Who Do I (Dis)Trust and Monitor for Ethical Misconduct? Status, Power, and the Structural Paradox

Kelly Raz, Alison R. Fragale, Liat Levontin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


A wealth of research documents the critical role of trust for social exchange and cooperative behavior. The ability to inspire trust in others can often be elusive, and distrust can have adverse interpersonal and ethical consequences. Drawing from the literature on social hierarchy and interpersonal judgments, the current research explores the predictive role of a structural paradox between high power and low status in identifying the actors most likely to be distrusted and monitored for ethical misconduct. Across four studies and an internal meta-analysis, we found that the structural paradox was associated with distrust-related judgments and behaviors. In Study 1, high power-low status actors were judged as less trustworthy. In Studies 2 and 3, high power-low status actors were sent less money in a trust game, an effect fully mediated by feelings of dislike. Study 4 revealed that high power-low status actors were more likely to be monitored for cheating, an effect partially mediated by trust judgments. These findings contribute to business ethics research by identifying the structural paradox of high power-low status as a salient contextual influence impacting observers’ distrust and monitoring dynamics. Implications for reducing observers’ level of distrust of high power-low status actors are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)443-464
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2023


  • Distrust
  • Hierarchy
  • Monitoring behaviors
  • Power
  • Status

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • General Business, Management and Accounting
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Law


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