Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 117, Issue 1, pp 93–109

Generation Y’s Ethical Ideology and Its Potential Workplace Implications

  • Rebecca A. VanMeter
  • Douglas B. Grisaffe
  • Lawrence B. Chonko
  • James A. Roberts
Article

Abstract

Generation Y is a cohort of the population larger than the baby boom generation. Consisting of approximately 80 million people born between 1981 and 2000, Generation Y is the most recent cohort to enter the workforce. Workplaces are being redefined and organizations are being pressed to adapt as this new wave of workers is infused into business environments. One critical aspect of this phenomenon not receiving sufficient research attention is the impact of Gen Y ethical beliefs and ethical conduct in workplace contexts. It is widely accepted that distinct generational experiences shape ethical ideologies and ethical ideologies in turn affect the way people function in the workplace. Thus, Gen Y’s unique cohort experiences are likely to shape their ethical ideologies and consequent workplace judgments and actions. In this article, we examine Gen Y’s ethical ideology and study its impact on workplace functioning regarding leadership style, teamwork, and judgments about ethical violations. Our analyses indicate that Gen Y’ers tend toward situationalism (high idealism and high relativism), and their socially connected orientation produces more lenient judgments of collaborative vs. unilateral ethical violations. However, Gen Y’ers do exhibit individual variation. Relativist Gen Y’ers are more tolerant of ethical violations, whereas, Gen Y Idealists are less tolerant of ethical violations. High Idealists also show stronger teamwork and leadership characteristics. In addition, Gen Y’ers possessing servant leader traits exhibit incrementally better teamwork, and greater perceived unacceptability of ethical violations. We conclude by discussing implications of these findings for managing ethical climates and conduct.

Keywords

Generation Y Ethical ideology Workplace implications Teamwork Servant leadership Ethical violations 

References

  1. Arce, D., & Gun, L. B. (2005). Working well with others: The evolution of teamwork and ethics. Public Choice, 123(1–2), 115–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Barnett, T., Bass, K., & Brown, G. (1994). Ethical ideology and ethical judgment regarding ethical issues in business. Journal of Business Ethics, 13(6), 469–480.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bernardi, R., Metzger, R., Bruno, R., Hoogkamp, M., Reyes, L., & Barnaby, G. (2004). Examining the decision process of students’ cheating behavior: An empirical study. Journal of Business Ethics, 50, 397–414.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bowes-Sperry, L., & Powell, G. N. (1999). Observers’ reaction to social-sexual behavior at work: An ethical decision making perspective. Journal of Management, 25, 779–802.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brown, B. (1995). The academic ethics of graduate business students: A survey. Journal of Education for Business, 70(3), 151–156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brown, B. S., & Choong, P. (2003). Identifying the salient dimensions of student cheating and their key determinants in a private university. Journal of Business and Economics Research, 1(3), 75–83.Google Scholar
  7. Curtin, P. A., Gallicano, T., & Matthews, K. (2011). Millennials’ approaches to ethical decision making: A survey of young public relations agency employees. Public Relations Journal, 5(2), 1–22.Google Scholar
  8. Dennis, R., & Winston, B. E. (2003). A factor analysis of Page and Wong’s servant leadership instrument. Leadership and Organizational Development Journal, 24(8), 455–459.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dubinsky, A. J., Nataraajan, R., & Huang, W. (2005). Consumers’ moral philosophies: Identifying the idealist and the relativist. Journal of Business Research, 58(12), 1690–1701.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Ehrhart, M. G. (2004). Leadership and procedural justice climate as antecedents of unit-level organizational citizenship behavior. Personnel Psychology, 57(1), 61–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Erffmeyer, R. C., Keillor, B. D., & LeClair, D. T. (1999). An empirical investigation of japanese consumer ethics. Journal of Business Ethics, 18(1), 35–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Ethics Resource Center. (2009). Millennials, Gen X and Baby Boomers: Who’s working at your company and what do they think about ethics? http://ethics.org/files/u5/Gen-Diff.pdf. Retrieved 22 January 2011.
  13. Forbes. (2011). Move over baby boomers! The millennial generation has occupied wall street. http://www.forbes.com/sites/daveserchuk/2011/10/13/the-millennial-generation-has-occupied-wall-street/. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
  14. Forsyth, D. R. (1980). A raxonomy ethics ideologies. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 39, 175–184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Forsyth, D. R. (1992). Judging the morality of business practices: The influence of personal moral philosophies. Journal of Business Ethics, 11, 461–470.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Forsyth, D. R., Nye, J. L., & Kelley, K. (1988). Idealism, relativism, and the ethic of caring. Journal of Psychology, 122(3), 243–248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Freestone, O., & Mitchell, V. W. (2004). Generation Y attitudes towards E-ethics and internet-related misbehaviours. Journal of Business Ethics, 54, 121–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gorman, P., Nelson, T., & Glassman, A. (2004). The millenial generation: A strategic opportunity. Organization Analysis, 12(3), 255–270.Google Scholar
  19. Greenleaf, R. K. (1977). Servant leadership: A journey into the nature of legitimate power and greatness. New York: Paulist Press.Google Scholar
  20. Hair, J. F., Jr, Black, W. C., Babin, B. J., & Anderson, R. E. (2010). Multivariate data analysis. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  21. Henle, C. A., Giacalone, R. A., & Jurkiewicz, C. L. (2005). The role of ethical ideology in workplace deviance. Journal of Business Ethics, 56, 219–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Howe, N., & Strauss, W. (1991). Generations: The history of America’s future, 1584 to 2069. New York: William Morrow & Company.Google Scholar
  23. Howe, N., & Strauss, W. (2000). Millenials rising: The next great generation. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  24. Howe, N., & Strauss, W. (2003). Millennials go to college. Washington, DC: American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers.Google Scholar
  25. Jaramillo, F., Grisaffe, D. B., Chonko, L. B., & Roberts, J. A. (2009). Examining the impact of servant leadership on salesperson’s turnover intention. Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, 29(4), 351–365.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kim, Y., & Choi, Y. (2003). Ethical standards appear to change with age and ideology: A survey of practitioners. Public Relations Review, 29(1), 79–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Liden, R. C., Wayne, S. J., Zhoa, H., & Henderson, D. (2008). Servant leadership: Development of a multidimensional measure and multi-level assessment. Leadership Quarterly, 19, 161–177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Luthy, M. R., Padgett, B. L., & Toner, J. F. (2009). In the beginning: Ethical perspectives of business and non-business college freshman. Journal of Legal, Ethical and Regulatory Issues, 12(2), 85–101.Google Scholar
  29. Morgan, C. N., & Ribbens, B. A. (2006). Generational differences in the workplace. Proceedings of the Midwest Academy of Management USA, 49. http://www.midwestacademy.org/Proceedings/2006/papers/paper14.pdf. Retrieved 19 September 2011.
  30. Oliver, R. L., & Anderson, E. (1994). An empirical test of the consequences of behavior- and outcome-based sales control systems. The Journal of Marketing, 53(4), 53–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Page, D., & Wong, T. P. (2000). A conceptual framework for measuring servant leadership. In S. Abjibolosoo (Ed.), The human factor in shaping the course of history and development. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.Google Scholar
  32. Parolini, J. L. (2004). Effective servant leadership: A model incorporating servant leadership and the competing values framework. In Servant leadership research roundtable. Regent University. August.Google Scholar
  33. Patterson, K. A. (2003). Servant leadership: A theoretical model. Dissertation. Abstracts International (UMI No. AAT 3082719).Google Scholar
  34. Payan, J., Reardon, J., & McCorkle, D. E. (2010). The effect of culture on the academic honesty of marketing and business students. Journal of Marketing Education, 32(3), 275–291.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Ramsey, R. P., Marshall, G. W., Joshnston, M. W., & Deeter-Schmelz, D. R. (2007). Ethical ideologies and older consumer perceptions of unethical sales tactics. Journal of Business Ethics, 70(2), 191–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Rawwas, M. Y. A., & Singhapakdi, A. (1998). Do consumers’ ethical beliefs vary with age? A substantiation of Kohlberg’s typology in marketing. Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice, 6(2), 26–38.Google Scholar
  37. Reed, L. L., Vidaver-Cohen, D., & Colwell, S. R. (2011). A new scale to measure executive servant leadership: Development, analysis and implications for research. Journal of Business Ethics, 101(3), 415–434.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Rodgers, W., & Gago, S. (2001). Cultural and ethical effects on managerial decisions: Examined in a throughput model. Journal of Business Ethics, 31, 355–367.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Russell, R. F., & Stone, A. G. (2002). A review of servant leadership attributes: Developing a practical model. Leadership and Organization Development Journal, 33, 145–157.Google Scholar
  40. Schlenker, B. R., & Forsyth, D. R. (1977). On the ethics of psychological research. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 13, 369–396.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Schmelkin, L. P., Gilbert, K., Spencer, K. J., & Pincus, H. S. (2008). A multidimensional scaling of college students’ perceptions of academic dishonesty. The Journal of Higher Education, 79(5), 587–607.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Sendjaya, S. (2003). Development and validation of servant leadership behavior scale. In Servant leadership roundtable. October.Google Scholar
  43. Singhapakdi, A., Kraft, K. L., Vitell, S. J., & Rallapalli, K. C. (1995). The perceived importance of ethics and social responsibility on organizational effectiveness: A survey of marketers. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 23(1), 49–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Sivadas, E., Kleiser, S. B., Kellaris, J., & Dahlstrom, R. (2003). Moral philosophy, ethical evaluations and sales manager hiring intentions. Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, 23(1), 7–21.Google Scholar
  45. Smith, B. (2011). Who shall lead us? How cultural values and ethical ideologies guide young marketers’ evaluations of the transformational manager-leader. Journal of Business Ethics, 100, 633–645.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Smith, K. J., Davy, J. A., Rosenberg, D. L., & Haight, G. T. (2002). A structural modeling investigation of the influence of demographic and attitudinal factors and in-class deterrents on cheating behavior among accounting majors. Journal of Accounting Education, 20, 45–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Smyth, M. L., & Davis, J. R. (2004). Perceptions of dishonesty among two-year college students: Academic versus business situations. Journal of Business Ethics, 51, 63–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Strutton, D., Pelton, L. E., & Ferrell, O. C. (1997). Ethical behavior in retail settings: Is there a generation gap? Journal of Business Ethics, 16(1), 87–105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Swaidan, Z., Rawwas, M. Y. A., & Al-Khatib, J. A. (2004). Consumer ethics: Moral ideologies and ethical beliefs of a micro-culture in the US. International Business Review, 13(6), 749–761.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Tansey, R., Brown, G., Hyman, M. R., & Dawson, L. E, Jr. (1994). Personal moral philosophies and the moral judgments of salespeople. Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, 14(1), 59–75.Google Scholar
  51. Tolbize, A. (2008).Generational differences in the workplace. Minneapolis, MN: Research and Training Center on Community Living, University of Minnesota. http://rtc.umn.edu/docs/2_18_Gen_diff_workplace.pdf. Retrieved 29 September 2011.
  52. Tulgan, B. (2004). Trends point to dramatic generational shift in the future workforce. Employment Relations Today, 30(4), 23–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Twenge, J. M., & Foster, J. D. (2008). Mapping the scale of the narcissism epidemic: Increases in narcissism 2002–2007 within ethnic groups. Journal of Research in Personality, 42, 1619–1622.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Twenge, J. M., & Foster, J. D. (2010). Birth cohort increases in narcissistic personality traits among American college students, 1982–2009. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 1(1), 99–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Tyler, K. (2007). The tethered generation. Society for Human Resource Management Magazine, 52(5), 1–6.Google Scholar
  56. van Dierendonck, D. (2011). Servant leadership: A review and synthesis. Journal of Management, 37(4), 1228–1261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Vitell, S. J., Lumpkin, J. R., & Rawwas, M. Y. A. (1991). Consumer ethics: An investigation of the ethical beliefs of elderly consumers. Journal of Business Ethics, 10(5), 365–375.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Vitell, S. J., Rallapalli, K. C., & Singhapakdi, A. (1993). Marketing norms: The influence of personal moral philosophies and organizational ethical culture. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 21(4), 331–337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Williams, S., Beard, J., & Tanner, M. (2011). Coping with millennials on campus. BizEd, 10(4), 42–49.Google Scholar
  60. Wong, P. T. P., & Page, D. (2003). An opponent process model and the revised servant leadership profile. In Servant leadership research roundtable. Regent University, School of Leadership Studies. August.Google Scholar
  61. World of Work Survey. (2008). The Randstad USA world of work. http://us.randstad.com/content/aboutrandstad/knowledge-center/employer-resources/World-of-Work-2008.pdf. Retrieved 2 October 2010.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rebecca A. VanMeter
    • 1
  • Douglas B. Grisaffe
    • 2
  • Lawrence B. Chonko
    • 3
  • James A. Roberts
    • 4
  1. 1.College of Business 223University of Texas at ArlingtonArlingtonUSA
  2. 2.College of Business 218University of Texas at ArlingtonArlingtonUSA
  3. 3.College of Business 232University of Texas at ArlingtonArlingtonUSA
  4. 4.Hankamer School of BusinessBaylor UniversityWacoUSA

Personalised recommendations