Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 92, Issue 2, pp 269–276 | Cite as

The Association Between Ethical Conflict and Adverse Outcomes

  • Linda Thorne


In this study, we consider the association between ethical conflict and adverse outcomes, including employee stress, (lack of) organizational commitment, absenteeism, and turnover intention. Our findings show that ethical conflict is associated with adverse outcomes. Our results identify the importance of ethical conflict for organizations and the benefit for organizations to address and mitigate ethical conflict. In addition, our research contributes to the person–organization and turnover literature by extending the person-fit framework to the ethical domain and by suggesting that ethical conflict can be useful in predicting turnover. The findings of our study reinforce the need to minimize ethical conflict in the workplace due to the organizational costs associated with ethical conflict.


ethical conflict turnover stress absentism organizational conflict 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.



This study was funded by Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. A special thank to Joanne Smith-Young for her research assistance, and to the nurses who participated in this study.


  1. Ambrose, M., Amaud, A., & Schminke, M. (2008). Individual moral development and ethical climate: The influence of person-organization fit on job attitudes. Journal of Business Ethics, 77, 323–333. doi: 10.1007/s10551-007-9352-1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Cummings, T., & Cooper, C. (1979). Cybernetic framework for studying occupational stress. Human Relations, 32, 395–418. doi: 10.1177/001872677903200504.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. D’Sylva, A., & Beagan, B. 2003, ‹Ethical tensions in the caring professions: A summary report of interviews with Registered Nurses in Nova Scotia’, Halifax: School of Occupational Therapy, Dalhousie University.Google Scholar
  4. Edwards, J. (1992). A cybernetic theory of stress, coping, and well being in organizations. Academy of Management Review, 17, 238–274. doi: 10.2307/258772.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Edwards, J. (1996). An examination of competing versions of the person-environment fit approach to stress. Academy of Management Journal, 39, 292–339. doi: 10.2307/256782.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. French, J., Caplan, R., & Harrison, R. 1982, The Mechanisms of Job Stress and Strain (New York: Wiley).Google Scholar
  7. Fritzsche, D. (2000). Ethical climates and the ethical dimension of decision-making. Journal of Business Ethics, 24, 125–140. doi: 10.1023/A:1006262914562.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Gaudine, A., & Thorne, L. (2000). ‹Ethical conflict in professionals: Nurses’ accounts of ethical conflict with organizations’. Research in Ethical Issues in Organizations, 2, 41–58. doi: 10.1016/S1529-2096(00)02019-8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Griffeth, R., Hom, P., & Gaertner, S. (2000). ‹A meta-analysis of antecedents and correlates of employee turnover: Update, moderator tests, and research implications for the next millennium. Journal of Management, 26(3), 463–488. doi: 10.1177/014920630002600305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hom, P., Caranikas-Walker, F., Prussia, G., & Griffeth, R. (1992). A meta-analytical structural equations analysis of a model of employee turnover. The Journal of Applied Psychology, 77, 890–909. doi: 10.1037/0021-9010.77.6.890.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Martin, K., & Cullen, J. (2006). Continuities and extensions of ethical climate theory: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Business Ethics, 69, 175–194. doi: 10.1007/s10551-006-9084-7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Meyer, J., & Allen, N. 1997, Commitment in the Workplace: Theory, Research and Application (Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications).Google Scholar
  13. Mobley, W. (1977). Intermediate linkages in the relationship between job satisfaction and employee turnover. The Journal of Applied Psychology, 62, 237–240. doi: 10.1037/0021-9010.62.2.237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Mowday, R., Porter, L., & Steers, R. 1982, Employee Organization Linkages (San Diego, CA: Academic Press).Google Scholar
  15. Patchen, M. 1970, Participation, Achievement and Involvement on the Job (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall).Google Scholar
  16. Rodney, P., & Starzomski, R. (1993). Constraints on the moral agency of nurses. The Canadian Nurse, 89(9), 23–26.Google Scholar
  17. Rokeach, M. 1968, Beliefs, Attitudes and Values (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass).Google Scholar
  18. Rokeach, M. 1973, The Nature of Human Values (New York: Free Press).Google Scholar
  19. Saks, A., & Ashforth, B. (1997). A Longitudinal investigation of the relationships between job information sources, applicant perceptions of fit, and work outcomes. Personnel Psychology, 50, 395–426. doi: 10.1111/j.1744-6570.1997.tb00913.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Schuler, R. (1980). Definition and conceptualisation of stress in organizations. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 25, 184–215. doi: 10.1016/0030-5073(80)90063-X.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Seashore, S., Lawler, E., Mirvis, P., & Cammann, C. (Eds.). 1982, ‹Observing and Measuring Organizational Change: A Guide to Field Practice’ (New York: Wiley).Google Scholar
  22. Steers, R., & Mowday, R. 1981 ‹Employee turnover and post-decision justification’. in: L.L. Cummings & B.M. Staw (eds.) Research in Organizational Behavior, 3rd edition. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press, pp. 235-282.Google Scholar
  23. Takase, M., Maude, P., & Manias, E. (2005). ‹Nurses’ job dissatisfaction and turnover intention: Methodological myths and an alternative approach’. Nursing & Health Sciences, 7, 209–217. doi: 10.1111/j.1442-2018.2005.00232.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Ulrich, C., O’Donnell, P., Taylor, C., Farrar, A., Danis, M., & Grady, C. (2007). Ethical climate, ethics stress, and the job satisfaction of nurses and social workers in the United States. Social Science & Medicine, 65, 1708–1719. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2007.05.050.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Uustal, D.B. (1978). Values clarification in nursing: Application to practice. The American Journal of Nursing, 78, 2058. doi: 10.2307/3462145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Victor, B., & Cullen, J. 1987, ‹A theory and measure of ethical climate in organizations’, in W.C. Frederick (eds.), Research in Corporate Social Performance and Policy (JAI Press, Greenwich, CT), pp. 51-71.Google Scholar
  27. Werbel, J., & Gilliland, S. (1999). Person-environment fit in the selection process. Research in Personnel and Human Resources Management, 17, 209–243.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.York UniversityTorontoCanada

Personalised recommendations