Kinship, culture and ethics in organisations: Exploring implications for internal communication

Elspeth N. Tilley, Susan M. Fredricks, Andrea Hornett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Purpose: This article aims to report the results of an international survey (USA and New Zealand) that tested relationship effects on ethical behaviour. The findings point to the impact of perceived social bonds on ethical decision-making. They also reinforce the cultural specificity of ethics. Both these findings confirm the importance of participatory, ground-up, discussion-based approaches to developing organisational ethical standards. The article discusses some implications of these findings for internal communicators involved with ethics programmes in organisations. Design/methodology/approach: The research used an established scenario-style survey to test respondents' ethical decision-making behaviours under different circumstances. Findings: This article discusses two results that will impact on internal communication approaches to stimulating ethical attitudes and behaviours: the positive influence on people making ethics-related decisions of a perceived relationship with those affected by the decision, and cultural differences. Research limitations/implications: The research is limited by the functionalist, hypothetical, descriptive survey design which identifies responses but not motivations, and findings are limited to the specific scenarios described. The results show the importance of future research to elaborate connections between perceived relationships, ethics, and culture. Practical implications: The paper offers practitioners a research method, which they can use to stimulate personal and group reflection among staff about ethical decision-making and the different factors that can influence ethical choices. In confirming a connection between perceived relationships and choosing more ethical behaviour towards others, the findings may also reinforce the importance of internal relationship building as an important aspect of organisational investment in ethics-related outcomes such as fraud reduction and reputation management. Originality/value: The research provides evidence for some connections that have not previously been explored in the organisational context, between perceived relationships and ethical outcomes. It also confirms the cultural diversity of ethics, but shows that enhancing perceived relationships may help bridge cultural differences on ethical norms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)162-184
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Communication Management
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication
  • Strategy and Management


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