This paper investigates whether by exposing superiors to moral symbols, subordinates can discourage their superiors from asking them to perform unethical acts. Findings from two laboratory studies and one field study demonstrated that exposure to moral symbols displayed by the subordinates dissuades superiors from asking subordinates to engage in unethical behavior. This paper also examines how the use of moral symbols elicits inferences about the moral character of the displayer which, in turn, acts as the mediator for the relationship between the display of a moral symbol and the likelihood of being subjected to unethical directives. In sum, our findings demonstrate that followers can serve as a form of social influence to guide their leader’s behavior and reduce the occurrence of unethical acts in the workplace.
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