Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 127, Issue 3, pp 661–671 | Cite as

Peoples’ Views About the Acceptability of Executive Bonuses and Compensation Policies

  • Marco Heimann
  • Étienne Mullet
  • Jean-François Bonnefon


We applied a technique borrowed from the field of bioethics to test whether justice-related factors influence laypersons’ decisions concerning business ethics. In the first experiment, participants judged the acceptability of remuneration policies and in the second that of executive bonuses. In each study, participants judged a set of 36 situations. To create the scenarios, we varied (a) retributive justice—the amount of remuneration; (b) procedural justice—the clarity of the procedure that determined the remuneration; (c) distributive justice—the extent of the distribution of bonus payments amongst employees; and (d) restorative justice—a special compensation for hazardous working conditions or accidents at work. K-means clustering of all 36 judgments revealed four different personal positions in both experiments. One group of people readily accepted all situations. The other three groups’ judgments were mainly a function of distributive justice modulated in different ways by the context determined by the other variables. Furthermore, people conceive of distributive justice as categorical: Acceptability judgments only increase if companies give bonuses to all employees. Granting bonuses to a subset (i.e. mangers or executives) does not increase acceptability. Our results are useful for policy makers and provide business ethics researchers with a novel technique.


Corporate social responsibility Remuneration policy Information integration Executive compensation Justice theory 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marco Heimann
    • 1
  • Étienne Mullet
    • 2
  • Jean-François Bonnefon
    • 3
  1. 1.University of ToulouseToulouseFrance
  2. 2.École Pratique des Hautees ÉtudesParisFrance
  3. 3.University of Toulouse and CNRSToulouseFrance

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