prosocial behavior, rule breaking, personality, deviance, hospitality, restaurant industry


In the hospitality industry, the role of the frontline employee is integral. These employees are the face of the organization and have a strong role in shaping and forming the opinions of consumers by way of their product and service delivery. Therefore, the decisions an employee makes during the product or service delivery is critical in maintaining the relationship with the customer. Employees may be faced with opportunities to better service a customer at the cost of breaking an organizational rule or procedure. When an employee is faced with this dilemma and decides to break the rule on the behalf of the customer knowing the risks involved, this is called prosocial rule breaking. One distinct difference between this concept and general rule breaking is that this is performed as a nonselfish gesture; the employee does not receive any personal benefit. To examine this further, this study investigated the overall propensity to participate in prosocial rule breaking and the impact of the Big Five personality dimensions on prosocial rule breaking. To gain a better understanding of these constructs, a review of literature related to ethical decision making, prosocial behavior, and the five factor theory of personality was conducted. To investigate the research objectives, a purposive sample of frontline employees from a nationally branded restaurant chain completed a four part self-administered questionnaire by answering questions on the five factor personality dimensions through the Big Five Inventory (BFI), a restaurant based scenario followed by Morrison's (2006) prosocial rule breaking scale, a section on demographic information, and an open ended section for qualitative comments. Overall, three-hundred and five (305) usable questionnaires were completed and interpreted. The results demonstrated that this sample of restaurant employees revealed a moderate propensity for prosocial rule breaking. Moreover, the results revealed that the Agreeableness dimension is the most common personality dimension for this group of restaurant employees, but the Conscientiousness domain was the best predictor of one's propensity not to participate in prosocial rule breaking. The implications for managers from this study indicate a need for managers to recognize and encourage prosocial behaviors from their employees. They also need to understand which personality domains contribute to prosocial behavior, which can ultimately have implications for hiring, selection, and training.


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Graduation Date



Dickson, Duncan


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Education


Educational Research, Technology, and Leadership

Degree Program









Release Date

May 2010

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)


Rosen College of Hospitality Management

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