Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

A Research Note on the Relationships among Spirituality, Contextual Variables, and Perceptions of Ethics in the Workplace

Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

A Research Note on the Relationships among Spirituality, Contextual Variables, and Perceptions of Ethics in the Workplace

Article excerpt

Questionable ethics among people in business organizations has been an issue for a number of years. The scandals of 10-15 years ago involving Enron, Arthur Andersen, Global Crossing, Tyco International, and WorldCom seemed to bring business ethics to the forefront of public attention and increased public demand for more ethical behavior in business. However, events of recent years continue to indicate that some managers and business leaders struggle with ethical dilemmas. The shocking financial schemes of Bernie Madoff have been followed by further instances of financial fraud and other examples of unethical behavior. These failures are disheartening considering the increased focus that has been placed on ethics.

While the popular press is replete with articles bemoaning the absence of ethics in the business world, much research has investigated the factors that influence ethics in business and organizational settings. Contextual, or situational, factors have been the focus of much of this research; however, individual or personal variables have also been examined. Among these situational factors, codes of ethics have been among the more heavily researched, and the effects of training in ethics have been assessed. Researchers have also conducted cross-cultural comparisons (Rottig and Heischmidt, 2007; Beekun and Westerman, 2012) and have investigated ethics in various cultures (Issa and Pick, 2010; Luckerath-Rovers and De Bos, 2011). Other situational variables that have been assessed include peer influence (Jones and Kavanagh, 1996; Beekun and Westerman, 2012), situation orientation (Carlson et al., 2002), ethical culture or climate (Ambrose et al., 2008; Tsai and Shih, 2005), distributive justice (Umphress et al., 2009), managerial influence (Jones and Kavanagh, 1996), and organizational characteristics (Key, 2002).

In addition to contextual variables, other variables related to the individual have also been studied. These individual variables include demographic characteristics, especially age and gender, as well as other personal characteristics. Researchers have assessed the effects of religiosity (Lowery and Beadles, 2009; Vitell et al., 2005, 2006), locus of control (Hume and Smith, 2006; Cherry, 2006; Smith et al., 2004), machiavellianism (Wakefield, 2008; Hartog and Belschak, 2012), spirituality (Giacalone and Jurkiewicz, 2003a; Beekun and Westerman, 2012), alienation (Kennedy and Lawton, 1996), and cognitive moral development (Church et al., 2005).

The purpose of the present study is to increase knowledge of variables that influence ethical decision-making. Additionally, this study adds to the understanding of ethics in the workplace. Much of the research on ethics has focused on personal conceptualizations of ethics, employing such measures as ego strength and locus of control (Trevino, 1986), positioning on a relativism-idealism dimension (Forsyth, 1992), moral principle, moral philosophy, and moral judgment (Forsyth, 1992; Quinn, 1997), or consumer ethics (Hiller, 2010; Vitell, 2003; Muncy and Vitell, 1992). Comparatively, however, there is a paucity of research that focuses specifically on ethics in the workplace. Thus, in this study, the effects of one of the lesser studied individual variables that might affect ethical decision-making, spirituality, is assessed as well as several demographic variables, and two contextual variables, ethics training and codes of ethics, on ethics in die workplace. Also, these effects are assessed employing a sample of working individuals. While the use of student samples can provide insight and improve our understanding of many workplace issues, many if not most students will lack the experience of hill time employment in an organization. This represents a possible limitation of studies that attempt to answer questions concerning behaviors in the workplace. This is especially true regarding ethics, as studies have indicated differences in the ethical decision-making processes of students and working professionals (Ritter, 2006; O'Leary and Pangemanan, 2007; Molnar et al. …

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