Advertisement

Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 124, Issue 1, pp 67–80 | Cite as

The Influence of Business Ethics Education on Moral Efficacy, Moral Meaningfulness, and Moral Courage: A Quasi-experimental Study

  • Douglas R. May
  • Matthew T. Luth
  • Catherine E. Schwoerer
Article

Abstract

The research described here contributes to the extant empirical research on business ethics education by examining outcomes drawn from the literature on positive organizational scholarship (POS). The general research question explored is whether a course on ethical decision-making in business could positively influence students’ confidence in their abilities to handle ethical problems at work (i.e., moral efficacy), boost the relative importance of ethics in their work lives (i.e., moral meaningfulness), and encourage them to be more courageous in raising ethical problems at work even if it is unpopular (i.e., moral courage). Specifically, the study used a rigorous quasi-experimental pretest–posttest research design with a treatment (N = 30) and control group (N = 30) to investigate whether a graduate-level course in business ethics could influence students’ levels of moral efficacy, meaningfulness, and courage. Findings revealed that participants in the business ethics treatment course experienced significant positive increases in each of the three outcome variables as compared to the control group. The largest increase was in moral efficacy, followed by moral courage, and finally, moral meaningfulness. These findings are discussed in the context of the current research on business ethics education and POS. Implications for future research are discussed.

Keywords

Business ethics education Positive organizational scholarship Moral efficacy Moral meaningfulness Moral courage 

Notes

Acknowledgments

The authors wish to thank the individuals who participated in the study.

References

  1. Aktouf, O. (1992). Management and theories of organizations in the 1990s: Toward a critical radical humanism. Academy of Management Review, 17(3), 407–431.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aquino, K., & Reed, A. (2002). The self-importance of moral identity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83(6), 1423–1440.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Arlow, P., & Ulrich, T. A. (1985). Business ethics and business school graduates: A longitudinal study. Akron Business and Economic Review, 16(Spring), 13–17.Google Scholar
  4. Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  5. Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: Freeman.Google Scholar
  6. Bandura, A. (2001). Social cognitive theory: An agentic perspective. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 1–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Baumeister, R. F., & Vohs, K. D. (2002). The pursuit of meaningfulness in life. In C. R. Snyder & S. J. Lopez (Eds.), Handbook of positive psychology (pp. 608–618). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Bergman, R. (2004). Identity as motivation: Toward a theory of the moral self. In D. K. Lapsley & D. Narvaez (Eds.), Moral development, self and identity (pp. 21–46). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  9. Blasi, A. (1999). Emotions and moral motivation. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 29(1), 1–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Blasi, A. (2004). Moral functioning: Moral understanding and personality. In D. K. Lapsley & D. Narvaez (Eds.), Moral development, self, and identity (pp. 335–347). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  11. Brady, F. N., & Wheeler, G. E. (1996). An empirical study of ethical predispositions. Journal of Business Ethics, 15(9), 927–940.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cameron, K. S., Dutton, J. E., & Quinn, R. E. (Eds.). (2003). Positive organizational scholarship: Foundations of a new discipline. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.Google Scholar
  13. Cameron, K. S., & Spreitzer, G. M. (2012). Introduction: What is positive about positive organizational scholarship. In K. S. Cameron & G. M. Spreitzer (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of positive organizational scholarship (pp. 1–14). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Carlson, P. J., & Burke, F. (1998). Lessons learned from ethics in the classroom: Exploring student growth in flexibility, complexity, and comprehension. Journal of Business Ethics, 17(11), 1179–1187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Carroll, A. B. (2005, Jan/Feb). An ethical education. BizEd, 36–40.Google Scholar
  16. Chen, G., Gully, S. M., Whiteman, J. A., & Kilcullen, R. N. (2000). Examination of relationships among trait-like individual differences, state-like individual differences, and learning performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 85(6), 835–847.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Christensen, L. J., Peirce, E., Hartman, L. P., Hoffman, W. M., & Carrier, J. (2007). Ethics, CSR, and sustainability education in the Financial Times top 50 global business schools. Journal of Business Ethics, 73(4), 347–368.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences (2nd ed.). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  19. Collins, D. (2008). Creating environmental change through business and society courses. In D. L. Swanson & D. G. Fisher (Eds.), Advancing business ethics education: A ethics in practice book series (pp. 243–264). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.Google Scholar
  20. Comer, D. R., & Vega, G. (Eds.). (2011). Moral courage in organizations: Doing the right thing at work. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe.Google Scholar
  21. Desplaces, D. E., Melchar, D. E., Beauvais, L. L., & Bosco, S. M. (2007). The impact of business education on moral judgment competence: An empirical study. Journal of Business Ethics, 74(1), 73–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Earley, C. E., & Kelly, P. T. (2004). A note on ethics educational interventions in an undergraduate auditing course: Is there an “Enron effect”? Issues in Accounting Education, 19(1), 53–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Eden, D., & Aviram, A. (1993). Self-efficacy training to speed reemployment: Helping people to help themselves. Journal of Applied Psychology, 78(3), 352–360.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Evans, F. J., & Marcal, L. E. (2005). Educating for ethics: Business Deans’ perspectives. Business and Society Review, 110(3), 233–248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Evans, J. M., Trevino, L. K., & Weaver, G. R. (2006). Who’s in the ethics driver’s seat? Factors influencing ethics in the MBA curriculum. Academy of Management Learning and Education, 5(3), 278–293.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Evans, F. J., & Weiss, E. J. (2008). Views on the importance of ethics in business education: Survey results from AACSB Deans, CEOs, and Faculty. In D. L. Swanson & D. G. Fisher (Eds.), Advancing business ethics education: A ethics in practice book series (pp. 43–66). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.Google Scholar
  27. Felton, E. L., & Sims, R. R. (2005). Teaching business ethics: Targeted outputs. Journal of Business Ethics, 60(4), 377–391.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Finfgeld, D. L. (1998). Courage in middle-aged adults with long-term health concerns. Canadian Journal of Nursing Research, 30(1), 153–169.Google Scholar
  29. Frankl, V. (1992). Man’s search for meaning: An introduction to Logotherapy. Boston: Beacon.Google Scholar
  30. Gautschi, F. H., & Jones, T. M. (1998). Enhancing the ability of business students to recognize ethical issues: An empirical assessment of the effectiveness of a course in business ethics. Journal of Business Ethics, 17(2), 205–216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Gibbs, J. C., Clark, P. M., Joseph, J. A., Green, J. L., Goodrick, T. S., & Makowski, D. G. (1986). Relations between moral judgment, moral courage, and field independence. Child Development, 57(1), 185–193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Gist, M. E., & Mitchell, T. R. (1992). Self-efficacy: A theoretical analysis of its determinants and malleability. Academy of Management Review, 17(2), 183–211.Google Scholar
  33. Glenn, J. R. (1992). Can a business and society course affect the ethical judgment of future managers? Journal of Business Ethics, 11(3), 217–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Grant, A. (2008). The significance of task significance: Job performance effects, relational mechanisms, and boundary conditions. Journal of Applied Psychology, 93(1), 108–124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Handelsman, M. M., Knapp, S., & Gottlieb, M. S. (2002). Positive ethics. In C. R. Snyder & S. J. Lopez (Eds.), Handbook of positive psychology (pp. 731–744). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Hannah, S. T., Avolio, B. J., & May, D. R. (2011a). Moral maturation and moral conation: A capacity approach to explaining moral thought and action. Academy of Management Review, 36(4), 663–685.Google Scholar
  37. Hannah, S. T., Avolio, B. J., & Walumbwa, F. O. (2011b). Relationships between authentic leadership, moral courage, ethical and pro-social behaviors. Business Ethics Quarterly, 21(4), 555–578.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Harris, H. (2008). Promoting ethical reflection in the teaching of business ethics. Business Ethics: A European Review, 17(4), 379–390.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Hinkin, T. R. (1998). A brief tutorial on the development of measures for use in survey questionnaires. Organizational Research Methods, 1(1), 104–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Hoyle, R. H., Harris, M. J., & Judd, C. M. (2002). Research methods in social relations. Pacific Grove, CA: Wadsworth Publishing.Google Scholar
  41. Jones, D. A. (2008). A novel approach to business ethics training: Improving moral reasoning in just a few weeks. Journal of Business Ethics, 88(2), 367–379.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Judge, T. A., & Bono, J. E. (2001). Relationship of core self-evaluations traits—Self-esteem, generalized self-efficacy, locus of control, and emotional stability—With job satisfaction and job performance: A meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology, 86(1), 80–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Kidder, R. M. (2005). Moral courage. New York: HarperCollins.Google Scholar
  44. Kidwell, J. M., Stevens, R. E., & Bethke, A. L. (1987). Differences in ethical perceptions between male and female managers: Myth or reality. Journal of Business Ethics, 6(6), 489–493.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Lapsley, D. K., & Narvaez, D. (2004). A social cognitive approach to the moral personality. In D. K. Lapsley & D. Narvaez (Eds.), Moral development, self and identity (pp. 189–212). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  46. Lau, C. L. L. (2010). A step forward: Ethics education matters! Journal of Business Ethics, 92(4), 565–584.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Lopez, S. J., O’Byrne, K. K., & Peterson, S. (2003). Profiling courage. In S. J. Lopez & C. R. Snyder (Eds.), Positive psychological assessment: A handbook of models and measures (pp. 185–197). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  48. Luthar, H. K., & Karri, R. (2005). Exposure to ethics education and the perception of linkage between organizational ethical behavior and business outcomes. Journal of Business Ethics, 61(4), 353–368.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. MacFarlane, B. (2001). Developing reflective students: Evaluating the benefits of learning logs within a business ethics programme. Teaching Business Ethics, 5(4), 375–387.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Maddux, J. E. (2002). Self-efficacy: The power of believing you can. In C. R. Snyder & S. J. Lopez (Eds.), Handbook of positive psychology (pp. 277–287). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  51. May, D. R., Chan, A. Y. L., Hodges, T. D., & Avolio, B. J. (2003). Developing the moral component of authentic leadership. Organizational Dynamics, 32(3), 247–260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. May, D. R., Gilson, R. L., & Harter, L. (2004). The psychological conditions of meaningfulness, safety, and availability and the engagement of the human spirit at work. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 77(1), 11–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. May, D. R., & Luth, M. T. (2013). The effectiveness of ethics education: A quasi-experimental field study. Science and Engineering Ethics, 19, 545–568.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. McCabe, D. L., Butterfield, K. D., & Treviño, L. K. (2006). Academic dishonesty in graduate business programs: Prevalence, causes, and proposed action. Academy of Management Learning and Education, 5(3), 294–305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Nelson, J. K., Poms, L. W., & Wolf, P. P. (2012). Developing efficacy beliefs for ethics and diversity management. Academy of Management Learning and Education, 11(1), 49–68.Google Scholar
  56. O’Fallon, M. J., & Butterfield, K. D. (2005). A review of the empirical ethical decision-making literature: 1996–2003. Journal of Business Ethics, 59(4), 375–413.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Parker, S. K. (1998). Enhancing role breadth self-efficacy: The roles of job enrichment and other organizational interventions. Journal of Applied Psychology, 83(6), 835–852.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Paulhus, D. L. (1991). Measurement and control of response bias. In J. P. Robinson, P. R. Shaver, & L. S. Wrightsman (Eds.), Measures of personality and social psychological attitudes (pp. 17–59). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Penn, W. Y., & Collier, B. D. (1985). Current research in moral development as a decision support system. Journal of Business Ethics, 4(2), 131–138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Pratt, M. G., & Ashforth, B. (2003). Fostering meaningfulness in working and at work. In K. S. Cameron, J. E. Dutton, & R. E. Quinn (Eds.), Positive organizational scholarship: Foundations of a new discipline (pp. 309–327). San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.Google Scholar
  61. Putman, D. (1997). Psychological courage. Philosophy, Psychiatry and Psychology, 4(1), 1–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Rasche, A., Gilbert, D. U., & Schedel, I. (2013). Cross-disciplinary ethics education in MBA programs: Rhetoric or reality. Academy of Management Learning Education, 12(1), 71–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Renn, R. W., & Vandenberg, R. J. (1995). The critical psychological states: An under-represented component in job characteristics model research. Journal of Management, 21(2), 279–304.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Rest, J., Narvaez, D., Thoma, S., & Bebeau, M. (1999). DIT-2: Devising and testing a revised instrument of moral judgment. Journal of Educational Psychology, 91(4), 644–659.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Schulman, M. (2002). How we become moral: Sources of moral motivation. In C. R. Snyder & S. J. Lopez (Eds.), Handbook of positive psychology (pp. 499–512). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  66. Schwoerer, C. E., May, D. R., Hollensbe, E. C., & Mencl, J. (2005). General and specific self-efficacy in the context of a training intervention to enhance performance expectancy. Human Resource Development Quarterly, 16(1), 111–129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Sekerka, L. E., Bagozzi, R. P., & Charnigo, R. (2009). Conceptualizing and measuring professional moral courage. Journal of Business Ethics, 89(4), 565–579.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Sekerka, L. E., Godwin, L. N., & Charnigo, R. (2012). Use of balanced experiential inquiry to build ethical strength in the workplace. Journal of Management Development, 31(3), 275–286.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Shadish, W. R., Cook, T. D., & Campbell, D. T. (2001). Experimental and quasi-experimental designs for generalized causal inferences. Berkeley, CA: Houghton Mifflin.Google Scholar
  70. Shao, R., Aquino, K., & Freeman, D. (2008). Beyond moral reasoning: A review of moral identity research and its implications for business ethics. Business Ethics Quarterly, 18(4), 513–540.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Snyder, C. R., & Lopez, S. J. (2002). Handbook of positive psychology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  72. Stajkovic, A. D., & Luthans, F. (1998). Self-efficacy and work related performance: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 124(2), 240–261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Stansbury, J. S., & Sonensheim, S. (2012). Positive business ethics: Grounding and elaborating a theory of good works. In K. S. Cameron & G. M. Spreitzer (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of positive organizational scholarship (pp. 340–352). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  74. Swanson, D. L., & Fisher, D. G. (Eds.). (2008). Advancing business ethics education: A volume in ethics in practice book series. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.Google Scholar
  75. Tabachnick, B. G., & Fidell, L. S. (2007). Using multivariate statistics (5th ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.Google Scholar
  76. Tenbrunsel, A. E., & Smith-Crowe, K. (2008). Ethical decision making: Where we’ve been and where we’re going. The Academy of Management Annals, 2, 545–607.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Thiel, C. E., Connelly, S., Harkrider, L., Devenport, L. D., Bagadasarov, Z., Johnson, J. F., et al. (2013). Case-based knowledge and ethics education: Improving learning and transfer through emotionally rich cases. Science and Engineering Ethics, 19(1), 265–286.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Tolli, A. P., & Schmidt, A. M. (2008). The role of feedback, causal attributions, and self-efficacy in goal revision. Journal of Applied Psychology, 93(3), 692–701.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Treviño, L. K., Weaver, G. R., & Reynolds, S. J. (2006). Behavioral ethics in organizations: A review. Journal of Management, 32(6), 951–990.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Waples, E. P., Antes, A. L., Murphy, S. T., Connelly, S., & Mumford, M. D. (2009). A meta-analytic investigation of business ethics instruction. Journal of Business Ethics, 87(1), 133–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Weber, J. (1990). Measuring the impact of teaching ethics to future managers. Journal of Business Ethics, 9(3), 183–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Weber, J., Gerde, V., & Wasieleski, D. M. (2008). A blueprint for designing an ethics program in an academic setting. In D. L. Swanson & D. G. Fisher (Eds.), Advancing business ethics education: A ethics in practice book series (pp. 85–101). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.Google Scholar
  83. Weber, J., & Glyptis, S. M. (2000). Measuring the impact of a business ethics course and community service experience on students’ values and opinions. Teaching Business Ethics, 4(4), 341–358.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Williams, S. D., & Dewett, T. (2005). Yes, you can teach business ethics: A review and research agenda. Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies, 12(2), 109–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Wood, D. J., & Logsdon, J. M. (2008). Educating managers for global business citizenship. In D. L. Swanson & D. G. Fisher (Eds.), Advancing business ethics education: A ethics in practice book series (pp. 265–284). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.Google Scholar
  86. Worline, M. C. (2012). Courage in organizations: An integrative review of the “difficult virtue”. In K. S. Cameron & G. M. Spreitzer (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of positive organizational scholarship (pp. 304–315). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  87. Wrzesniewski, A., & Dutton, J. (2001). Crafting a job: Revisioning employees as active crafters of their work. Academy of Management Review, 26(2), 179–201.Google Scholar
  88. Wrzesniewski, A., McCauley, C., Rozin, P., & Schwartz, B. (1997). Jobs, careers, and callings: People’s relations to their work. Journal of Research in Personality, 31, 21–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Yeo, G. B., & Neal, A. (2006). An examination of the dynamic relationship between self-efficacy and performance across levels of analysis and levels of specificity. Journal of Applied Psychology, 91(5), 1088–1101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Douglas R. May
    • 1
  • Matthew T. Luth
    • 2
  • Catherine E. Schwoerer
    • 3
  1. 1.International Center for Ethics in BusinessThe University of KansasLawrenceUSA
  2. 2.School of BusinessPacific Lutheran UniversityTacomaUSA
  3. 3.School of BusinessThe University of KansasLawrenceUSA

Personalised recommendations