Five key issues around ethics and performance

28th January 2016 |   Mark W Johnston

Professor Mark Johnston explores the conundrum of the high-performing, low ethics salesperson.

Five key issues around ethics and performance

Organizations strive to hire, train, develop and enable salespeople to reach a high level of performance. Of course, as every sales manager knows, only a few can truly be considered “high performers”. Research on high-performing salespeople suggests they are different and often require sales managers to “adjust” their management style and policies (Johnston, Marshall 2013).

Given their record of achievement many, if not most, sales managers are willing to accommodate high performers who don’t always follow the company’s policies. However, what happens when the high performer’s ethical decisions conflict or run in direct opposition to the company’s ethical policies?

This is a challenge that sales managers have to face all too often: how do you handle the high-performing, low ethics salesperson? As noted, it is probably not surprising that high performers are treated differently with respect to ethical violations and generally receive more favorable supervision that other salespeople in the organization (Bellizzi and Hasty 2003). The reasons for this vary but ultimately it can be difficult to discipline a high-performing salesperson for ethical violations when the sales manager’s own performance is linked to the success of the salesperson.

Alan and Sandra Gerry Professor of Marketing and Ethics | + posts

Mark W Johnston is the Alan and Sandra Gerry Professor of Marketing and Ethics at the Roy E Crummer Graduate School of Business, Rollins College. His research has resulted in dozens of published articles in a number of professional journals such as the Journal of Marketing Research, Journal of Applied Psychology, and Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management. He is co-author of Sales Force Management, 12e, Contemporary Selling 5e, and Marketing Management 2e. His market-leading book, Sales Force Management, has been translated in Spanish, Russian, and Chinese. He continues to do research in sales and marketing ethics as well as sales force performance and motivation.