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Business Ethics : Literature

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DeTienne, K. B., Ellertson, C. F., Marc-Charles, I., & Dudley, W. R. (2021). Moral development in business ethics: An examination and critique: JBE. Journal of Business Ethics, 170(3), 429-448. doi:
The field of behavioral ethics has seen considerable growth over the last few decades. One of the most significant concerns facing this interdisciplinary field of research is the moral judgment-action gap. The moral judgment-action gap is the inconsistency people display when they know what is right but do what they know is wrong. Much of the research in the field of behavioral ethics is based on (or in response to) early work in moral psychology and American psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg’s foundational cognitive model of moral development. However, Kohlberg’s model of moral development lacks a compelling explanation for the judgment-action gap. Yet, it continues to influence theory, research, teaching, and practice in business ethics today. As such, this paper presents a critical review and analysis of the pertinent literature. This paper also reviews modern theories of ethical decision making in business ethics. Gaps in our current understanding and directions for future research in behavioral business ethics are presented. By providing this important theoretical background information, targeted critical analysis, and directions for future research, this paper assists management scholars as they begin to seek a more unified approach, develop newer models of ethical decision making, and conduct business ethics research that examines the moral judgment-action gap.

Jensen, L. C., & Wygant, S. A. (1990). The developmental self-valuing theory: A practical approach: JBE. Journal of Business Ethics, 9(3), 215. Retrieved from
Traditional moral philosophy offers little of practical value for the business community, and psychological theories of moral reasoning have been shown to be flawed and incomplete. A new theory - the developmental self-valuing theory - is presented that adapts the social-cognitive theory of Albert Bandura (1986) for ethics in business. In this theory, individuals first learn moral values from associations with others who are significant in their lives. Second, self-regulation is learned through a process of self-observation, self-judgment, and self-reaction. Third, the individual must believe that one can act ethically. Situational constraints and inducements, as well as positive and negative consequences for specific behaviors, will also affect the level of ethical performance. Each of these elements is examined and combined to achieve a practical method for increasing the level of ethics in corporate activity through selection, training, and situational enhancement.

Donaldson, T., & Dunfee, T. W. (1994). Toward a unified conception of business ethics: Integrative. Academy of Management.the Academy of Management Review, 19(2), 252. Retrieved from
Throughout its meteoric rise over the last 2 decades, the field of business ethics has been troubled by a lack of direction and has become entangled in its own logic. On the one hand, business ethics research can be informed by empirical ideas. On the other hand, business ethics research can be informed by normative concepts. These 2 approaches have produced 2 powerful streams of business research. The interconnection between empirical and normative research is advanced by the presentation of a normative theory, called integrative social contracts theory (ISCT). ISCT incorporates empirical findings as part of a contractarian process of making normative judgments. Derived from roots in classical and social contract theory, ISCT recognizes ethical obligations based upon 2 levels of consent: 1. to a theoretical "macrosocial" contract appealing to all rational contractors and 2. to real "microsocial" contracts by members of numerous localized communities.

Reidenbach, R. E., & Robin, D. P. (1990). Toward the development of a multidimensional scale for improving evaluations of business ethics: JBE. Journal of Business Ethics, 9(8), 639. Retrieved from
A multidimensional 33-item ethics inventory scale that was developed previously was based on 5 ethical philosophies: 1. justice, 2. relativism, 3. egoism, 4. utilitarianism, and 5. deontology. Through a distillation and validation process, the original inventory was reduced to 8 items that formed 3 factor structures. Various samples of respondents evaluated 3 scenarios using scale items in the distillation process. The 3 dimensions emerging in the evaluations were subjected to analysis to establish convergent and discriminant validity. The 3 factors explained 74%, 81%, and 83% of the variance in each of the scenarios. The ethical dimensions were: 1. broad-based moral equity, 2. relativism, and 3. contractualism. The first dimension had the greatest relative impact in the evaluative process. The 3 positive dimensions did not correspond strictly to the normative moral philosophies and tended to disagree with several of the hypothesized relationships in recently developed models of ethical decision making.

Joyner, B. E., & Payne, D. (2002). Evolution and implementation: A study of values, business ethics and corporate social responsibility: JBE. Journal of Business Ethics, 41(4), 297-311. doi:
There is growing recognition that good ethics can have a positive economic impact on the performance of firms. Many statistics support the premise that ethics, values, integrity and responsibility are required in the modern workplace. For consumer groups and society at large, research has shown that good ethics is good business. This study defines and traces the emergence and evolution within the business literature of the concepts of values, business ethics and corporate social responsibility to illustrate the increased emphasis that has been placed on these issues over time. Two organizations that have successfully dealt with these issues were analyzed to identify the links among values, ethics, and corporate social responsibility as they are incorporated into the culture and management of a firm. This study identified the presence and implementation of values, business ethics, and CSR actions within the two organizations studied.

Linda, K. T., & Brown, M. E. (2004). Managing to be ethical: Debunking five business ethics myths. The Academy of Management Executive, 18(2), 69-82. doi:
In the aftermath of recent corporate scandals, managers and researchers have turned their attention to questions of ethics management. We identify five common myths about business ethics and provide responses that are grounded in theory, research, and business examples. Although the scientific study of business ethics is relatively new, theory and research exist that can guide executives who are trying to better manage their employees' and their own ethical behavior. We recommend that ethical conduct be managed proactively via explicit ethical leadership and conscious management of the organization's ethical culture. PUBLICATION ABSTRACT]

Brady, F. N., & Wheeler, G. E. (1996). An empirical study of ethical predispositions: JBE. Journal of Business Ethics, 15(9), 927. Retrieved from
Using a 2-part instrument consisting of 8 vignettes and 20 character traits, 141 employees of a mid-west financial firm were sampled regarding their predispositions to prefer utilitarian or formalist forms of ethical reasoning. In contrast with earlier studies, it was found that these respondents did not prefer utilitarian reasoning. Several other hypotheses were tested involving the relationship between people's preferences for certain types of solutions to issues and the forms of reasoning they use to arrive at these solutions; the nature of the relationship between utilitarian and formalist categories; and the possibility of measuring ethical predispositions using different methods.

Nevins, J. L., Bearden, W. O., & Money, B. (2007). Ethical values and long-term orientation: JBE. Journal of Business Ethics, 71(3), 261-274. doi:
Lapses in ethical conduct by those in corporate and public authority worldwide have given business researchers and practitioners alike cause to reexamine the antecedents to personal ethical values. We explore the relationship between ethical values and an individual's long-term orientation or LTO, defined as the degree to which one plans for and considers the future, as well as values traditions of the past. Our study also examines the role of work ethic and conservative attitudes in the formation of a person's long-term orientation and consequent ethical beliefs. Empirically testing these hypothesized relationships using data from 292 subjects, we find that long-term perspectives on tradition and planning indeed engender higher levels of ethical values. The results also support work ethic's role in fostering tradition and planning, as well as conservatism's positive association with planning. Additionally, we report how tradition and planning mediate the influence of conservatism and work ethic on the formation of ethical values. Limitations of the study and future research directions, as well as implications for business managers and academics, are also discussed. PUBLICATION ABSTRACT]

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