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Published in: Journal of Business Ethics 3/2022

03-03-2021 | Original Paper

Ethical Work Climate 2.0: A Normative Reformulation of Victor and Cullen’s 1988 Framework

Authors: James Weber, Akwasi Opoku-Dakwa

Published in: Journal of Business Ethics | Issue 3/2022

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Abstract

Ethical work climate (EWC), introduced by Bart Victor and John Cullen, plays a central role in the business ethics literature due to its influence on employee’s ethical decision-making. Yet, the often-used framework is limited as a descriptive and prescriptive model because it lacks a normative focus and does not allow for organizations guided by (arguably) universal ethical principles. We revisit Victor and Cullen’s original conceptualization of ethical climate and propose a reformulation of the ethical criteria to be conceptually consistent with Kohlberg’s theory of cognitive moral development and to accommodate principled climates. We also describe how the locus of analysis dimension can be simplified to allow for a more parsimonious and potentially more valid theory. In doing so, we eliminate redundancy noted in the original model and clarify normative preference among the ethical climate types. We discuss implications for research, teaching, and practice.
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Footnotes
1
We do not suggest that the principles used illustratively here are exhaustive. They may reflect a Western bias resulting from the authors’ limited expertise. Our claim that these principles are universal is based on their having withstood debate over an extended period of time and based on the belief that the inherent thinking behind them is not limited to any given set of cultures but reflects a largely overlapping consensus (Donaldson 1996; Haidt 2007; Rawls 1971).
 
2
Victor and Cullen’s “caring” EWC is unrelated to Gilligan’s “ethic of care” (Gilligan 1977, 1982, 1988). Victor and Cullen simply used a term that emphasizes “concern for others” rather than evoking an ethical theory of care.
 
3
We acknowledge that Victor and Cullen’s focus was on work group climate and Weber (1995) found subclimates within a single organization, yet we will use the organization as the locus of analysis in our work for simplicity.
 
5
The reader unfamiliar with B corporations can learn more at https://​bcorporation.​net.
 
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Metadata
Title
Ethical Work Climate 2.0: A Normative Reformulation of Victor and Cullen’s 1988 Framework
Authors
James Weber
Akwasi Opoku-Dakwa
Publication date
03-03-2021
Publisher
Springer Netherlands
Published in
Journal of Business Ethics / Issue 3/2022
Print ISSN: 0167-4544
Electronic ISSN: 1573-0697
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-021-04778-4

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