Our research tidbits this week considers how the dimensions of character and trust impact upon managerial decision-making and behaviours.

Engaged Buddhism and skillful managerial approaches
As a transitional economy, Vietnam has undergone tremendous changes over recent decades within a ‘fusion’ context that blends both traditional and modern values from its complex history. However, few studies have explored how contemporary issues in the context of Vietnam have brought both obstacles and skillful initiatives to managerial approaches to doing business.

The authors draw on the concepts of social trust and institutional theory to explore how informal institutions such as religious forces can contribute to the development of individual trust and whether individuals are willing to extend trust beyond familial networks. The authors contribute to the notion of a moral conception of trust by exploring how Buddhism in particular has initiated distinctive managerial approaches in the context of Vietnam, in response to dilemmas of social trust.

The findings highlight that as an informal institution, engaged Buddhism yields significant impact on the formation of social trust. The authors carried out in-depth interviews in Vietnam with 33 organisational leaders who were Buddhist practitioners, using thematic analysis to elucidate the findings and arguments.

The study reveals how the incorporation of Buddhist principles has fostered context-sensitive, non-extreme, and reflexive managerial approaches to enhance morality as a response to social trust issues.

Read this Open Access article online for free

Mai Chi Vu & Trang Tran. 2021. Trust Issues and Engaged Buddhism: The Triggers for Skillful Managerial Approaches.

Journal of Business Ethics, 169(1), 77–102.

Character-based judgement in the professional practice
Dimensions of character are often overlooked in professional practice at the expense of the development of technical competence and operational efficiency. Drawing on philosophical accounts of virtue ethics and positive psychology, the present work attempts to elevate the role of ‘good’ character in the professional domain.

A ‘good’ professional is ideally one that exemplifies dimensions of character informed by sound judgement. A total of 2340 professionals, from five discrete professions, were profiled based on their valuation of qualities pertaining to character and judgement. Profile differences were subsequently examined in the self-reported experience of professional purpose towards a wider societal ‘good’.

Analysis of covariance, controlling for stage of career, revealed that professionals valuing character reported higher professional purpose than those overweighting the importance of judgement or valuing neither character nor judgement, F(3, 2054) = 7.92, p < .001. No differences were found between the two groups valuing character, irrespective of whether judgement was valued simultaneously.

This profiling analysis of entry-level and in-service professionals, based on their holistic character composition, paves the way for fresh philosophical discussion regarding what constitutes a ‘good’ professional and the interplay between character and judgement. The empirical findings may be of substantive value in helping to recognise how the dimensions of character and judgement may impact upon practitioners’ professional purpose.

Read this Open Access article online for free

J James Arthur, Stephen R. Earl, Aidan P. Thompson & Joseph W. Ward. 2021. The Value of Character-Based Judgement in the Professional Domain.

Journal of Business Ethics, 169(2), 293–308.

Values and power distance in sustainable consumption
As human consumption is one of the key contributors to environmental problems, it is increasingly urgent to promote sustainable consumption. Drawing on the agentic-communal model of power, this research explores how the psychological feeling of power influences consumers’ preference for green products.

The authors show that low power increases consumers’ preference for green (vs. conventional) products compared to high power (Studies 1a and 1b). Importantly, the authors identify two factors moderating the main effect of power on green consumption. Specifically, the authors find that the effect of power on green consumption is more salient among those with high green consumption values (Study 2). In addition, the effects of power are dynamic as a function of power distance belief (PDB), such that low power (vs. high power) promotes green consumption in the low-PDB context while high power (vs. low power) promotes green consumption in the high-PDB context (Study 3).

Taken together, these findings provide novel insights into understanding green consumption from the perspectives of social power, green values, and PDB. Besides contributing to the literature, the findings have significant implications for marketers and policy-makers in promoting green campaigns, bridging the attitude-behaviour gap, and building a more sustainable society.

Li Yan, Hean Tat Keh & Xiaoyu Wang. 2021. Powering Sustainable Consumption: The Roles of Green Consumption Values and Power Distance Belief.

Journal of Business Ethics, 169(3), 499–516.

Emotional exhaustion and ethical behaviour and performance in salespersons
Recent events and popularised stereotypes call into question the ethics of salesperson behaviours. Although prior research demonstrates that salespeople’s emotional exhaustion can have negative consequences for several job outcomes, little is known about the factors that can mitigate such relationships—particularly the relationship between emotional exhaustion and ethical behaviour.

To remedy this knowledge gap, the authors draw from self-control theory to propose a novel theoretical framework and develop hypotheses. These hypotheses are tested on a unique dataset consisting of survey data collected from 123 matched business-to-business (B2B) salesperson–manager dyads. The findings reveal that (1) emotional exhaustion is negatively associated with sales performance, (2) emotional exhaustion is negatively associated with ethical behaviours, (3) ethical behaviours are positively associated with sales performance, (4) ethical behaviours mediate emotional exhaustion’s negative effect on sales performance, (5) perceived supervisor support attenuates the negative association between emotional exhaustion and ethical behaviours, and (6) contrary to expectations, grit strengthens the negative association between emotional exhaustion and ethical behaviours.

As the authors show here, perceived supervisor support may attenuate the undesirable effects of emotional exhaustion on ethical behaviours and sales performance. The article’s broader contribution thus lies in its suggestion that managers pay special attention to these factors.

Moreover, factors such as grit can have unexpected and undesirable influences; therefore, the authors draw attention to the importance of scrutinising these interactions, even when the factors involved are almost universally touted as beneficial. Theoretical and practical implications of the research are discussed.

Bruno Lussier, Nathaniel N. Hartmann & Willy Bolander. 2021. Curbing the Undesirable Effects of Emotional Exhaustion on Ethical Behaviors and Performance: A Salesperson–Manager Dyadic Approach.

Journal of Business Ethics 169(4), 747–766.

Abusive supervision: Third parties’ Schadenfreude and work engagement
Abusive supervision negatively affects its direct victims. However, recent studies have begun to explore how abusive supervision affects third parties (peer abusive supervision).

The authors use the emotion-based process model of schadenfreude as a basis to suggest that third parties will experience schadenfreude and increase their work engagement as a response to peer abusive supervision (PAS). Furthermore, the authors suggest that the context of competitive goal interdependence facilitates the indirect relationship between PAS and third parties’ work engagement on schadenfreude.

The authors use a mixed-method approach to test the hypotheses. Data from an experimental study conducted by facial expression analysis technology (Study 1, a 2 × 2 design, N = 104) and a multi‐wave field study (Study 2, N = 229) generally support the hypotheses. Overall, the study extends PAS literature and meaningfully informs practitioners who aim to promote ethical workplace environments.

Yueqiao Qiao, Zhe Zhang & Ming Jia. 2021. Their Pain, Our Pleasure: How and When Peer Abusive Supervision Leads to Third Parties’ Schadenfreude and Work Engagement.

Journal of Business Ethics, 169(4),  695–711.

Mindfulness and ethical behaviours
While prior research suggests a link between mindfulness and ethical decision-making, most of the evidence for this link is correlational and refers to self-focused ethical behaviours. The paucity of experimental evidence, coupled with a lack of clarity on what mechanisms underlie the effect, limits our understanding of whether and how mindfulness might foster other-focused ethical behaviours.

In this research, the authors hypothesise that state mindfulness might promote other-focused ethical behaviours by increasing resourcefulness, which the authors define as a perceived state of resource abundance. Across four experimental studies, the authors report causal evidence for the effects of state mindfulness instantiated through brief mindful meditation exercises on other-focused ethical behaviours, including choice of fair-trade products (Study 1A), charitable giving (Study 1B), and volunteering (Study 1C and Study 2). Resourcefulness mediates the effects of mindfulness on other-focused ethical behaviours (Study 2). This work answers the call for more experimental research on mindfulness and its important implications for ethical decision-making.

Davide C. Orazi, Jiemiao Chen & Eugene Y. Chan. 2021. To Erect Temples to Virtue: Effects of State Mindfulness on Other-Focused Ethical Behaviors.

Journal of Business Ethics, 169(4), 785–798.