Research Companion to Ethical Behavior in Organizations

Research Companion to Ethical Behavior in Organizations

Constructs and Measures

Elgar original reference

Edited by Bradley R. Agle, David W. Hart, Jeffery A. Thompson and Hilary M. Hendricks

Compiling empirical work from management and social science disciplines, the Research Companion to Ethical Behavior in Organizations provides an entry point for academic researchers and compliance officers interested in measuring the moral dimensions of individuals. Accessible to newcomers but geared toward academics, this detailed book catalogs the varied and nuanced constructs used in behavioral ethics, along with measures that assess those constructs. With its cross-disciplinary focus and expert commentary, a varied collection of learned scholars bring essential studies into one volume, creating a resource that promises to enhance the burgeoning field of behavioral ethics.

Chapter 2: Ethical behavior

Samuel D. Brown, Aaron Miller and Kristen Bell DeTienne

Subjects: business and management, business ethics and trust, business leadership, research methods in business and management


Business ethics researchers often investigate elements incident to ethical or unethical behavior, such as dispositional factors or social influences. Measuring the behavior itself, ethical or not, can also provide valuable insight. The measures outlined in this chapter have been used to measure individuals’ ethical and unethical behavior, particularly in the context of organizations. Behavioral ethics, as a field, seeks to “explain individual behavior that occurs in the context of larger social prescriptions” (Trevi-o, Weaver, and Reynolds, 2006, p._952). But determining which behaviors count as “ethical” is a persistent quandary (Tenbrunsel and Smith-Crowe, 2008; see also the discussions in Chapters 1 and 8 of this book). To avoid the appearance of assuming or prescribing morality, scholars have generally defined specific morality-related behaviors as ethical or unethical within the context of their own studies. Trevi-o et al. (2006) wrote that existing studies draw from three categories of behavior: “unethical behavior,” such as lying, cheating, or stealing; behaviors that are “not unethical,” including honesty and obeying the law; and behaviors that “exceed moral minimums,” like whistleblowing and giving to charity (p. 952). In other disciplines, ethical behavior is even more broadly defined. Within social psychology, “the term ‘moral behavior’ has … been largely synonymous for … the terms ‘altruism,’ ‘helping,’ and ‘pro-social behavior’ (and sometimes fairness and honesty as well)” (Haidt and Kesebir, 2010, p._801). Some definitions also include the nuance of intentionality. For example, Schulman (2002) defined ethical behavior as “acts intended to produce kind and/or fair outcomes” (p. 500).

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