The Psychology of Immoral Behaviour



This symposium address the psychology of immoral behaviour in business contexts. It is aimed at aiding professionals in their reflection on ethical conduct in organisational settings. Research will be presented in a non-technical manner, emphasising the relevance of the findings to the practice of business ethics. Topics vary from the roles of self-regulatory processes and emotions in regulating moral conduct to issues of leadership, justice, and trust. All presenters are internationally renowned scholars.  

Putting executive pay in context - David De Cremer, University of Cambridge
Ever since the outbreak of the financial crisis rewards, bonuses and executive pay have been criticised heavily. Very much present in these discussions is a moral tone that begs for a change in how we reward people. In the present talk, I will briefly touch upon the issue whether much has really changed and to what extent the nature of the job influences in irrational ways the rewards people feel entitled to and their sensitivity toward building trustworthy and warm relationships. These studies demonstrate the usefulness of adopting a behavioural ethics approach to promote an evidence-based consultancy view on executive pay.

Professor David De Cremer holds the KPMG chair in Management Studies at Cambridge University, Judge Business School, United Kingdom. He is also visiting professor at London Business School. He employs behavioural approaches to understand contemporary challenges in economics, leadership and management. His primary interest lies in understanding behaviour and designing focused interventions in the areas of leadership and decision making, the development and repair of trust, building value-driven organisations, China business and management, and Business negotiations. His research has been published in the top tier academic journals, managerial outlets, and described in a variety of financial and business magazines and newpapers worldwide (e.g. Financial Times, Scientific American, Bloomberg News, CBS money watch, the Economist).

Narcissism and Moral Leadership - Constantine Sedikides, University of Southampton, UK
Narcissists are extraverted and dynamic. They are seen as “leader material” and preferred as leaders. Whether their conduct as leaders is moral, though, is debatable. Narcissists can energise, although they are often being manipulative in the process. Narcissists can go overboard with their zeal to effect organisational change, but may leave the place in ruins—not exactly a saintly practice. We will define narcissism, discuss perceptions of narcissists as leaders, and analyse their effectiveness as leaders, while putting it all in the context of moral management.

Constantine Sedikides is professor of social/personality psychology and Director of the Center for Research on Self and Identity (CRSI) at the University of Southampton, UK. His research is on self & identity, and their relevance to emotion, motivation, cognition, and behaviour. Constantine has published over 250 articles and 11 volumes. He is the past president of the International Society for Self and Identity, has served on international grant panels and the editorial board of various journals, and has co-edited the journal Psychological Inquiry. Constantine is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, the American Psychological Society, the British Psychological Society, the Society for Experimental Social Psychology, and the Society for Personality and Social Psychology. He has received the Kurt Lewin Medal for Outstanding Scientific Contribution from the European Association of Social Psychology, has awarded the Presidents' Award for Distinguished Contributions to Psychological Knowledge from The British Psychological Society, and has been elected Academician in the Academy of Social Sciences.

Nostalgia: The gift that keeps on giving - Tim Wildschut, University of Southampton, UK
Nostalgia, a sentimental longing for a personally experienced and valued past, is a social emotion. It refers to significant others in the context of momentous life events, and it fosters a sense of social connectedness. I will discuss research showing that nostalgia promotes charitable and prosocial intentions and behaviour, and discuss how this effect occurs – because nostalgia promotes empathy with the charity’s beneficiaries.

Tim Wildschut is an associate professor at the University of Southampton, England. His main research interest is in the area of nostalgia. His work has been recognised with the Gordon Allport Intergroup Relations Prize and the Jos Jaspars Medal for outstanding scientific contributions to social psychology.

Expectations for Moral Behaviour: What we want from ourselves, our leaders, and our organisations (& how we often fall short of these expectations) - Jennifer Jordan, University of Groningen
I will discuss my research on individuals’ expectations for their own moral behaviour, as well as what people look for in the moral behaviour of their leaders and organisations. I will then discuss the implications of these expectations for individuals’ actual behaviour, for leadership, and for how organisations approach social issues (e.g., CSR).

Jennifer Jordan (MS, MPhil, PhD Yale University) is a Rosalind Franklin Fellow and associate professor of Human Resources and Organisational Behaviour at the University of Groningen. She previously worked at the Kellogg School of Management and Tuck School of Business. Her research interests primarily include ethics and power.

Regulating moral behaviour - Laetitia Mulder, University of Groningen
From large scale ethical scandals to all kind of atrocities committed by human beings, one may conclude that people gradually have gotten more and more involved in unethical acts. Minor unethical acts seem to have escalated in multiple and perhaps more serious misdeeds. At the same time, we all behave unethical once in a while without necessarily letting it escalate into clearly unacceptable levels. How do some people let their own unethical acts to get out of hand, while others succeed in keeping an equilibrium of ethical behaviour? I will discuss the role of moral identity in this. Research has shown that people for who “being moral”  is an important part of their identity deal with this differently than people for who this is less important. I will discuss organisational and societal implications.

Laetitia Mulder got her PhD in 2005 in social psychology from Leiden University. She is now Associate Professor at the department of HRM & OB at the University of Groningen, faculty of Economics and Business. Her research focuses on how people regulate their own (im)moral behaviour and on how authorities can regulate the (im)moral behaviour of subordinates (citizens, employees, etc). Another direction of het research is moralisation of health-related topics (such as obesity).

  • The symposium will be followed by the Inaugural Address of Marius van Dijke.