Linda K. Treviño

in Management

ISBN: 9780199846740
Published online January 2013 | | DOI:


Behavioral ethics in organizations refers to the social scientific study of ethical and unethical decision making and behavior in organizational settings. The field is also sometimes referred to as organizational ethics to highlight the focus on behavior in organizational context. The emphasis on social scientific study differentiates behavioral ethics in organizations from the long-standing philosophical study of ethics more broadly or as it is applied to the business context. The latter focuses on normative questions about what is the “right” thing to do when facing a situation with moral overtones. While acknowledging overlap with these normative questions, behavioral ethics in organizations is concerned with understanding and predicting what people actually think and do in morally charged situations in organizations (rather than prescribing what they should do). Within behavioral ethics in organizations, the types of behavior studied include unethical behavior (defined as behavior that is contrary to accepted moral norms in society, e.g., cheating, lying, stealing), extraordinary ethical behavior that goes above and beyond moral minimums (e.g., charitable giving, whistle-blowing), and more routine ethical behavior that meets minimum moral standards and is not unethical (e.g., honesty). Given some of the challenges inherent in studying unethical behavior, much research has focused on intentions only. But as the field has developed attention has focused more on the study of behavior.

Article.  6500 words. 

Subjects: Business and Management

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