Beyond silence or compliance: The complexities of reporting a friend for misconduct

Megan F. Hess, Linda K. Treviño, Anjier Chen, Rob Cross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Why do employees fail to report a friend's misconduct, and if they do not report, how else do they cope with this ethical dilemma? Through two field studies, we offer a more nuanced understanding of the range of alternative responses between the extremes of silence (ignoring misconduct) and compliance (reporting), and we illuminate the underlying reasons for these choices. Our results reveal that most employees are inclined to attempt to resolve a friend-reporting situation themselves, and further, that many employees hesitate to report a friend's misconduct for ethical reasons. Specifically, we show how an ethic of care expressed through empathy for the transgressor may play an important and previously unexamined role in friend-reporting decisions, drawing attention to the consideration of empathy as a key emotion that can reduce compliance with reporting programmes. In addition to these important contributions to the literature, practitioners should also find this study useful, as it suggests new approaches to help employees better align their choices with the compliance goals of the organisation without sacrificing their valued friendships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)546-562
Number of pages17
JournalBusiness Ethics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Economics and Econometrics


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