Newswise — Lying is central to the human condition, relevant to almost all human affairs. Moreover, lying has had a particularly devastating impact on the global marketplace and the reputation of business as a whole. However, not all lies and misdeeds are the same and sometimes employees will lie to benefit, not harm, their organization – an action known as unethical pro-organizational behavior. A recent study examined peoples’ differing reactions to identical lies and unethical behavior coming from for-profit (Fortune 500) companies and not-for-profit organizations. Results showed people are more forgiving of the non-profit sector than the for-profits. Also, that CEO’s of a for-profit would be punished more severely than the head of a not-for-profit. One reason: Fortune 500 companies are often portrayed as greedy and manipulative and the not-for-profits as selfless and service-oriented. However, this is potentially a dangerous moral “slippery slope” if non-profits know they can get away with more unethical behavior – especially considering that non-profits often work with some of the most vulnerable populations across the world.

For more information contact Michael Johnson, Associate Professor of Management, University of Washington.