A selection of interesting research and articles we found recently.

When organisations don’t walk their talk by decoupling ethics programs
Tammy MacLean and her colleagues conducted research that illustrates dangers inherent in the gap created when organisations decouple ethics program adoption from implementation. Using a sample of 182 professionals in the pharmaceutical and financial services industries, they examined the relationship between structural decoupling of formal ethics programs and individual-level perceptions and behaviour.

Findings strongly support the hypothesised relationships between decoupling and organisational members’ legitimacy perceptions of the ethics program, psychological contract breach, organisational cynicism, and unethical behaviour.

For more, read: Tammy MacLean, Barrie E. Litzky and D. Kip Holderness Jr. 2015. When Organizations Don’t Walk Their Talk: A Cross-Level Examination of How Decoupling Formal Ethics Programs Affects Organizational Members.
Journal of Business Ethics, 128(2), 351-368.


What impact does the organisational ethical context have on employees?
David Hollingworth and Sean Valentine note that past investigations into the impact of organisational ethical context on individual ethical decision-making, have reported mixed results. Some studies indicate that a strong ethical work environment is associated with increased ethical reasoning, while other studies indicate that such an environment has little to no influence on the way ethical issues are addressed. Given these contradictory findings, the authors used multiple theoretical perspectives to assess the degree to which employees’ perceptions of ethical values, ethical culture and corporate social responsibility moderate the relationship between their ethical issue recognition and ethical judgments.

Data obtained from employees of a financial services firm located primarily in the midwestern United States supported the research hypothesis, with organisational ethical context weakening the recognition–judgment linkage. Results are compared with prior studies, and the managerial and research implications of the findings are discussed, along with the study’s limitations and suggestions for future inquiry.

For more information, see: David Hollingworth and Sean Valentine. 2015. The Moderating Effect of Perceived Organizational Ethical Context on Employees’ Ethical Issue Recognition and Ethical Judgments.
Journal of Business Ethics, 128(2), 457-466.


On the “slippery slope”
Entrepreneurs sometimes make unethical decisions that have devastating effects on their companies, stakeholders, and themselves. Robert Baron, Hao Zhao and Qing Miao suggest that insights into the origins of such actions can be acquired through attention to personal motives and their impact on moral disengagement. This refers to a cognitive process that deactivates moral self-regulation, thus enabling individuals to behave in ways inconsistent with their own values. The authors hypothesise that entrepreneurs’ motivation for financial gains is positively related to moral disengagement, while their motivation for self-realisation is negatively related to this process.

Results obtained with a sample of founding entrepreneurs offered support for the first prediction, as well as support for the prediction that moral disengagement is positively related to the tendency to make unethical decisions.

The full paper is: Robert A. Baron, Hao Zhao and Qing Miao. 2015. Personal Motives, Moral Disengagement, and Unethical Decisions by Entrepreneurs: Cognitive Mechanisms on the “Slippery Slope”.
Journal of Business Ethics, 128(1), 107-118.


Reconceptualising whistleblowing
Julio Andrade explores the ethical dilemma of conflicting loyalties found in whistleblowing. Central to this dilemma is the internal/external disclosure dichotomy; disclosure of organisational wrongdoing to an external recipient is seen as disloyal, whilst disclosure to an internal recipient is seen as loyal. Understanding how the organisation and society have dealt with these problems over the last 30 years is undertaken through an analysis of Vandekerckhove’s (Whistleblowing and organisational social responsibility, 2006) project, which seeks to place the normative legitimisations of whistleblowing legislation and organisational whistleblowing policies within a globalisation semantic able to contain this conflict between society and the organisation.

This project fails, Andrade argues, because of Vandekerckhove’s particular understanding of the organisation as an autopoietic system, i.e. an operationally closed system. A case is made to understand organisations as complex systems, i.e. operationally open systems. Critical complexity theory sees the identities of systems and components as coterminous. In the context of the organisation, this means that the identities of the corporation and its corporate members arise and die together. The whistleblower’s disclosure reconfigures the organisation by forcing the organisation to open up and make its boundaries flexible, making the designation ‘internal’ or ‘external’ to the organisation, and, therefore, who qualifies as a recipient of a disclosure of wrongdoing, flexible. The organisation is restrained from retaliating against the whistleblower, because its identities are coterminous. Furthermore, as the disclosure cannot be categorically defined as either internal or external, the question of whether an external disclosure can qualify as an act of organisational loyalty becomes moot.

Read further in: Julio A. Andrade. 2015. Reconceptualising Whistleblowing in a Complex World.
Journal of Business Ethics, 128(2), 321-335.