Cheating on Spouse Linked with Acting Out at Work: Study

The results of a new scientific study have demonstrated a link between people who cheat on their spouses and those who engage in misconduct at work.  According to the data, people who cheat on their spouses are significantly more likely to engage in misconduct in the workplace than those people in faithful, committed relationships.

Study overview

The researchers looked at the records of police officers, financial advisers, white-collar criminals and senior executives who used the Ashley Madison marital infidelity website*.

The researchers investigated four study groups totaling 11,235 individuals using data on police officers from the Citizens Police Data Project, data on financial advisers from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority BrokerCheck database, data on defendants in SEC cases from the Securities and Exchange Commission’s litigation release archives, and data on CEOs and CFOs from Execucomp.


The researchers found that people with histories of misconduct were significantly more likely to use the Ashley Madison website.  More specifically, the researchers found that in the professional settings they studied, that Ashley Madison users were more than twice as likely to engage in corporate misconduct.


Their findings suggest a strong connection between people’s actions in their personal and professional lives and provide support for the idea that eliminating workplace sexual misconduct may also reduce fraudulent activity.

“Our results show that personal sexual conduct is correlated with professional conduct. Eliminating sexual misconduct in the workplace could have the extra benefit of contributing to more ethical corporate cultures in general.”

-John M. Griffin, Researcher and Faculty, McCombs School of Business, The University of Texas at Austin


*Operating under the slogan “Life is short. Have an affair,” Ashley Madison advertises itself as a dating service for married people to have “discreet encounters.” Despite promises of discreetness, the data were put in the public domain through a hack in 2015 that included 36 million user accounts, including 1 million paid users in the United States.


Journal Reference:  John M. Griffin, Samuel Kruger, Gonzalo Maturana. Personal infidelity and professional conduct in 4 settings. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2019; 201905329. Overview / Study DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1905329116


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