A selection of interesting research and articles we’ve found recently.

Business schools influence ethical behaviour in business
Thomas Birtch and Flora Chiang have concluded that business schools do influence ethical behaviour and socially responsible actions in the business community. At least among 318 undergraduate business students, ethical climate in the business school predicted unethical behaviour. Students who viewed their business school’s ethical climate positively were more likely to refrain from unethical behaviours. Business schools clearly have a major role to play in influencing ethics in the business community and should therefore be looking to maintain a positive ethical climate.

The full paper details are: Birtch, Thomas and Chiang, Flora, F.T. The Influence of Business School’s Ethical Climate on Students’ Unethical Behavior. Journal of Business Ethics, 2014, 123(2), pp. 283-294.


Do MBA programs make managers unwilling to deal with ethics?
Matthias Hühn is scathing in this paper demonstrating how business schools work against ethics through the content and assumptions inherent in their MBA programs. The widespread MBA has a negative effect on ethical management and leadership through its pedagogy, structure, and underlying epistemic assumptions, he argues. Furthermore, managers emerging from MBA programs are unable and unwilling to deal with ethics, Hühn asserts. This is partially because of the content of curricula and how classes are taught but the final blow comes from the radical philosophical underpinning of MBA education. Hühn opens his paper by showing how ethics is considered a subversive factor in MBA programs, rather than a goal of such programs. Although university education is supposed to provide students with multiple perspectives on what they are learning, Hühn argues that MBA programs do the opposite, they focus on a single dogma such as just creating shareholder value, and view running a business as a technical activity devoid of any morals or ethics. This paper makes riveting reading, is a must for all academics in business schools as well as practising managers who have been through business school education.

See Hühn, Matthias Philip, You Reap What You Sow: How MBA Programs Undermine Ethics, Journal of Business Ethics, 2014, 121(4), pp. 527-541.


How do you enhance business ethics in the curriculum?
All sorts of external events and pressures, particularly with perceptions of ethics within the business community at serious lows, make teaching business ethics across the curriculum vital. Many practitioners are calling for a stronger focus on ethics to be included in the curricula of business schools, and accrediting bodies such as AACSB are requiring it. In these classes, teachers are being challenged to encourage moral character, teach applied aspects of ethics related to norms and laws, as well as cover more abstract concepts related to outside stakeholders and society such as CSR and the triple bottom line.

But how can this be done given the prevailing culture and workloads in many such institutions and why should business faculty be the ones to take on this complex and challenging responsibility? Montgomery Van Wart, David Baker and Anna Ni propose a way of assessing the status of ethics in the curriculum. The authors provide six commonly adopted considerations for use when seeking to improve a business ethics curriculum, which provide insights into contemporary challenges facing many business schools. The six considerations are:

  • Ensure commitment by college leadership
  • Target the purpose and specific audience
  • Generate genuine buy-in by faculty
  • Conduct an assessment of current practices, resources, and faculty concerns
  • Identify curriculum areas to improve
  • Commit to a realistic improvement plan.

The authors then present a case study in which a faculty survey (the questionnaire is supplied in the article) kick-started an upgrade to the business ethics curriculum and addressed the above six considerations. The survey provided not only information, but also an opportunity for discussion and collaboration. To learn more about this process, read:

Van Wart, Montgomery, Baker, David & Ni, Anna. Using a Faculty Survey to Kick-Start an Ethics Curriculum Upgrade. Journal of Business Ethics, 2014, 122(4), pp. 571-585.


Can high GMAT scores mean reduced ethics?
Sadly yes, according to Raj Aggarwal, Joanne Goodell and John Goodell who investigated the link between the graduate management admission test (GMAT), commonly required for entry into MBA programs, and ethical orientation.  The researchers assumed that GMAT scores could influence ethical behaviour through gender, cultural, and other biases that they found in the GMAT itself. The study reported a significant negative relationship between GMAT scores and ethical orientation – with important implications for business schools using this test, as well as for corporate ethics and leadership.

Find out more at Aggarwal, Raj, Goodell, Joanne E. and Goodell, John. Culture, Gender, and GMAT Scores: Implications for Corporate Ethics. Journal of Business Ethics, 2014, 123(1), pp. 125-143.