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Whatever it takes: rivalry and unethical behavior

Kilduff, G. J., Galinsky, A. D., Gallo, E. and Reade, J. J. ORCID: (2016) Whatever it takes: rivalry and unethical behavior. Academy of Management Journal, 59 (5). pp. 1508-1534. ISSN 1948-0989

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To link to this item DOI: 10.5465/amj.2014.0545


This research investigates the link between rivalry and unethical behavior. We propose that people will engage in greater unethical behavior when competing against their rivals than when competing against non-rival competitors. Across a series of experiments and an archival study, we find that rivalry is associated with increased use of deception, unsportsmanlike behavior, willingness to employ unethical negotiation tactics, and misreporting of performance. We also explore the psychological underpinnings of rivalry, which help to illuminate how it differs from general competition, and why it increases unethical behavior. Rivalry as compared to non-rival competition was associated with increased status concerns, contingency of self-worth, and performance goals; mediation analyses revealed that performance goals played the biggest role in explaining why rivalry promoted greater unethicality. Lastly, we find that merely thinking about a rival can be enough to promote greater unethical behavior, even in domains unrelated to the rivalry. These findings highlight the importance of rivalry as a widespread, powerful, yet largely unstudied phenomenon with significant organizational implications. Further, the results help to inform when and why unethical behavior occurs within organizations, and demonstrate that the effects of competition are dependent upon relationships and prior interactions.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Politics, Economics and International Relations > Economics
ID Code:47395
Publisher:Academy of Management


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