Our latest pick on interesting articles covering morality and ethics.
The exposed self: A multilevel model of shame and ethical behaviour
In this article, Murphy and Kiffin-Petersen review the shame and ethical behaviour literature in order to more fully develop theory and testable propositions for organisational scholars focusing on the behavioural implications of this ‘moral’ emotion.
The authors propose a dual pathway multilevel model that incorporates complex relationships between felt and anticipatory shame processes and ethical behaviour, both within and between persons and at the collective level.
Murphy and Kiffin-Petersen propose a holistic treatment of shame that includes dispositional and organisational (contextual) influences on the cognitive and emotional forces that shape ethical behaviour in organisations. The implications of their review of shame for ethical behaviour, organisations, and concrete research action are discussed.
Murphy, S.A. & Kiffin-Petersen, S. 2017. The Exposed Self: A Multilevel Model of Shame and Ethical Behavior.
Journal of Business Ethics, 141(4), 657–675.
Psychoanalytic perspectives on the management of emotions and moral blindness
Although apparently irrational, people with seemingly high moral standards routinely make immoral decisions or engage in morally questionable behaviour. It appears as if under certain circumstances, people become in some enigmatic way blind to the immoral aspects of what they are doing or consequences of their immoral actions.
This article focuses and reports on a psychoanalytic inquiry into the role of emotions and the unconscious management of unwanted emotions in promoting moral blindness. Emotions are essential to the conscience, self-sanctioning, and advancement of moral behaviour. Notwithstanding moral ideations, a sufficiently strong counterwill may create incongruence between moral intentions and actual desires or behaviour. The unwelcome experience of acute moral emotions such as guilt and anxiety is likely to activate a range of psychological defense mechanisms and unconscious processes to manage these emotions. It is argued that the management of these emotions through undue avoidance, inappropriate regulation, or lack of regulation, can bypass self-sanctioning. As result, the condition of moral blindness can develop or be sustained.
The psychoanalytic explanations offered contribute to the understanding as to how emotions in combination with the unconscious mind can cause moral blindness in any person, notwithstanding high moral standards and good intentions. Improved understanding of moral blindness represents an important scientific step in improved understanding of our moral and immoral selves, with all its complexities, conflicts, and contradictions.
de Klerk, J.J. 2017. Nobody is as Blind as Those Who Cannot Bear to See: Psychoanalytic Perspectives on the Management of Emotions and Moral Blindness.
Journal of Business Ethics, 141(4), 745–761.
Justifying deviant behaviour: The role of attributions and moral emotions
Harvey et al. present two studies investigating the impact of causal perceptions and the moral emotions of anger, shame, and guilt on the justification of deviant workplace behaviour.
Study 1 tests the conceptual framework using a sample of undergraduate business students;
Study 2 examines a population of practising physicians.
Results varied significantly between the two samples, suggesting that individual and contextual factors play an important role in shaping the perceptual and emotional processes by which individuals form reactions to undesirable affective workplace events. Implications of these findings for the study of ethics, emotions, and attributions, as well as for promoting ethical behaviour, are discussed.
Harvey, P., Martinko, M.J. & Borkowski, N. 2017. Justifying Deviant Behavior: The Role of Attributions and Moral Emotions.
Journal of Business Ethics, 141(4), 779–795.
Organisational virtues in the Turkish context
The purpose of this article is to introduce a multidimensional framework based on the concept of moral imagination for analysing and capturing diverse virtues in contemporary Turkish organisations. Based on qualitative interviews with 58 managers in Turkey, this article develops an inventory of Turkish organisational virtues each of which can be associated with a different form of virtuous organizing.
The inventory consists of nine forms of moral imagination, which map the multitude of virtues and moral emotions in organisations. Nine emergent forms of moral imagination are based on: integrity, affection, diligence, inspiration, wisdom, trust, gratefulness, justice, and harmony.
The findings have made a contribution to the expanding literature on how Islamic organisations develop their business ethics through a repertoire of virtues. An empirical account of the range of virtues in organisational contexts that have emerged as a result of the hybridisation of Islamic virtue/aesthetics and neoliberal capitalism in contemporary Turkey is provided. A theoretical contribution is made to business ethics literature through a phenomenology of virtues that provides unique insights on diverse forms of moral imagination in contemporary Turkey where Islam and neoliberal capitalism dynamically co-exist.
Read the full article for free: Karakas, F., Sarigollu, E. & Uygur, S. 2017. Exploring the Diversity of Virtues Through the Lens of Moral Imagination: A Qualitative Inquiry into Organizational Virtues in the Turkish Context.
Journal of Business Ethics, 141(4), 731–744.
Emotion in the ethical dilemmas of human resource professionals
This paper explores the character of emotion (felt and displayed) and its value in understanding ethical dilemmas in work organisations. Specifically, Linehan and O’Brien examine the emotional labour of human resource professionals (HRPs).
Through in-depth interviews and diary study, the authors uncover the emotional and ethical struggles of HRPs as they search for the ‘right thing to do’ in situated interaction. Through the lens of emotion, they chart the process of how the very framing of what is deemed ‘right’ can move from the social to the moral order (Bauman, Postmodern ethics, 1993) and vice versa.
Based on these findings, the paper contributes to understanding the linkages between emotional and ethical dilemmas, and how expectations of multiple ‘others’ at the individual, interpersonal and organisational level shape and constrain ethical choices.
Linehan, C. & O’Brien, E. 2017. From Tell-Tale Signs to Irreconcilable Struggles: The Value of Emotion in Exploring the Ethical Dilemmas of Human Resource Professionals.
Journal of Business Ethics, 141(4), 763–777.
Decreasing unethical decisions: The role of morality-based individual differences
Given the potential dangers of unethical decisions in the workplace, it has become increasingly important for managers to hire, and promote into leadership positions, those who are morally inclined. Behavioural ethics research has contributed to this effort by examining an array of individual difference variables (e.g., locus of control) that play a role in morality. However, past research has focused mostly on direct causal effects and not so much on the processes (including mediation) through which different factors, especially those that are morality based, decrease unethical choices.
The purpose of the current research is to examine the process, which includes both subconscious and conscious decision pathways, through which moral attentiveness curbs unethical decision making at the individual level. The findings of a study employing about 200 participants and a cheating task reveal that both accurate ethical prototypes and moral awareness of the situation decreased unethical decisions, and moral attentiveness was found to be positively related to both of these constructs. In addition, having accurate ethical prototypes was found to be a partial mediator between perceptual moral attentiveness and less cheating, while moral awareness was found to be a partial mediator between reflective moral attentiveness and less cheating. The theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed.
Sturm, R.E. 2017. Decreasing Unethical Decisions: The Role of Morality-Based Individual Differences.
Journal of Business Ethics, 142(1), 37–57.
When organisational identification elicits moral decision-making: A matter of the right climate
To advance current knowledge on ethical decision-making in organisations, Gils et al. integrate two perspectives that have thus far developed independently: the organisational identification perspective and the ethical climate perspective.
The authors illustrate the interaction between these perspectives in two studies (Study 1, N = 144, US sample; and Study 2, N = 356, UK sample), in which they presented participants with moral business dilemmas. Specifically, Gils et al. found that organisational identification increased moral decision-making only when the organisation’s climate was perceived to be ethical.
In addition, the researchers disentangle this effect in Study 2 from participants’ moral identity. They argue that the interactive influence of organisational identification and ethical climate, rather than the independent influence of either of these perspectives, is crucial for understanding moral decision-making in organisations.
Read this article for free: Van Gils, S., Hogg, M.A., Van Quaquebeke, N. et al. 2017. When Organizational Identification Elicits Moral Decision-Making: A Matter of the Right Climate.
Journal of Business Ethics, 142(1), 155–168.