A selection of interesting articles we came across recently on virtue.

Is not knowing a virtue?
Joanna Crossman and Vijayta Doshi propose that how leaders and managers respond to not knowing is highly relevant in the complex, ambiguous, and chaotic business environment of the twenty-first century. Drawing on the literature from a variety of disciplines, the paper explores the dominant, unfavourable conceptualization of not knowing.

The authors present some potential ethical implications of a negative view of not knowing and suggest how organisations would benefit from identifying any unhelpful aspects of the culture that may encourage unethical, undesirable, and/or hasty actions in situations of not knowing. The paper specifically illustrates how patience, courage, honesty, integrity, and humility are integral to negative capability in the contexts of not knowing.

Finally, the paper calls for deeper inquiry into the role of virtue ethics in preparing managers and leaders for not knowing and urges organisations to embrace negative capability in not knowing rather than engaging in damaging delusion.

More details are available at: Joanna Crossman and  Vijayta Doshi. 2015. When Not Knowing is a Virtue: A Business Ethics Perspective.
Journal of Business Ethics, 131(1), 1-8.


Can you really separate business and ethical issues?
While many scholars agree that the “separation thesis” (Freeman in Bus Ethics Quart 4(4):409–421, 1994)—that business issues and ethical issues can be neatly compartmentalized—is harmful to business ethics scholarship and practice, they also conclude that eliminating it is either inadvisable because of the usefulness of the positive/normative distinction, or actually impossible.

Based on an exploration of the fact/value dichotomy and the pragmatist and virtue theoretic responses to it, the authors develop an approach to eliminating the separation thesis that integrates “business” with “ethics” while still permitting a positive/normative distinction, which they call “ethics from observation.”

The full paper is at: Andrew V. Abela and Ryan Shea. 2015. Avoiding the Separation Thesis While Maintaining a Positive/Normative Distinction.
Journal of Business Ethics, 131(1), 31-41.


Are banks more virtuous since the global financial crisis?
Elisabeth Paulet, Miia Parnaudeau and Francesc Relano explore the behaviour of the banking industry in the new business environment that arose after the subprime crisis. The main hypothesis is that there are two major types of banking institutions: conventional banks and ethical banks. Each has a distinct business model. To test how they have reacted to the new environment, factor analysis techniques have been used.

The main findings are twofold.
Firstly, the new financial context has indeed caused the behaviour of mainstream banks to change. Within this group, one can further distinguish between those that have tried to anticipate the changes by adopting a more responsible financial attitude and those that have merely modified their banking practice to comply with the new regulatory framework.
Secondly, there are the so-called ethical banks. Interestingly, their behaviour has scarcely been altered by the new financial context. The main conclusion is that the different response of both types of banks reflects the existence of a distinct business model.

More details are available at: Elisabeth Paulet, Miia Parnaudeau and Francesc Relano. 2015. Banking with Ethics: Strategic Moves and Structural Changes of the Banking Industry in the Aftermath of the Subprime Mortgage Crisis.
Journal of Business Ethics, 131(1), 199-207.


Does unethical behaviour beget unethical behaviour?
The spread of unethical behaviour in organisations has mainly been studied in terms of processes occurring in a general social context, rather than in terms of actors’ reactions in the context of their specific social relationships. This paper introduces a dynamic social network analysis framework in which this spread is conceptualized as the result of the reactions of perpetrators, victims, and observers to an initial act of unethical behaviour.

This theoretical framework shows that the social relationships of the actors involved in an initial act impact in multiple ways the likelihood that unethical behaviour spreads. It reveals furthermore that social relationships may change in the wake of unethical behaviour, such that indirect negative consequences can arise for organisations. The proposed framework provides a basis for the development of a formal stochastic actor-oriented model of network dynamics which would enable simulations of the spread of unethical behaviour.

Read further at: Franziska Zuber. 2015. Spread of Unethical Behavior in Organizations: A Dynamic Social Network Perspective.
Journal of Business Ethics, 131(1), 151-172.


Can networking make us feel dirty?
Tiziana Casciaro, Francesca Gino and Maryam Kouchaki examined the consequences of social networking for an individual’s morality. They argue that the content and approach to networking have different implications for how a person feels during the development and maintenance of social ties. The focus is on professional-instrumental networking: the purposeful creation of social ties in support of task and professional goals.

Unlike personal networking in pursuit of emotional support or friendship, and unlike social ties that emerge spontaneously, instrumental networking in pursuit of professional goals can impinge on an individual’s moral purity—a psychological state that results from viewing the self as clean from a moral standpoint—and thus make an individual feel dirty. Two experiments provided evidence for a causal relationship between instrumental networking for professional goals, feeling dirty, and need for cleansing.

A survey study of lawyers in a large North American business law firm showed that professionals who experience feelings of dirtiness from instrumental networking, relative to those who do not, tend to engage in it less frequently and have lower job performance. With regard to sources of variability in dirtiness from instrumental networking for professional goals, the authors document that when those who engage in such networking have high versus low power, they experience fewer feelings of dirtiness. An additional experimental study constructively replicated this finding.

For further details, see Tiziana Casciaro, Francesca Gino and Maryam Kouchaki. 2014. The Contaminating Effects of Building Instrumental Ties: How Networking Can Make Us Feel Dirty.
Administrative Science Quarterly, 2014. 59(4), 705-735.