Good intentions, bad behavior: a review and synthesis of the literature on unethical prosocial behavior (UPB) at work

Shenjiang Mo, Matthew J. Lupoli, Alexander Newman, Elizabeth E. Umphress

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Scholars have investigated work behaviors that are intended to help others, yet at the same time violate societal values, norms, laws, or standards of proper conduct. We refer to these actions collectively as unethical prosocial behavior (UPB) at work. In this paper, we provide a critical review of the UPB literature. Our review makes several contributions: First, we clarify definitional issues surrounding UPB, while also offering suggestions for the improvement of measurement and methodology in the study of UPB. Second, we review the major theoretical perspectives that have been adopted in empirical research on UPB at different levels of analysis and summarize the empirical findings on the topic. In doing so, we highlight the theoretical and empirical challenges facing this work. Finally, we develop an agenda for future research that clears a path toward resolving these issues and advancing knowledge of UPB.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)335-354
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Organizational Behavior
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023


  • unethical behavior
  • unethical pro-group behavior
  • unethical pro-leader behavior
  • unethical pro-organizational behavior
  • unethical prosocial behavior

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