Keith Leavitt and David M. Sluss
Truthfulness and accuracy are critical for effective organizational functioning, but dishonesty (in the form of lying, misrepresentation, and fraud) continue to be pervasive in organizational life. Workplace dishonesty is an inherently unique behavior that should be distinguished from broader categories of unethical workplace behavior and organizational deviance, in that dishonesty is an overt social behavior—that is, requiring an audience to exist as a behavior. Compared to stealing or cheating, dishonest acts require knowing fabrication of false information, intended to deceive an anticipated audience. Thus, considering the overt social aspect of dishonesty (compared to the relatively clandestine behaviors of cheating and stealing) may add conceptual clarity to the construct of workplace dishonesty, which is surprisingly absent from extant literature. The potential audience for dishonest acts in the workplace is notably critical, in that dishonest organizational actors generally anticipate characteristics of the audience (in terms of relationship closeness, as well as expertise and motivation to evaluate the claim) and likely adapt and tailor their dishonesty accordingly. Historically two underlying paradigms have been used to study workplace dishonesty: the rational actor (economic) paradigm and the behavioral ethics (psychological) paradigm, but an emerging and nascent third paradigm (the social actor paradigm) may offer new opportunities for understanding antecedents of workplace dishonesty that do not occur exclusively for self-interested reasons. This novel paradigm suggests here important areas of inquiry related to the aftermath of workplace dishonesty: when will workplace dishonesty be detected in social interactions; what are the social and relational consequences of discovering dishonesty; how are dishonest actors likely to behave in the aftermath of their dishonest actions. Finally, two varying discrepancies relevant to workplace dishonesty should accordingly be considered when predicting subsequent behavior of the dishonest actor: the magnitude of the discrepancy between the truth and the fabrication, and the temporal discrepancy between the trigger event and dishonest act.