The who, when, and where of unethical choices: A meta-analysis

Jennifer Kish Gephart, David A. Harrison, Linda Klebe Trevino

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Substantive concern and academic research about business ethics has reached a crescendo. Yet, researchers still do not have an authoritative, cumulative understanding of what causes (un)ethical decisions and behavior in organizational settings. In this meta-analysis, we draw from multiple literatures and resources to answer questions about the who, when, and where of unethical choices. Our findings show that individuals higher in cognitive moral development, lower in Machiavellianism, with a more internal locus of control, a less relativistic moral philosophy, and higher job satisfaction are less likely to plan and enact such choices. When issues involve high moral intensity such choices are also suppressed. Where organizations have benevolent climates, strong ethical cultures, and (enforced) codes of conduct, fewer unethical choices occur. Intriguingly, most of these influences are stronger for behavior than intention, suggesting a non-conscious or intuitive path for (un)ethical decisions that has seen much less investigation in the behavioral ethics literature. These results and ideas should serve as a databased foundation for the behavioral ethics field as well as a guide to organizations who want to do well by doing good.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StatePublished - Dec 1 2007
Event67th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management, AOM 2007 - Philadelphia, PA, United States
Duration: Aug 3 2007Aug 8 2007


Other67th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management, AOM 2007
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityPhiladelphia, PA

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Management Information Systems
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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