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Knowledge Update

Unethical Behavior in the hospitality Industry

Unethical Behavior in the hospitality Industry

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Unethical behavior in the workplace, as defined by Treviño et al. (2014), contravenes widely accepted moral principles and codes of conduct. This issue has become increasingly prevalent in the hospitality industry, demanding immediate attention from contemporary organizations.

According to Treviño et al. (2006), such behavior includes employee actions that defy moral norms and corporate ethics, like lying or cheating, with common examples in hotels being theft, negligence, and secrecy (Ghosh & Shum, 2019). These behaviors not only undermine the long-term sustainability and efficiency of an organization but also promote a more selfish culture among its members, drawing the attention of both scholars and practitioners (Kish-Gephart et al., 2010)


To understand the drivers and impacts of unethical workplace behavior, researchers have conducted extensive theoretical studies. They have explored variables such as leadership styles, organizational climates, and personality traits, including Machiavellian tendencies and the five-factor model (Haldorai et al., 2020). The primary consequences identified include social contagion (Wiltermuth et al., 2017), feelings of guilt and shame (Umphress and Bingham, 2011), and effects on organizational performance. Test


Some researches focused on assessing the ethical perceptions among club managers, hotel managers, and hotel accounting controllers within the hospitality sector. Some scholars categorized individuals in the restaurant industry into three groups based on their ethical behavior: 13% are outright dishonest and would steal regardless, 21% are fundamentally honest and would not steal, and 66% might steal if they observe others doing so without facing consequences. One particular concern in this sector is internal theft, with the National Restaurant Association's Fourth Annual Survey (1999) revealing that the average theft per restaurant and fast-food employee annually is $218.


Employees in the restaurant industry have been found engaging in various unethical practices, such as billing customers for items they did not receive, tampering with food or drinks, hiding extra charges on bills to receive double tips, consuming alcohol on the job, partaking in drug use or sales at the workplace, not billing for items provided, stealing food, alcoholic beverages, and tips from colleagues, taking kickbacks from suppliers to favor their products, manipulating credit card charges post-customer approval, and intentionally damaging restaurant assets to challenge management authority (Kincaid et al., 2008).


A scholar explored the attitudes of employees towards unethical behaviors in three-star and four-star hotels in Cappadocia, Turkey. The study revealed that these behaviors were generally disapproved of by employees, with attitudes varying across different hotel departments. An interesting outcome of the research was the degree of employees' willingness to engage in unethical practices. Consistent with much of the ethical research in business, findings indicate that organizations are more profitable and successful when employees behave ethically, whereas they struggle financially and operationally when employees do not. Unethical actions were found to increase costs significantly, incurring about $102,000 in losses, a substantial financial impact on businesses, according to some studies targeting senior managers and staff in large hotels. Earlier studies in the hospitality field have not focused on the presence of sycophantic behaviors among organizational members in this industry.


  • Ghosh, A., & Shum, C. (2019). Why do employees break the rules? Understanding organizational rule-breaking behaviors in hospitality. International Journal of Hospitality Management, 81, 1-10.
  • Haldorai, K., Kim, W. G., Chang, H. S., & Li, J. J. (2020). Workplace spirituality as a mediator between ethical climate and workplace deviant behavior. International Journal of Hospitality Management, 86, 102372.
  • Kish-Gephart, J. J., Harrison, D. A., & Treviño, L. K. (2010). Bad apples, bad cases, and bad barrels: meta-analytic evidence about sources of unethical decisions at work. Journal of Applied Psychology, 95(1), 1.
  • Kincaid, H. (2008). Do We Need Theory to Study Disease?: lessons from cancer research and their implications for mental illness. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 51(3), 367-378.
  • Treviño, L. K., Den Nieuwenboer, N. A., & Kish-Gephart, J. J. (2014). (Un) ethical behavior in organizations. Annual review of psychology, 65, 635-660.
  • Treviño, L. K., Weaver, G. R., & Reynolds, S. J. (2006). Behavioral ethics in organizations: A review. Journal of Management, 32(6), 951-990.
  • Umphress, E. E., & Bingham, J. B. (2011). When employees do bad things for good reasons: Examining unethical pro-organizational behaviors. Organization science, 22(3), 621-640.
  • Wiltermuth, S. S., Vincent, L. C., & Gino, F. (2017). Creativity in unethical behavior attenuates condemnation and breeds social contagion when transgressions seem to create little harm. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 139, 106-126.