University of Worcester Worcester Research and Publications

The Masked Employee and False Performance: Detecting Unethical Behaviour and Investigating Its Effects on Work Relationships

Dunnion, Marie (2014) The Masked Employee and False Performance: Detecting Unethical Behaviour and Investigating Its Effects on Work Relationships. PhD thesis, University of Worcester.

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This thesis was undertaken to investigate a specific type of unethical behaviour in the workplace within the context of the United Kingdom (UK) public sector. The main research aim was to develop an understanding of how to detect false performers. Parnell and Singer (2001) proposed the construct of False Performance (FP) when developing the Organisational Charlatan Scale (OCS) to measure organisational charlatanism (OC).
According to their definition, false performers are those individuals who seek to improve their
perceived performance at the expense of their actual performance. This type of employee deliberately portrays themselves as being better able to perform in a job role than they know themselves to be capable of.

In the current study, the phenomenon of FP was explored in two phases using a sequential, mixed
methods approach. The present research sought to address the gaps in the literature by extending
previous quantitative efforts and carrying out the first qualitative study in this area. In the
first qualitative phase, eight focus groups (n=51) were conducted, and grounded theory was used to
analyse the data and generate theory. Management and Non- Management were questioned about their
perceptions and experiences of FP, especially relating to the job interview and the performance
appraisal interview. The intention was not to identify false performers in the focus groups, but
rather to extract themes and patterns of FP behaviour. Results identified five categories common to
both Management and Non- Management: Perceptions of FP in the Workplace; FP in the Interview; Does
Trust Really Matter to the False Performer?; The Effect of FP on Co-Worker Morale; and Tackling FP
in the Workplace.

In the second phase, the qualitative results were used to inform the quantitative study. The focus
group data helped to generate items for the development of a new measure of FP i.e. the False
Performance Questionnaire (FPQ). To achieve the objective of producing a reliable new instrument,
the FPQ was systematically developed in six stages, concluding with two phases of questionnaire
administration. Using an item analytic and factor analytic approach, the FPQ was distributed in two
phases (stages 5 and 6) in order to refine the item set. In stage 5, a 53-item version of the FPQ
was tested on a sample of 129 employees in three public sector organisations. In stage 6, the FPQ
was further refined and a 21-item FPQ was administered to a sample of 219 employees in four public
sector organisations.

Following exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses, a final 16-item solution with two subscales
was found to have good reliability (α=0.76). In contrast, the nine-item OCS was found to
demonstrate relatively low reliability (α=0.55). These findings indicate that the current study has
generated a more robust and reliable measure of FP, thus achieving the overall objective of
developing a new measure of FP i.e. the 16-item FPQ. As regression analyses revealed a significant
but negative beta for job performance as a predictor of FP (β=-.159, p<0.05), this indicates that
the lower the job performance, the higher the score on the FPQ, thus suggesting that employees
rating highly in FP are likely to be substituting FP for job performance. Whilst FP was negatively
and significantly correlated with job performance, no significant correlation was found between the
Impression Management (IM) scale and the job performance scale. This suggests that whilst an IM
score reveals little about actual job performance, a score on the FPQ could help predict future job

The thesis concludes by considering the future applications and practical implications of this
research, which include: a) An increased understanding of how to detect FP in the workplace; b)
Better selection processes; c) Fairer performance evaluation processes; and
d) A more ethical work environment characterised by improved trust among co-workers.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information:

A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the University of Worcester’s requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy 2014.
A print version of this PhD thesis is available on Level 4 at the Hive.

Uncontrolled Discrete Keywords: unethical behaviour, workplace, public sector, false performance, United KIngdom
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
Divisions: College of Business, Psychology and Sport > Worcester Business School
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Janet Davidson
Date Deposited: 21 Nov 2016 08:19
Last Modified: 17 Jun 2020 17:14

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