Sales manager and sales team determinants of salesperson ethical behaviour

John W. Cadogan, Nick J. Lee, Anssi Tarkiainen, Sanna Sundqvist

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to develop and test a model of the role managers and peers play in shaping salespeople's ethical behaviour. The model specifies that sales manager personal moral philosophies, whether sales managers themselves are rewarded according to the outcomes or behaviours of their salespeople, sales team job security, intra-team cooperation, and sales team tactical performance all influence sales team ethical standards. In turn, ethical standards influence the probability that sales team members will behave (un)ethically when faced with ethical dilemmas. Design/methodology/approach – The model is tested on a sample of 154 Finnish sales managers. Data were collected via mail survey. Analysis was undertaken using structural equation modelling. Findings – Ethical standards appear to be shaped by several factors; behaviour-based management controls increase ethical standards, relativist managers tend to manage less ethically-minded sales teams, job insecurity impedes the development of ethical standards, and sales teams' cooperation activity increases ethical standards. Sales teams are less likely to engage in unethical behaviour when the teams have strong ethical standards. Research limitations/implications – Cross-sectional data limits generalisability; single country data may limit the ability to generalise to different sales environments; additional measure development is needed; identification of additional antecedent factors would be beneficial. Practical implications – Sales managers should consciously develop high ethical standards in sales teams if they wish to reduce unethical behaviour. Ethical standards can be improved if sales managers change their own outward behaviour (exhibit a less relativistic ethical philosophy), foster cooperation amongst salespeople, and develop perceptions of job security. How sales managers are rewarded may shape how they approach the management of ethical behaviour in their sales teams. Originality/value – This paper appears to be the first to simultaneously examine both sales manager-specific and sales team-specific antecedents to sales team ethical standards and behaviours. As such, it provides an important base for research in this critical area.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)907-937
Number of pages31
JournalEuropean Journal of Marketing
Issue number7-8
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jul 2009


  • business ethics
  • employee behaviour
  • sales management
  • standards
  • team working


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