Can ‘virtuous structures’ foster moral agency in organisations? Read our research tidbits to find out more on this and other contributors to moral behaviour.

Corporate philanthropy and moral agency
It has been claimed that ‘virtuous structures’ can foster moral agency in organisations. The authors investigate this in the context of employee involvement in corporate philanthropy, an activity whose moral status has been disputed.

Employing Alasdair MacIntyre’s account of moral agency, the authors analyse the results of eight focus groups with employees engaged in corporate philanthropy in an employee-owned retailer, the John Lewis Partnership. Within this organisational context, Employee–Partners’ moral agency was evidenced in narrative accounts of their engagement in philanthropic activities and in their disputes about the moral status of corporate philanthropy.

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Helen Nicholson, Ron Beadle & Richard Slack. 2020. Corporate Philanthropy as a Context for Moral Agency, a MacIntyrean Enquiry.

Journal of Business Ethics, 167(3), 589–603.

Organisational virtuousness, prosocial motives and employee outcomes
Theoretical arguments suggest that organisational virtuousness makes individuals surpass their exchange concerns sparking their prosocial motives.

This paper focuses on the examination of this issue incorporating two field studies. The first field study examines prosocial motives and social exchange as parallel mediators of the relationship between organisational virtuousness’ perceptions and three employee outcomes (willingness to support the organisation, time commitment, work intensity). The second field study examines prosocial motives, personal sacrifice and impression management motives as parallel mediators of the examined relationships.

Both field studies (employing 250 and 354 employees, respectively) indicated that only prosocial motives can mediate the relationship between organisational virtuousness’ perceptions and employee outcomes.

Irene Tsachouridi & Irene Nikandrou. 2020. The Role of Prosocial Motives and Social Exchange in Mediating the Relationship Between Organizational Virtuousness’ Perceptions and Employee Outcomes.

Journal of Business Ethics, 166(3), 535–551.

From diversity to inclusion to equity in organisations
This paper develops a practice-based Theory of Generative Interactions across diversity that builds on empirical findings and conceptual frameworks from multiple fields of study. This transdisciplinary review (Montuori in World Futures 69:200–230, 2013) draws on the disciplines of sociology, social psychology, organisation studies, and communications.

The Theory of Generative Interactions suggests that in order to facilitate inclusion, multiple types of exclusionary dynamics (self-segregation, communication apprehension, and stereotyping and stigmatising) must be overcome through adaptive cognitive processing and skill development, and engagement in positive interactions must occur in order to facilitate inclusion that is created and sustained by contextually relevant sets of organisational practices.

The organisational practices provide the following conditions for generative interactions: pursuing an important, shared organisational purpose, mixing diverse members frequently over protracted periods of time, enabling differing groups to have equal standing and insider status in contributing to success, and providing collaborative interdependence, interpersonal comfort, and self-efficacy. These interactions are generative in that they help to challenge the guiding assumptions of the organisational culture, reconsider taken-for-granted aspects, and raise fundamental questions about organisations (Gergen in Person Soc Psychol 36:1344–1360, 1978).

The authors assert that such interactions, properly structured, can help organisations more fully address all stakeholders in creating value ethically, and ultimately creating equity for individuals and groups in the organisation.

Ruth Sessler Bernstein, Morgan Bulger, Paul Salipante & Judith Y. Weisinger. 2020. From Diversity to Inclusion to Equity: A Theory of Generative Interactions.

Journal of Business Ethics, 167(3), 395–410.

A three-roles model of responsible leadership
This article develops theory on responsible leadership based on a model involving three leadership roles: an expert who displays organisational expertise, a facilitator who cares for and motivates employees and a citizen who considers the consequences of her or his decisions for society.

It draws on previous responsible leadership research, stakeholder theory and theories of behavioural complexity to conceptualise the roles model of responsible leadership. Responsible leadership is positioned as a concept that requires leaders to show behavioural complexity in addressing all three roles.

In three studies, the authors provide a first empirical test of antecedents and outcomes of the roles model of responsible leadership. The results of the studies indicate that responsible leadership is positively related to the leader’s perceived effectiveness, favourable stakeholder evaluations and employee engagement with the organisation and society. Responsible leadership behaviour, in turn, seems to be facilitated by leader empathy, positive affect and universal value orientation.

Christian Voegtlin, Colina Frisch, Andreas Walther & Pascale Schwab. 2020. Theoretical Development and Empirical Examination of a Three-Roles Model of Responsible Leadership.

Journal of Business Ethics, 167(3), 411–431.

Moral disengagement at work
Originally conceptualised by Bandura (Person Soc Psychol Rev 3:193–209, 1999) as the process of cognitive restructuring that allows individuals to disassociate with their internal moral standards and behave unethically without feeling distress, moral disengagement has attracted the attention of management researchers in recent years.

An increasing body of research has examined the factors which lead people to morally disengage and its related outcomes in the workplace. However, the conceptualisation of moral disengagement, how it should be measured, the manner in which it develops, and its influence on work outcomes are areas of continued debate among researchers.

In this article, the authors undertake a systematic review of research on moral disengagement in the workplace and develop a comprehensive research agenda that highlights opportunities for theoretical and empirical advancement of the literature.

Alexander Newman, Huong Le, Andrea North-Samardzic & Michael Cohen. 2020. Moral Disengagement at Work: A Review and Research Agenda.

Journal of Business Ethics, 167(3), 535–570.

Moral character(s) of academics under new public management
An extensive literature has focused on the impact of new public management (NPM) oriented structural changes on academics’ practice and identity.

These critical studies have been resolute in concluding that NPM inevitably leads to a degeneration of academics’ ethos and values. Drawing from the moral philosophy of Alasdair MacIntyre, the authors argue that these previous analyses have overlooked the moral agency of the academics and their role in ‘moralising’ and consequently shaping the ethical nature of their practices.

The paper provides a new theoretical understanding of NPM-oriented reforms in light of the virtue ethics approach, thereby directing the attention to the moral character and moral agency of academics. This analysis of interviews collected in the business department of a Danish university provides an example of how individuals have divergent ethical understandings of these structural changes and enact/resist pre-defined social roles in different ways. While in some cases the NPM agenda of the institutions has triggered internal moral conflict and a crisis of moral character, in other cases the new logic resonates with academics’ values and evaluative standards.

Partially departing from the theoretical ground of MacIntyre (1981), the authors conclude that academics can play a crucial role in shaping the morality of NPM-oriented institutions and in transforming these settings into suitable contexts for the cultivation of virtues.

Daniela Pianezzi, Hanne Nørreklit & Lino Cinquini. 2020. Academia After Virtue? An Inquiry into the Moral Character(s) of Academics.

Journal of Business Ethics, 167(3), 571–588.