Some Rules are Meant to Be Broken: Individual Differences and Rule-Breaking Behavior

Document Type



Academy of Management Annual Meeting Proceedings includes abstracts of all papers and symposia presented at the annual conference, plus 6-page abridged versions of the “Best Papers” accepted for inclusion in the program (approximately 10%). Papers published in the Proceedings are abridged because presenting papers at their full length could preclude subsequent journal publication. Please contact the author(s) directly for the full papers.


essential personality traits; pro-social rule breaking; organizational structure

Identifier Data


Academy of Management

Rights Management



Through a multi-wave design with co-worker ratings (n = 115), we advance current knowledge on rule-breaking in organizations by exploring the relationship between essential personality traits and pro-social rule-breaking (PSRB) behaviors while examining organizational structure as a moderator. Our results indicate that individuals high in honesty-humility are less likely to engage in PSRB behavior. In contrast, individuals high in moral disengagement are more likely to engage in PSRB behavior. Organizational structure – when the organization is more organic and free-flowing – is also positively related to PSRB behavior, indicating that when an organization does not have solid rules or guidelines (a “weak situation”), individuals are more likely to rely on their predispositions and engage in PSRB behaviors. Organizational structure also moderated the relationship between moral disengagement and PSRB behavior, enhancing this negative relationship. Overall, this study illuminates the types of individuals more likely to engage in PSRB behaviors and the role that the organization plays in creating an environment where these behaviors can flourish, providing important implications for managers.