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11-02-2020 | Original Paper | Issue 3/2021

Journal of Business Ethics 3/2021

Should Managers Provide General or Specific Ethical Guidelines to Employees: Insights from a Mixed Methods Study

Journal:
Journal of Business Ethics > Issue 3/2021
Authors:
Shahidul Hassan, Sheela Pandey, Sanjay K. Pandey
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Abstract

This article contributes to our understanding of how communication of ethical guidelines by managers may reduce the likelihood of employee unethical behavior. We conduct two vignette experiments to assess the impact of communicating two types of ethical guidelines—general and specific. The second study employs mixed methods experimental design, collecting qualitative data during the experiment. We find that communicating ethical guidelines by managers reduces the likelihood of unethical behavior, but contrary to our hypothesis and prior literature, we observe that general ethical guidelines are more effective than specific ethical guidelines. We conduct thematic coding of open-ended qualitative responses and integrate the findings of qualitative analysis with the quantitative analyses to provide insights into the counter-hypothetical finding. With specific guidelines, we observe that participants use specific details to negate or rationalize ethical concerns, and with general guidelines, participants recognize ethical concerns and are less likely to downplay them. We conclude by discussing the implications of these findings for research on ethical leadership.

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