter we will discuss various mechanisms regarding how social stressors arising from unethical behavior of one employee toward others lead to strains, integrating the ethics literature with the theory of stress as offense to self.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Unethical Work Behavior as a Stressor, in Robert A Giacalone, Mark D Promislo, Handbook of Unethical Work Behavior: Implications for Individual Well-Being, p.168-179.