Research Companion to Ethical Behavior in Organizations
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Research Companion to Ethical Behavior in Organizations

Constructs and Measures

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.
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Chapter 8: Challenges in business ethics research

Christian Mealey, James D. Carlson and Mark A. Widmer


Challenges abound for behavioral researchers in any discipline. Researchers in the burgeoning, cross-disciplinary field of behavioral ethics travel an especially bumpy road. They share the difficulties faced by researchers of psychology and sociology, management science and experimental philosophy, combined. Add in the ethics-specific problems of loosely defined constructs and extremely sensitive data, and even experienced researchers can run into hazards. In this chapter, we describe some of the most trying roadblocks in ethics research and offer practical suggestions. We organize our chapter around questions that any researcher should consider but that have specific applications in the field of ethics: 1. What shall I study? Because scholars have yet to arrive at a clear definition of “ethical” or “moral,” researchers must explain why they consider the behaviors in their study to have moral implications. At the same time, the value judgments inherent in such explanations distance the researcher from the scholarly goal of objectivity. 2. How will I access data? Individuals and organizations often hesitate to participate in studies they fear will expose their behavior as right or wrong. Researchers need creativity or pre-established relationships to access organizations’ sensitive ethics data. 3. Can I trust the data I collect? Ethics data are particularly vulnerable to respondent bias. Study participants consciously and unconsciously manipulate their answers to portray themselves in socially desirable ways. Careful study design can help researchers measure and reduce the effects of respondent bias.

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