This week’s reading focuses on the aspects of being ethical from an individual’s perspective.
When are the powerful ethical?
Prior studies have shown that powerful individuals are more unethical than powerless individuals. In real life, power is unstable, and multiple social interactions may cause loss of power. However, extant research has assumed the power structure to be stable and thus overlooked the potential interaction of power and stability in affecting unethicality.
Using the approach-inhibition theory of power, the researchers predicted that stability of power moderates power’s effect on unethical behaviour. Results from four studies revealed that powerful individuals showed more unethical behaviour than powerless individuals only when power was stable, but not when it was unstable. The higher level of unethical behaviour under the condition of stable power was explained by attitude toward risk.
These results highlight that the link between power and unethicality is broken when power is unstable. Powerful individuals are no more unethical than powerless individuals when they face a greater possibility of losing their power.
Junha Kim, Yunchul Shin and Sujin Lee. 2017. Built on Stone or Sand: The Stable Powerful Are Unethical, the Unstable Powerful Are Not.
Journal of Business Ethics, 144(2), 437–447.
Ethical reasoning among professionals
Professionals in business and law, healthcare providers, educators, policymakers, consumers, and higher education practitioners value ethical reasoning (ER) skills. Because of this, authors Smith, Fulcher and Sanchez concentrated campus-wide reaccreditation efforts to help students actively engage in ER. In doing so, they re-conceptualised the ER process, implemented campus-wide ER interventions designed to be experienced by all undergraduate students, and created the ethical reasoning identification test (ERIT) to measure students’ ability to engage in a foundational step in the ER process.
Using factor analysis, the researchers demonstrated internal validity evidence for ERIT scores. More specifically, confirmatory factor analysis provided support for a unidimensional factor structure, meaning stakeholders can report and analyse ERIT total scores. The unidimensional factor structure was replicated using two independent samples.
Across all samples, ERIT scores demonstrated reliability consistent with professional standards. In addition, the researchers collected external validity evidence for ERIT scores. The ERIT was sensitive to slight differences in ER training. That is, students experiencing a 75-min intervention performed better on the test compared to students without this experience.
Overall, results suggested that the ER intervention may effectively increase students ER abilities and the ERIT demonstrated great potential for assessing foundational ethical reasoning skills. To further examine validity, researchers should consider known groups analyses with varying “doses” of the ER intervention, as well as measurement invariance studies.
Kristen Smith, Keston Fulcher and Elizabeth Hawk Sanchez. 2017. Ethical Reasoning in Action: Validity Evidence for the Ethical Reasoning Identification Test (ERIT).
Journal of Business Ethics, 144(2), 417–436.
Dignity at work through stories
This paper is a conceptual essay rooted in two basic observations.
First, felt dignity—the subjective sense people have of their own autonomy and self-worth—ultimately emerges from, and is thus most evident in the connective space between people.
Second, stories are everyday works of art that afford unique insight into the subtle complexities of the socio-emotional realities of work.
Building on these observations, authors Stephens and Kanov describe how personal stories about episodes of interpersonal connections and disconnections at work—moments in which we feel mutual appreciation and empowerment or a sense of separation and distancing from another—can help us better understand the felt experience of dignity at work.
In attending to such personal stories as art, we become more attuned to their felt, aesthetic qualities, which then helps us develop a more holistic and visceral appreciation of how actors experience, make sense of, and (re-)claim felt dignity. In support of their ideas, the authors present a few illustrative story excerpts and briefly consider how a select few aesthetic qualities—the way the stories’ elements are configured, the stories’ acuity or sharpness, and their rawness—enhance the felt impact of the stories and help to remind us of their and the storytellers’ intrinsic value.
John Paul Stephens and Jason Kanov. 2017. Stories as Artworks: Giving Form to Felt Dignity in Connections at Work.
Journal of Business Ethics, 144(2), 235–249.
Ethical leadership links to employee burnout, workplace deviance and performance
This study empirically investigated the impact of ethical leadership on employee burnout, deviant behaviour and task performance through two psychological mechanisms: (1) developing higher levels of employee trust in leaders and (2) demonstrating lower levels of surface acting toward their leaders.
The theoretical model was tested using data collected from employees of a pharmaceutical retail chain company. Analyses of multisource time-lagged data from 45 team leaders and 247 employees showed that employees’ trust in leaders and surface acting significantly mediated the relationships between ethical leadership and employee burnout, deviant behaviour and task performance.
Authors Mo and Shi discuss the theoretical and practical implications of the findings for understanding how ethical leaders influence employees’ attitudes and behaviour.
Shenjiang Mo and Junqi Shi. 2017. Linking Ethical Leadership to Employee Burnout, Workplace Deviance and Performance: Testing the Mediating Roles of Trust in Leader and Surface Acting.
Journal of Business Ethics, 144(2), 293–303.
Individual ethical orientations and the acceptability of questionable finance ethics decisions
Finance is an area that, in practice, is plagued by accusations of unethical activity; the study of finance had adopted a largely nonbehavioural approach to business ethics research.
The authors address this gap in by assessing whether individual ethical orientations (moral identity, idealism, relativism, integrity, Machiavellianism) predict the acceptability of questionable decisions about financial issues.
Results show that individual ethical orientations are associated with different levels of acceptability of questionable decisions about financial issues, though the pattern of these differences varies across individual ethical orientations assessed. These results represent evidence that ethical individual differences are associated with the acceptability of questionable finance decisions and are discussed in terms of methodological limitations and future directions in finance ethics research.
Mac Clouse, Robert A. Giacalone, Tricia D. Olsen and Lorenzo Patelli. 2017. Individual Ethical Orientations and the Perceived Acceptability of Questionable Finance Ethics Decisions.
Journal of Business Ethics, 144(3), 549–558.
A profile of Canadian accountants
Prior research has demonstrated that accountants differ from the general population on many personality traits. Understanding accountants’ personality traits is important when these characteristics may impact professional behaviour or ability to work with members of the business community.
This study investigates the relationship between Machiavellianism, ethical orientation (idealism, relativism), anti-intellectualism, and social desirability response bias in Canadian accountants. Researchers Triki, Cook and Bay find that Canadian accountants score much higher on the Machiavellianism scale than U.S. accountants.
Additionally, their results show a significant relationship between Machiavellianism and relativism, idealism, anti-intellectualism, and social desirability response bias. These results indicate that professional Canadian accountants may not share the same personality characteristics as U.S. accountants. The authors extend previous research investigating Canadian accountants, by explicitly recognising the impact of social desirability response bias, and by including anti-intellectualism.
Anis Triki, Gail Lynn Cook and Darlene Bay. 2017. Machiavellianism, Moral Orientation, Social Desirability Response Bias, and Anti-intellectualism: A Profile of Canadian Accountants.
Journal of Business Ethics, 144(3), 623–635.
Moral and legal issues of using neurotechnology to modify employees
Employers have long had programs for improving employee attitude and performance, from the simple such as free coffee in the break room to the more extensive such as gyms, counseling, team-building seminars, and skills training.
Employees have also long used techniques for making themselves more competitive and productive for purposes of securing new positions or promotions. But what about more direct means of altering employee performance? Neurotechnology could allow for more powerful and precise methods of screening for desired traits and for modifying abilities—from memory to motivation to morality.
In this paper, Patrick Hopkins and Harvey Fiser examine the moral and legal issues of using neurotechnology in the employment context. The authors identify major types of technologies, the areas of employment where they might be used, and the moral and legal principles most likely to frame debates about use.
The authors do not recommend a specific moral judgment but instead introduce the issues, describe the major possible policies that could be implemented to deal with employment neurotechnology, compare those policies to current ones, and lay out an analytical framework for further discussion based on the broad effectiveness of neurotechnology, balancing interests of employers and employees, and existing ethical and legal principles.
Patrick D. Hopkins and Harvey L. Fiser. 2017. “This Position Requires Some Alteration of Your Brain”: On the Moral and Legal Issues of Using Neurotechnology to Modify Employees.
Journal of Business Ethics, 144(4), 783–797.