Bad Deeds for Good Friends: Maintaining Independence and Objectivity in the Workplace
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In this dissertation, I investigate how and when close relationships interfere with obligations to remain objective in the workplace. By adopting a psychological point of view, I suggest that breakdowns in objectivity can be explained by a mechanism known as “psychological closeness”—that is, feeling attached and connected to another person or people. I build upon this argument by suggesting that certain individuals are less susceptible to the negative effects of psychological closeness than others. Specifically, I argue that people who do not define themselves in terms of their close relationships—otherwise known as low “relational-interdependent self-construal (RSC)”—are least vulnerable to objectivity failures that help psychologically close others. I investigated the relation among RSC, psychological closeness, and failures to remain objective across four experimental studies. In Study 1, I tested whether psychological closeness to another person influenced objectivity failures using a laboratory experiment in which interactions between individuals who knew each other well (i.e., were psychologically close) were compared to interactions between individuals who did not know each other well (i.e., were not psychologically close). In Study 2, I examined whether induced psychological closeness to another person predicted objectivity failures. In addition, I tested whether this relationship was moderated by RSC. In Studies 3 and 4, I continued to test the theoretical model using online experiments. In Study 4, I also tested whether temporarily reduced RSC led to fewer objectivity failures to help psychologically close others. Overall, the results from these studies support the hypothesized relationship between psychological closeness and objectivity failures. Interestingly, an unexpected pattern of results emerged for RSC, suggesting that this trait is more influential in determining how individuals treat psychologically distant (vs. close) others. Together these studies offer new insights about how close relationships and RSC interact to influence ethical decision making in the workplace.