A selection of interesting articles we found recently considering the person factors in ethical behaviour.

Work–family effects of servant leadership: The roles of emotional exhaustion and personal learning 
This study examined how servant leadership influences employees in terms of work-to-family conflict (WFC) and work-to-family positive spillover (WFPS). These effects were explored through a focus on the mediating roles of emotional exhaustion and personal learning. The results, which were based on time-lagged data collection in China, indicated that employee perceptions of servant leadership related negatively to WFC and positively to WFPS.

Moreover, reduced emotional exhaustion and enhanced personal learning mediated the relationship between servant leadership and WFPS. Furthermore, reduced emotional exhaustion (but not enhanced personal learning) mediated the relationship between servant leadership and WFC. This study’s results provide insightful theoretical and managerial implications and offer new directions for research on leadership and work–family relations.

For the full paper see: Tang, G., Kwan, H.K., Zhang, D. Zhou, Z. 2016. Work–Family Effects of Servant Leadership: The Roles of Emotional Exhaustion and Personal Learning.
Journal of Business Ethics, 137(2), 285–297.


Humility in business: A contextual approach 
The virtue of humility is often considered to be at odds with common business practice. In recent years, however, scholars within business ethics and leadership have shown an increasing interest in humility. Despite such attention, the argument for the relevance of humility in business could be expanded. Unlike extant research that focuses on humility as a character-building virtue or instrumentally useful leadership trait, this article argues that humility reflects the interdependent nature of business.

Through such an approach, the article gives an extrinsic motivation of the relevance of humility in business, and, from a theoretical point of view, links the intra-personal and intra-organisational perspective on humility to an inter-organisational one. The article contextualises the virtue of humility by relating it to the economic, cognitive, and moral aspects of business practice and managerial work. It claims that the assumption of self-sufficiency in business is a grave misrepresentation of what business is—a practice characterised by interdependency.

Potential links between virtue ethics, leadership, and contextually oriented theories of business, such as stakeholder theory, network theories, and resource dependence theory, are also identified.

For more detail see: Frostenson, M. 2016. Humility in Business: A Contextual Approach.
Journal of Business Ethics, 138(1), 91-102.


Behavioural ethics: A critique and a proposal 
In behavioural ethics today, there is debate as to which theory of moral development is the best for understanding ethical decision making, thereby facilitating ethical behaviour. This debate between behavioural ethicists has been profoundly influenced by the field of moral psychology.

Unfortunately, in the course of this marriage between moral psychology and business ethics and subsequent internal debate, a simple but critical understanding of human beings in the field of management has been obscured; i.e., that morality is not a secondary phenomenon arising out of something else.

Therefore, this paper argues that there is a need in behavioural ethics to shift our understanding away from the influence of contemporary moral psychology and back to management theorist Ghoshal’s (Academy Management Learning Educ., 4(1):75–91, 2005) view of what it means to be human in which the moral is fundamental. To assist in this labour, the authors will build on the philosophical work of Emmanuel Levinas who sees ethics, regardless of the setting, as a metaphysical concern.

What this means is that Levinas sees the essential moral character of human life and the reality of human agency as ontologically fundamental, or constitutive of human nature itself. In other words, the ethical is the “first cause” in regard to understanding the nature and action of the individual, including within organisations. Thus, morality in any sphere of human endeavour, including in business, is not merely epiphenomenal to some more fundamental reality.

Read further at: Ellertson, C.F., Ingerson, M. & Williams, R.N. 2016. Behavioral Ethics: A Critique and a Proposal.
Journal of Business Ethics, 138(1), 145-159.


Acting out of compassion, egoism and malice
In both their external and internal communications, organisations tend to present diversity management (DM) approaches and corporate social responsibility initiatives as a kind of morally ‘good’ organisational practice. With regard to the treatment of employees, both concepts largely assume equality to be an indicator (as well as a goal) of organisational ‘goodness’, e.g. in terms of equal treatment, or affording equal opportunities. Additionally, research on this issue predominantly refers to prescriptive and imperative moralities that address the initiatives themselves, and values them morally.

Schopenhauer opposes these moralities by conceptualizing morality as exclusively being based on the incentives of acting instead of the actions themselves. He identifies egoism, compassion, and malice as the sole incentives for every human action, whereby only those actions solely motivated by compassion can be ascribed genuine moral worth. In this context, this article shows that from a Schopenhauerian perspective, CSR and DM initiatives only have a genuine moral worth in so far as the individuals who have initiated or supported their implementation were exclusively motivated by compassion.

Stressing the narrative of a business case, if utilised as a façade for true compassion that attaches economic legitimacy to these initiatives, does not necessarily harm their moral worth. The approach and the findings developed in this paper contribute to the discourse on the ethical behaviour of organisations, as well as to the discourse on CSR and DM.

For further details see: Köllen, T. 2016. Acting Out of Compassion, Egoism, and Malice: A Schopenhauerian View on the Moral Worth of CSR and Diversity Management Practices. 
Journal of Business Ethics, 138(2), 215-229.


Altruism links to organisational learning capability 
The new features of the business environment have expanded the concept of organisational learning capability (OLC). In today’s competitive business environment, OLC has been recognised as an essential means to gain a sustainable competitive advantage. However, the effective development of that capability has not been sufficiently analysed in the organisational learning literature.

Prompted by a recent paradigm shift in the organisational sciences, this research explores the link between altruism and OLC testing a wider picture that includes two intermediate steps: Relationship Conflict and Organisational Trust. To test the hypotheses, the researchers used structural equations to analyse data from a survey of Spanish firms with recognised excellence in human resource management.

Results indicate that organisational trust mediates on the altruism—OLC relationship; however, such linkage is not mediated by relationship conflict. Findings suggest that altruism and trust should be promoted in organisations in order to boost OLC.

The full paper is at: Guinot, J., Chiva, R. & Mallén, F. 2016. Linking Altruism and Organizational Learning Capability: A Study from Excellent Human Resources Management Organizations in Spain. 
Journal of Business Ethics, 138(2), 349–364. 


Gender and occupying leadership roles 
Previous research has shown that female leaders lead slightly more effective than male leaders. However, women are still underrepresented in higher management. In this study, Hernandez-Bark and her colleagues seek to contribute to a deeper understanding of this paradox by proposing and testing an innovative model that integrates different research streams on gender and leadership.

Specifically, the authors propose power motivation and transformational leadership as two central yet opposing dynamics that underlie the relation between gender and leadership role occupancy. The research team tested this model in a sample of 256 employees.

Results provided support for the proposed relations. These findings contribute to a more detailed and comprehensive understanding for central dynamics that link gender and leadership role occupancy. Moreover, they provide important insights for interventions that are targeted at reducing the gender gap in leadership. The authors discuss the theoretical and practical implications of these findings.

Further details are at: Hernandez Bark, A.S., Escartín, J., Schuh, S.C. et al. 2016. Who Leads More and Why? A Mediation Model from Gender to Leadership Role Occupancy. 
Journal of Business Ethics, 139(3), 473–483.