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The notion of “behavioral integrity” describes the extent to which one person perceives that another lives by his or her word, keeps promises, and lives by professed values. Effective management leadership depends on how employees perceive their manager's behavior on these points, because this drives credibility. Since most managers are neither saints nor demons, employees judge their managers’ integrity by interpreting a mixed set of managerial actions and behavior. This study examines how different employee groups might understand and react differently to cues about their manager’s consistency. We surveyed 1,944 employees at 107 hotels and found that the observer’s race affects his or her perceptions of behavioral integrity. African American employees in this study were especially sensitive to violations and affirmations of behavioral integrity. Moreover, African American employees scored their African American managers more harshly than they did their non-African American managers. The study also found that senior managers’ integrity trickles down to affect behavior and attitudes throughout the organization. These results suggest a need for executive training and vigilance focused on the issue of behavioral integrity, because managers’ integrity affects the attitudes, conduct, and loyalty of all employees.


Originally published in:

Simons, T., Friedman, R., Liu, L. A., & Parks, J. M. (2008). The importance of behavioral integrity in a multicultural workplace [Electronic article]. Cornell Hospitality Reports, 8(17), 6-16.

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