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Tying prior ethical acts to unethical behavior in negotiation: A moral licensing perspective
Much of our understanding on ethical behavior during the negotiation process is driven by consistency theories which predict that parties will act in stable patterns (i.e., ethically or unethically). As an alternative, we adopt a moral licensing perspective to suggest how negotiators who engage in moral behaviors may believe that they have accrued idiosyncrasy credits which allow them to engage in less moral (e.g., unethical) behaviors during a negotiation. Thus, we consider how the decision to act ethically during negotiation is not an isolated choice but rather the culmination of prior decisions. Across two studies of graduate students and executives, we test the hypothesized mediated pathway in which ethical acts can predict subsequent unethical behaviors. We also consider the impact of key boundary conditions (i.e., moral identity and identity orientations) which influence the strength of the moral license as well as the likelihood of its subsequent enactment.