Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 14, Issue 5, pp 367–385

Does ethics code design matter? Effects of ethics code rationales and sanctions on recipients' justice perceptions and content recall

  • Gary R. Weaver

DOI: 10.1007/BF00872099

Cite this article as:
Weaver, G.R. J Bus Ethics (1995) 14: 367. doi:10.1007/BF00872099


Prior research on ethics codes has suggested, but rarely tested, the effects of code design alternatives on the impact of codes. This study considers whether the presence of explanatory rationales and descriptions of sanctions in ethics codes affects recipients' responses to a code. Theories of organizational justice and persuasive communication support an expectation that rationales and sanctions will be positively related to code recipients' recall of code content and perceptions of organizational justice. Content recall is an obvious precondition of code compliance; justice perceptions have multiple implications for the attitudes and actions of organizational members. Results show that explanatory rationales are associated with a statistically significant increase in perceptions of organizational procedural justice, but that rationales and sanctions generally show no relationship to distributive justice perceptions and accurate content recall. These results suggest that common prescriptions regarding ethics code design are of uncertain value apart from further research which unearths the relationships among the intended and perceived purposes of codes, the organizational settings in which they are applied, and a wide variety of code designs.

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gary R. Weaver
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Business Administration, College of Business and EconomicsUniversity of DelawareNewarkU.S.A.