I have been researching ethics in organizational contexts (workplaces and universities) for nearly 30 years, taking a social scientific approach to understanding why people behave the way they do (ethically and unethically).
Ethical Systems Interview (March 2015)
My Approach to Ethical Systems:
Early on in my thinking, I developed a systems approach to thinking about organizational ethics. I published a paper in 1990 that developed a cultural perspective on organizational ethics which later translated into a chapter in my textbook with Kate Nelson. The idea is that developing an ethical culture depends on the alignment of multiple formal and informal systems in the organization that all send messages to employees about expected behavior.
Formal systems include the selection system, policies and codes, orientation and training, the performance management system, the authority structure, formal decision processes, and formal communications from leadership.
Informal systems include the behavior of role models and heroes, norms of daily behavior, organizational rituals, myths and stories and language.
To the extent that these are aligned within and across formal and informal systems to send the message that ethical behavior is supported, employees will get the right message and behave appropriately. Cultures can also be perfectly aligned to send the message that unethical behavior is expected. Or, cultures can be misaligned, sending mixed messages about what employees are expected to do. Unethical behavior is also more likely in such cultures. Because of the complex nature of culture, changing a culture is a multi-year effort that must assess all of these systems and account for them in the change.
My Ethical Systems Research pages include:
My Major Relevant Publications:
- Cheating in college; Why students do it and what educators can do about it (2012) (public library). This book is about how and why students cheat and explores possible ways in which academic integrity might be promoted.
- Managing business ethics; Straight talk about how to do it right, 8th edition (2021) (public library). This book draws on both theory and practice to prepare students to identify and solve ethical dilemmas and promote ethical behavior. Book review points to the 5th edition.
- Managing ethics in business organizations; social scientific perspectives (2003) (public library). This book addresses theoretical questions about doing research on ethics, discusses the increasing institutionalization of formal systems to manage ethics, and explores the connection between institutional influence and the ethical behavior of individuals.
- “Leveraging a recessive narrative to transform Joe Paterno’s image: Media sensebreaking, sensemaking, and sensegiving during scandal,” Academy of Management Discoveries (2020)
- “In the heart of the storm: Leveraging personal relevance through ‘inside-out’ research,” Academy of Management Perspectives. (in press)
- “Ethical champions, emotions, framing, and team ethical decision making,” Journal of Applied Psychology (2020)
- “Beyond silence or compliance: The complexities of reporting a friend for misconduct,” Business Ethics: A European Review (2019)
- “Building a culture of honor and integrity in a business school,” Journal of Management Education (2019)
- “The past is not dead: Legacy identity and alumni ambivalence in response to the Penn State scandal,” Academy of Management Journal (2018)
- “Regulating for ethical culture,” Behavioral Science & Policy (2017)
- “Middle managers and corruptive routine translation: The social production of deceptive performance,” Organization Science (2017)
- “Make ethics a cumulative science,” Nature Human Behavior (2017)
- “Ethical Leaders and Their Followers: The transmission of moral attentiveness and moral identity,” in Business Ethics Quarterly (2016).
- “Ethical leadership and Follower Voice and Performance: The role of follower identifications and entity morality beliefs,” in Leadership Quarterly (2015).
- “(Un)ethical Behavior in Organizations,” in Annual Review of Psychology (2014).
- “Situational Moral Sisengagement: Can the effects of self-interest be mitigated?” in Journal of Business Ethics (2014).
- “Grounded Theory Study of Legitimacy Work Among Ethics and Compliance Officers,” in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes (2014).
- “Do role models matter? An investigation of role modeling as an antecedent of perceived ethical leadership,” in Journal of Business Ethics (2014).
- “The Influence of CEO Political Ideology on Corporate Social Responsibility,” in Administrative Science Quarterly (2013).
- “Joint Influences of Individual and Work Unit Abusive Supervision on Ethical Intentions and Behaviors: A Moderated Mediation Model,” article in Journal of Applied Psychology (2013).
- “Encouraging employees to report unethical conduct internally: It takes a village,” article in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes (2013).
- “Values work: A process study of the emergence and performance of organizational values practices,” article in Academy of Management Journal (2013).
- “Someone to Look Up To: Executive Follower Ethical Reasoning and Perceptions of Ethical Leadership,” article in Journal of Management (2013).
- “Embedding ethical leadership within and across organization levels,” article in Academy of Management Journal (2012).
- “Why employees do bad things: Moral disengagement and unethical organizational behavior,” article in Personnel Psychology (2012).