An organization’s culture is expressed through its shared values, beliefs and norms. Business culture is manifested in both formal channels such as a Code of Conduct, and a set of informal unwritten rules that guide business practices. Together, the formal and informal systems establish the organization’s personality and distinguish companies in a competitive marketplace.

Research shows that an ethical corporate culture contributes to reduced business misconduct and diminished risk profiles. Companies and regulators are trying to shape ethical corporate cultures in order to reduce ethical failures and increase team performance.

Most organizations point to culture to illustrate the positive traits that they want associated with their brand. However, organizational cultures are complex. Methods for measuring and changing corporate culture are evolving. This webpage will provide maps to the most efficient methods for measuring and shaping ethical corporate cultures.  

Intentionally shaping an ethical corporate culture allows companies to gain control over the public and private values that guide corporate behavior. Promoting ethical corporate culture requires long-term commitment and ongoing examination. Organizational research on ethics can be used as a powerful tool for understanding and shaping organizational ethics. Organizational research will help businesses understand how to take advantage of key levers of systemic change within organizations. Sculpting an ethical corporate culture can ultimately enhance the working environments for employees while also improving the organization’s bottom line.





What to Measure [below are some of the constructs that have been studied in the research literature]:

1) Perceived features of the work environment (The Place)

  • Perceived ethical culture at workplace
  • Workplace ethical judgment and decision-making
  • Perceived unethical behaviors at workplace
  • Organizational justice
  • Workplace conflict
  • Emotional support
  • Psychological Safety
  • Perceived politics

2) Traits and values of the employees (The People)

  • Moral identity
  • Trust

3) Reputation of the firm (in the eyes of outsiders)

How to Measure [below are some of the available methods for assessing the constructs listed above]

1) Direct measurement techniques (assume honesty of respondents)

  • Survey questionnaires (with rating scales)
  • Free-response questions
  • Structured Interviews
  • Formal exit interviews

2) Indirect measurement techniques (may be less vulnerable to “gaming” and self-presentational biases)

  • Implicit measures, such as the Implicit Association Test
  • Simulations (Decision making scenarios)
  • Behavioral games

3) Objective data (does not require participation by employees)

  • Text analysis (e.g., of big data sets such as all internal emails)
  • Earnings restatements (compared to peers in same industry)
  • Ratings on and other ratings sites


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This page is edited by the team at Ethical Systems. Other researchers may have contributed content.