The paradox of paranoia: how one’s own self-interested unethical behavior can spark paranoia and reduce affiliative behavior toward coworkers

Annika Hillebrandt*, Daniel L. Brady, Maria Francisca Saldanha, Laurie J. Barclay

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

How are individuals affected by their own self-interested unethical behavior? Although self-interested unethical behavior commonly occurs as people attempt to advantage themselves, we argue that this unethical behavior can have deleterious implications for individuals and their social relationships. We propose that engaging in self-interested unethical behavior is positively related to state paranoia—an aversive psychological state. In turn, the social cognitive biases underlying state paranoia can prompt people to misjudge the potential for social threat. This may motivate them to curtail coworker-directed affiliative behavior, thereby inadvertently undermining their social relationships. Our predictions were supported across four studies, including a behavioral study in a controlled environment, a recall study, a field survey in a single organization, and a two-wave survey. Theoretical and practical implications include highlighting the importance of understanding the personal and social consequences of self-interested unethical behavior as well as the impact of state paranoia in the workplace.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 17 May 2022

Keywords

  • Affiliative behavior
  • Paranoia
  • Self-interest
  • Social relationships
  • Unethical behavior

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