A selection of interesting articles we found recently on individual and corporate morality.

Do individual and corporate moral responsibility interact?
Yes, according to Mihaela Constantinescu and Muel Kaptein, who note that moral responsibility for outcomes in corporate settings can be ascribed either to the individual members, the corporation, or both. In the latter case, the relationship between individual and corporate responsibility has been approached as inversely proportional, such that an increase in individual responsibility leads to a corresponding decrease in corporate responsibility and vice versa.

The authors develop a non-proportionate approach, where, under specific conditions, individual and corporate moral responsibilities interact dynamically, leading to a mutual enhancement of responsibility: the more the corporation is responsible, the more the individuals become responsible and vice versa. They develop this mutually enhancing approach in terms of normative ascriptions of responsibility, while leaving aside empirical implications in terms of mutual awareness of responsibility between individuals and corporations. They also explore conceptually the conditions and mechanisms that generate this mutual enhancement and discuss the implications for research and practice.

Further details are available at: Mihaela Constantinescu and Muel Kaptein, 2015.  Mutually Enhancing Responsibility: A Theoretical Exploration of the Interaction Mechanisms Between Individual and Corporate Moral Responsibility.
Journal of Business Ethics, 129(2), 325-339.


Moral identity matters in honesty
Zhi Xu and Hing Ma asked whether honesty results from the absence of temptation or the active resistance of temptation. The “will’’ hypothesis suggests that honesty results from the active resistance of temptation, while the ”grace” hypothesis argues that honesty results from the absence of temptation. These authors examined reaction time and measured the cheating behaviour of individuals who had a chance to lie for money.

In study 1, they tested the “grace” hypothesis that honesty results from the absence of temptation and found a priming effect of moral constructs on increasing honest behaviour.

In study 2, they investigated the individual’s moral identity in the same context, articulating different mechanisms that lead people to behave ethically. The result confirms that the “grace” hypothesis was valid for people who had a high moral identity, while the “will” hypothesis was accurate for individuals who had a low moral identity.

The full study is: Zhi Xing Xu and Hing Keung Ma. 2015. Does Honesty Result from Moral Will or Moral Grace? Why Moral Identity Matters.
Journal of Business Ethics, 127(2), 371-384.


Are workforce diversity and religiosity related?
Workforce diversity has received increasing amounts of attention from academics and practitioners alike. In this article, Jinhua Cui and colleagues examine the empirical association between a firm’s workforce diversity (hereafter, diversity) and the degree of religiosity of the firm’s management by investigating their unidirectional and endogenous effects. Employing a large and extensive U.S. sample of firms from the years 1991–2010, the researchers report a positive association between a measure of the firm’s commitment to diversity and the religiosity of the firm’s management after controlling for various firm characteristics. In addition, after controlling for endogeneity with the dynamic panel generalized method of moment, they still found a positive association between the firm’s diversity and management’s religiosity.

The authors interpret these results as supportive of the religious motivation explanation that views the firm as a human community and considers religion as a factor that influences managers to more positively embrace diversity. The results, however, provide no support for the resource-constraint hypothesis that views the firm as a nexus of contracts and sees managers as aiming to maximize shareholder returns under resource constraints that force them to invest only in projects that have a positive net present value (NPV) and reject diversity initiatives since these do not have a positive NPV.

The full paper is at: Jinhua Cui, Hoje Jo, Haejung Na and Manuel G. Velasquez. 2015. Workforce Diversity and Religiosity.
Journal of Business Ethics, 128(4), 743-767.


The construction and consequences of ethical leader perceptions
In this article Ryan Fehr and his colleagues examine the construction and consequences of ethical leader perceptions.
First, the authors introduce moralisation as the primary process through which followers come to view their leaders as ethical.
Second, they use moral foundations theory to illustrate the types of leader behaviour that followers are most likely to moralise.
Third, they identify motivations to maintain moral self-regard and a moral reputation as two distinct pathways through which moralisation influences follower behaviour.

Finally, the paper shows how the values that underlie leaders’ moralised behaviour (e.g. compassion, loyalty) determine the specific types of follower behaviour that emerge (e.g. pro-social behavior, pro-organizational behaviour).

Read further in: Ryan Fehr, Kai Chi (Sam) Yam and Carolyn Dang. 2015. Moralized Leadership: The Construction and Consequences of Ethical Leader Perceptions.
Academy of Management Review, 40(2), 182-209.


Institutionally driven moral conflicts and managerial action: Google as an example
Rosemarie Monge examines what managers ought to do when confronted with apparent moral conflicts between their managerial responsibilities and the general requirements of morality, specifically when those conflicts are driven by the institutional environment. She examines Google’s decision to enter the Chinese search engine market as an example of such a conflict. She considers the view that Google’s managers engaged in justifiable moral compromise in making the choice to engage in self-censorship and show how this view depends on the idea of genuine moral dilemmas or irresolvable moral conflicts. She argues that there are serious reasons to doubt the existence of genuine moral dilemmas both in the abstract, as well as in the context of managerial responsibility.

She proposes an alternative account for what Google’s managers ought to do, as well as others who face relevantly similar situations. The account contains two conditions for permissibly contributing to another party’s failure to live up to their moral responsibilities. The first condition is that the manager must intend and act in such a way as to minimize the firm’s complicity in the other entity or actor’s failure, which in most cases will imply a duty for the manager to take actions that aim towards changing the institutional context. Under the second condition, managers ought to communicate to the firm’s constituents that they take seriously the importance of the interests at stake.

For more detail, read: Rosemarie Monge. 2015. Institutionally Driven Moral Conflicts and Managerial Action: Dirty Hands or Permissible Complicity?
Journal of Business Ethics, 129(1), 161-175.