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Article

Ethics Education: How Giving Voice to Values Fills in the “Action Gap”  

Daniel G. Arce and Mary C. Gentile

Giving Voice to Values (GVV) is a rehearsal and case-based approach to business ethics education that is designed to develop moral competence and that emphasizes self-assessment, peer coaching and prescriptive ethics. It is built on the premise that many businesspeople want to act on their values but lack the know-how and experience for doing so. The focus is on action rather than developing ethical awareness or analytical constructs for determining what is right and the epistemology behind knowing that it is right, while acknowledging that existing and well-established approaches to these questions are also important. The GVV rubric for acting on one’s values is based upon the following three questions: (1) What’s at stake? (2) What are the reasons and rationalizations you are trying to counter? and (3) What levers can be used to influence those who disagree? Taken together, the answers to these questions constitute a script for constructing a persuasive argument for effecting values-based change and an action plan for implementation. This approach is based on the idea, supported by research and experience, that pre-scripting and “rehearsal” can encourage action. GVV is meant to be complementary to traditional approaches to business ethics that focus on the methodology of moral judgment. GVV cases are post-decision-making in that they begin with a presumed right answer and students are invited to engage in the “GVV Thought Experiment,” answering the questions: “What if you were going to act on this values-based position? How could you be effective?” This implies a shift in focus towards values-based action in ways that recognize the pressures of the business world. As a consequence of this shift, GVV addresses fundamental questions about what, to whom, and how business ethics is taught. The answers to these questions have led to widespread adoption of GVV in business schools, universities, corporations, and beyond.

Article

Corporate Ethics  

Thomas Donaldson and Diana C. Robertson

Serious research into corporate ethics is nearly half a century old. Two approaches have dominated research; one is normative, the other empirical. The former, the normative approach, develops theories and norms that are prescriptive, that is, ones that are designed to guide corporate behavior. The latter, the empirical approach, investigates the character and causes of corporate behavior by examining corporate governance structures, policies, corporate relationships, and managerial behavior with the aim of explaining and predicting corporate behavior. Normative research has been led by scholars in the fields of moral philosophy, theology and legal theory. Empirical research has been led by scholars in the fields of sociology, psychology, economics, marketing, finance, and management. While utilizing distinct methods, the two approaches are symbiotic. Ethical and legal theory are irrelevant without factual context. Similarly, empirical theories are sterile unless translated into corporate guidance. The following description of the history of research in corporate ethics demonstrates that normative research methods are indispensable tools for empirical inquiry, even as empirical methods are indispensable tools for normative inquiry.

Article

Corporate Ethics Codes and Practices  

Tanusree Jain and Jiangtao Xie

Having a Code of Ethics (COE) has become a common practice within large companies since the 1980s. A COE serves multiple functions for organizations: as an internal control mechanism to guide employees during ethical dilemmas, a benchmark for fostering ethical corporate culture, and as a communication tool to signal organizational commitment to stakeholders. Four major theoretical frameworks underpin the extant academic scholarship on COEs. In particular, organizational justice and stakeholder theories highlight the role of individuals in adopting and shaping a COE, and the institutional theory emphasizes the influence of the exogenous environment on the convergence and/or divergence of COEs across firms and contexts. Integrative social contracts theory captures the significance of both individuals and the institutional environment and views COEs as a contractual obligation that guides managers and employees to manage contradictions between local and global norms. Within these theoretical framings, significant variations in the nature and stakeholder orientations of COEs have been detected across the developed and developing world. In the developed contexts, a comparative institutional analysis using the national business system approach shows that while in the compartmentalized cluster (the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and Japan), expectations of market participants and firm owners are key drivers of COEs; in the collaborative cluster (Germany, Ireland, and the Netherlands), firms develop COEs that have a wider focus oriented towards multiple stakeholders such as employees, suppliers, and the environment. Whereas in the state-organized cluster (South Korea, Spain, Greece, and Slovakia) the role and the nature of the state are important guiding factors. The coordinated industrial district cluster (Italy) characterized by alliances among smaller artisanal firms demonstrates a human-centric view of business embedded within their COEs. Excluded from the national business systems categorization, the Nordic cluster displays a unique distinctiveness in its approach to COEs through the presence of a structured moral apparatus within firms. In the developing world, country-specific institutional characteristics play a vital role behind adoption of localized a COE, yet nonstate actors—namely multinationals enterprises, and international and supranational institutions—promote the diffusion of hyper-norms. Given the pervasiveness of corporate misconduct despite the global diffusion of COEs, scholars must pay heed to understand the conditions under which gaps between a COE adoption and implementation arise. Equally, more scholarly attention needs to be accorded to a systematic investigation of COEs in transitional and emerging contexts. This becomes particularly necessary in the face of sociological changes, a fast-evolving landscape of local and transnational regulations including those arising from global events such climate change, and COVID-19, and the co-existence of multilevel COEs at the industry, firm, and professional levels.

Article

Moral Disengagement and Organizations  

Catherine Hessick

One does not need to look extensively to find examples of organizations behaving unethically in today’s society. With the passage of whistleblower laws and the increased attention to ethical behavior in recent years, many businesses focus on training in order to reduce unwanted behavior. Despite organizations transitioning to more engaging, substantial ethical training programs for their employees, unethical behavior still remains. Moral disengagement, in part, could be the reason. Moral disengagement is when an individual deliberately deactivates their moral self-regulations, allowing the individual to commit unethical acts without shame or guilt. Moral disengagement has eight mechanisms: moral justification, euphemistic labeling, advantageous comparison, displacement of responsibility, diffusion of responsibility, distortion of the consequences, dehumanization, and attribution of blame. Each of these mechanisms offers insight into why and how moral disengagement operates within individuals. Because an individual’s reasoning can fall into either a single mechanism or a combination of them, measurement tools commonly place each mechanism as a dimension of moral disengagement. Doing so allows the researcher to examine the construct and its relationships more accurately. The research investigating unethical behavior in organizations is substantial. However, moral disengagement is an antecedent to unethical behavior and not necessarily an unethical act itself. Previous research on moral disengagement often lies within psychology, military science, sociology, and other nonbusiness fields. With the depths of moral disengagement in the workplace still unexplored, scholars have opportunities to contribute research that can help organizations understand moral disengagement, improve ethical training, and potentially curtail employees’ unethical behavior.

Article

Corruption and Business Ethics  

Steven G. Koven and Abby Perez

Corruption remains a way of life for many cultures and subcultures, an ethos that is often consistent with the goal of corporate profit maximization. Corruption may yield benefits at the personal or individual firm level, but at the societal level corruption is detrimental to aggregate growth, individual effort, and faith in institutions. Corruption, as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, is dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery. Corruption exists on a continuum that can range from rampant to minimal. Rampant corruption exists when entire organizations willingly and knowingly promote actions that are injurious to workers, consumers, or society as a whole. Egregious examples include knowingly producing and selling harmful products or ignoring conditions that impair the health and safety of workers. At the other extreme, minimal corruption can include petty violations such as stealing a small amount of office supplies for personal use. Moral, ethical, and legal guides have evolved over time in efforts to ameliorate the most obvious and egregious forms of corruption. These guides are supported by perspectives of philosophy such as utilitarianism, deontology, virtue ethics, intuition, and ethical relativism. Each of these perspectives represent an important and qualitatively different lens in which to assess ethical behavior. While some philosophical viewpoints emphasize the categorical nature of right or wrong action, others emphasize context, net benefits of actions, or individual virtue reflected in individual actions, and perspectives that are systematically reviewed. Philosophical influences are viewed as highly relevant to an understanding of modern-day corruption. Business ethics is also influenced by various competitive and complementary models that compete for influence. While the market model of business ethics has long endured, alternative perspectives of business ethics such as the stakeholder model of corporate social responsibility and the sustainability model have recently arisen in popular discourse and are explored. These alternative models seek to replace or supplement the market model and advocate for a greater recognition of environmental responsibilities as well as responsibilities to a broad array of stakeholders in society such as workers and consumers. Alternative models move beyond the narrow perspective of profit maximization and consider ethical implications of business decisions in terms of their effects on others in society as well as future generations. Various philosophical perspectives of ethics are examined, as well as how these perspectives can be applied to attain a more complete understanding of the concept of corruption.

Article

Academic Integrity  

Tracey Bretag

Academic integrity is an interdisciplinary concept that provides the foundation for every aspect and all levels of education. The term evokes strong emotions in teachers, researchers, and students—not least because it is usually associated with negative behaviors. When considering academic integrity, the discussion tends to revolve around cheating, plagiarism, dishonesty, fraud, and other academic malpractice and how best to prevent these behaviors. A more productive approach entails a focus on promoting the positive values of honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility, and courage (International Center for Academic Integrity, 2013) as the intrinsically motivated drivers for ethical academic practice. Academic integrity is much more than “a student issue” and requires commitment from all stakeholders in the academic community, including undergraduate and postgraduate students, teachers, established researchers, senior managers, policymakers, support staff, and administrators.

Article

From Decision Support to Analytics  

Ciara Heavin and Frederic Adam

Since the 1960s, information technology (IT)/information systems (IS) professionals, data practitioners, and senior managers have focused on developing decision support capabilities to enhance organizational decision making. Initially, this quest was mostly driven by successive generations of technological advances. However, in the last decade, the pace at which large volumes of diverse data can be collected and processed, new algorithmic advances, and the development of computational infrastructure such as graphics processing units (GPUs) and tensor processing units (TPUs) have created new opportunities for global businesses in areas such as financial services, manufacturing, retail, sports, and healthcare. At this point, it seems that most industries and public services could potentially be revolutionized by these new techniques. The word analytics has replaced the previous individual components of computerized decision support technologies that have been developed under various labels in the past (). Much of the traditional researcher and practitioner communities who were concerned with decision support, decision support systems (DSSs), and business intelligence (BI) have reoriented their attention to innovative tools and technologies to derive value from new data streams through artificial intelligence (AI) and analytics. Identifying the main areas of focus for decision support and analytics provides a stimulus for new ideas for researchers, managers, and IS/IT and data professionals. These stakeholders need to undertake new empirical studies that explain how analytics can be used to develop and enhance new forms of decision support while considering the dilemmas that may arise due to the data capture and analyses of new digital data streams.

Article

Values, Other-Interest, and Ethical Behavior: The Critical Role of Moral Emotions  

Jason Kautz, M. Audrey Korsgaard, and Sophia So Young Jeong

Organizations and their agents regularly face ethical challenges as the interests of various constituents compete and conflict. The theory of other-orientation provides a useful framework for understanding how other concerns and modes of reasoning combined to produce different mindsets for approaching ethical challenges. To optimize outcomes across parties, individuals can engage in complex rational reasoning that addresses the interests of the self as well as others, a mindset referred to as collective rationality. But collective rationality is as difficult to sustain as it is cognitively taxing. Thus, individuals are apt to simplify their approach to complex conflicts of interest. One simplifying strategy is to reduce the relevant outcome set by focusing on self-interests to the neglect of other-interest. This approach, referred to as a rational self-interest mindset, is self-serving and can lead to actions that are deemed unethical. At the other extreme, individuals can abandon rational judgment in favor of choices based on heuristics, such as moral values that specify a given mode of prosocial behavior. Because this mindset, referred to as other-oriented, obviates consideration of outcome for the self and other, it can result in choices that harm the self as well as other possible organizational stakeholders. This raises the question: how does one maintain an other-interested focus while engaging in rational reasoning? The resolution of this question rests in the arousal of moral emotions. Moral emotions signal to the individual the opportunity to express, or the need to uphold, moral values. Given that moral values direct behavior that benefits others or society, they offset the tendency to focus on self-interest. At extreme levels of arousal, however, moral emotions may overwhelm cognitive resources and thus influence individuals to engage in heuristic rather than rational reasoning. The effect of moral emotions is bounded by attendant emotions, as individuals are likely to experience multiple hedonic and moral emotions in the same situation. Deontic justice predicts that the arousal of moral emotions will lead individuals to retaliate in response to injustice, regardless of whether they experience personal benefit. However, evidence suggests that individuals may instead engage in self-protecting behavior, such as withdrawal, or self-serving behaviors, such as the contagion of unjust behavior. These alternative responses may be due to strong hedonic emotions, such as fear or schadenfreude, the pleasure derived from others’ misfortunes, overpowering one’s moral emotions. Future research regarding the arousal levels of moral emotions and the complex interplay of emotions in the decision-making process may provide beneficial insight into managing the competing interests of organizational stakeholders.

Article

Organizational Happiness  

Howard Harris

Organizational happiness is an intuitively attractive idea, notwithstanding the difficulty of defining happiness. A preference for unhappiness rather than happiness in an organization would be out of tune with community expectations in most societies, as would an organization that promoted unhappiness. Some argue that organizational happiness is a misconception, that happiness is a personality trait and organizations cannot have personality. Others suggest that organizational happiness is derived from, or at least dependent on, the happiness of the individuals in the organization. A third approach involves virtue ethics, linking organizational happiness to virtuous organizations. Some discussion of the nature of happiness is needed before consideration of these three approaches to the concept of organizational happiness. If one leaves aside the notion of happiness as a psychological state, there remain three main views as to the nature of happiness: one based on a hedonistic view, which grounds happiness in pleasure, one based on the extent to which desire is satisfied, and one where happiness is linked to a life of virtuous activity and the fulfillment of human potential. Some would see no distinction between all three senses of happiness and what is called well-being. Whether or not organizations can experience happiness is to some extent determined by whether happiness is considered subjective well-being, fulfilled desire, or virtue and to some extent by one’s view of the moral nature of corporations. There are dangers in the unfettered pursuit of happiness. Empirical research is impacted by questions of definition, by changes over time for both individuals and society, and by the difficulty that arises from reliance on self-reported data. Recent decades have seen the publication of quantitative assessments of organizational happiness, despite the difficulty of constructing scales and manipulating data, and the problems of effectively taking into account cultural, organizational, and individual differences in concepts of happiness. Potential research questions fall into two groups, those that seek a better understanding of what happiness is and those that seek to collect data about happiness in pursuit of answers to questions about the benefits of happiness.

Article

Moral Emotion and Intuition in Organizations  

Armin Pircher Verdorfer, Martin Fladerer, and Clarissa Zwarg

While traditional approaches have described ethical decision-making in organizations mainly as being the result of rational deliberative thought, a steadily growing body of research indicates that moral decision-making is strongly influenced by moral intuitions and emotions. The moral intuition approach typically has two aspects: the process through which moral intuitions emerge and their content. With regard to the process, moral intuitions represent fast, automatic, evaluative reactions that are emotionally charged. An important tenet of moral intuition research refers to the primacy of intuition—the notion that moral intuitions generally drive moral decision-making. Accordingly, moral intuitions are described as starting points for rational reflection processes that follow later. On this basis, it has also been argued that the interplay of moral intuition and deliberation is malleable. Specifically, the well-formed moral intuitions of experts are thought to differ from the naive moral intuitions of novices. With increasing experience and reflection about the moral issues in one’s experiences, deliberation increasingly enables individuals to shift between intuitions and reasoning and to monitor, test, weigh, and reject both intuitions and reasons. The content of moral intuition refers to the foundations of morality, which are the underlying moral domain, specifying what individuals view as morally right or wrong. The most commonly referenced account in this field, Moral Foundations Theory (MFT), argues that moral intuitions are a function of evolutionarily developed, innate predispositions to master multiple social problems that interact with social and cultural influences. These predispositions, or moral foundations, include care, fairness, loyalty, authority, and sanctity. While empirical work on the role of moral intuition in organizations is still at an early stage, several areas have been identified that may particularly benefit from integrating moral intuition process and content. For instance, the moral intuition perspective can aid the understanding and prevention of processes through which unethical behaviors and practices, such as corruption, may be justified and normalized in organizations. Furthermore, the moral intuition perspective is increasingly used to study the moral leadership process, most notably the link between leader moral foundations and moral leader behaviors, as well as the role of (mis)fit between leader and follower moral foundations. Moral emotions are an inherent element of the moral intuition process and refer to the welfare of others and the promotion of a functioning society. It is thought that individuals experience moral emotions when they or others have violated moral standards. These emotions build the motivational force for moral action and are often placed in five clusters: other‐praising (e.g., gratitude), other‐suffering (e.g., sympathy), other‐condemning (e.g., contempt), self‐condemning (e.g., guilt), and self-approving (e.g., moral pride) moral emotions.