Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 115, Issue 2, pp 327–339 | Cite as

Living in the Gray: Lessons on Ethics from Prison

Article

Abstract

Often overlooked once they are remanded to custody, incarcerated former business executives can provide valuable insight into the inner workings of organizations while also contributing to the dialogue on of business ethics within the undergraduate business curricula. This paper summarizes experiences of white collar offenders obtained through a questionnaire-based research method to elicit lessons on ethics from prisoners and to provide a unique learning experience for undergraduate business students. Data was collected from 12 questionnaire responses (n = 12) which resulted in four major themes involving business ethics: core values, ethical responsibility, ethics training, and ethical culture. Narrative responses, integration of ethical decision-making research and student discoveries are included for each theme.

Keywords

Ethics Ethical decision-making Ethics training Ethical business culture White collar crime 

References

  1. Albrecht, W. S., Albrecht, C. C., Albrecht, C. O., & Zimbelman, M. F. (2009). Fraud examination (3rd ed.). Mason, OH: Cengage.Google Scholar
  2. Argyris, C. S. (1999). On organizational learning. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.Google Scholar
  3. Argyris, C. S., & Schön, D. A. (1978). Organizational learning: A theory of action perspective. Reading, PA: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
  4. Armstrong, R. W., Williams, R. J., & Barrett, J. D. (2004). The impact of banality, risky shift and escalating commitment on ethical decision-making. Journal of Business Ethics, 53, 365–370. doi:10.1023/B:BUSI.0000043491.10007.9a.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Awasthi, V. (2008). Managerial decision-making on moral issues and the effects of teaching ethics. Journal of Business Ethics, 78, 207–223. doi:10.1007/s10551-006-9328-6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bartels, L. K., Harrick, E., Martell, K., & Strickland, D. (1998). The relationship between ethical climate and ethical problems within human resource management. Journal of Business Ethics, 17(7), 799–804. doi:10.1007/s10551-006-9332-x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bierly, P., Kolodinsky, R., & Charette, B. (2009). Understanding the complex relationship between creativity and ethical ideologies. Journal of Business Ethics, 86, 101–112. doi:10.1007/s10551-008-9837-6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Browning, J. M., & Zabriskie, N. B. (1983). How ethical are industrial buyers? Industrial Marketing Management, 12, 219–224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Buchan, H. F. (2005). Ethical decision-making in the public accounting profession: An extension of Ajzen’s theory of planned behavior. Journal of Business Ethics, 61, 165–181. doi:10.1007/s10551-005-0277-2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cagle, J. A., & Baucus, M. S. (2006). Case studies of ethics scandals: Effects on ethical perceptions of finance students. Journal of Business Ethics, 64, 213–229. doi:10.1007/s10551-005-8503-5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Chatman, J. A., & Barsade, S. G. (1995). Personality, organizational culture, and cooperation: Evidence from a business simulation. Administrative Science Quarterly, 40(3), 423–443.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Chavez, G., Wiggins, R., & Yolas, M. (2001). The impact of membership in the ethics officer association. Journal of Business Ethics, 34, 39–56. doi:10.1023/A:1011968010131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Craft, J. L. (2010). Making the case for ongoing and interactive organizational ethics training. Human Resource Development International, 13(5), 599–606.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Curtis, M. (2006). Are audit-related ethical decisions dependent upon mood? Journal of Business Ethics, 68, 191–209. doi:10.1007/s10551-006-9066-9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Federal Bureau of Prisons. (2009). State of the Bureau 2009. U.S. Department of Justice.Google Scholar
  16. Federal Bureau of Prisons. (2012). Weekly population report for March 12, 2012. U.S. Department of Justice. Retrieved April 13, 2012 from http://www.bop.gov/locations/weekly_report.jsp.
  17. Ford, R. C., & Richardson, W. D. (1994). Ethical decision-making: A review of the empirical literature. Journal of Business Ethics, 13, 205–221. doi:10.1007/BF02074820.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Forte, A. (2004). Business ethics: A study of the moral reasoning of selected business managers and the influence of organizational ethical climate. Journal of Business Ethics, 51, 167–173. doi:10.1023/B:BUSI.0000033610.35181.ef.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Ho, J. (2010). Ethical perception: Are differences between ethnic groups situation dependent? Business Ethics: A European Review, 19(2), 154–182. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8608.2010.01583.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Horowitz, S. (2009, November 11). Should Mary buy her bonus? Business Ethics Magazine.Google Scholar
  21. Kabanoff, B., & Daly, J. (2002). Espoused values of organisations. Australian Journal of Management, 27(1), 89–104. doi:10.1177/031289620202701S10.Google Scholar
  22. Kraft, K. L., & Singhapakdi, A. (1991). The role of ethics and social responsibility in achieving organizational effectiveness: Students versus managers. Journal of Business Ethics, 10(9), 679–686. doi:10.1007/BF00705874.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Krambia-Kapardis, M., & Zopiatis, A. A. (2008). Unchartered territory: Investigating individual business ethics in Cyprus. Business Ethics: A European Review, 17(2), 138–148. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8608.2008.00527.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Longenecker, J. G., Moore, C. W., Petty, J. W., Palich, L. E., & McKinney, J. A. (2006). Ethical attitudes in small businesses and large corporations: Theory and empirical findings from a tracking study spanning three decades. Journal of Small Business Management, 44(2), 167–183. doi:10.1111/j.1540-627X.2006.00162.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Marquardt, N. (2010). Implicit mental processes in ethical management behavior. Ethics and Behavior, 20(2), 128–148. doi:10.1080/10508421003595950.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Marquardt, N., & Hoeger, R. (2009). The effect of implicit moral attitudes on managerial decision-making: An implicit social cognition approach. Journal of Business Ethics, 85, 157–171. doi:10.1007/s10551-008-9754-8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Marques, P., & Azevedo-Pereira, J. (2009). Ethical ideology and ethical judgments in the Portuguese accounting profession. Journal of Business Ethics, 86, 227–242. doi:10.1007/s10551-008-9845-6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Marta, J., Singhapakdi, A., & Kraft, K. (2008). Personal characteristics underlying ethical decisions in marketing situations: A survey of small business managers. Journal of Small Business Management, 46(4), 589–606. doi:10.1111/j.1540-627X.2008.00258.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50, 370–396.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. McCullough, P. M., & Faught, S. (2005). Rational moralists and moral rationalists value-based management: Model, criterion and validation. Journal of Business Ethics, 60, 195–205. doi:10.1007/s10551-004-8317-x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. McLean, B., & Elkind, P. (2003). The smartest guys in the room: The amazing rise and scandalous fall of Enron. New York: Penguin.Google Scholar
  32. Mencl, J., & May, D. R. (2009). The effects of proximity and empathy on ethical decision-making: An exploratory investigation. Journal of Business Ethics, 85, 201–226. doi:10.1007/s10551-008-9765-5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Moberg, D., & Caldwell, D. (2006). An exploratory investigation of the effect of ethical culture in activating moral imagination. Journal of Business Ethics, 73, 193–204. doi:10.1007/s10551-006-9190-6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. O’Fallon, M. J., & Butterfield, K. D. (2005). A review of the empirical ethical decision-making literature: 1996–2003. Journal of Business Ethics, 59, 375–413. doi:10.1007/s10551-005-2929-7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Phelps, E. (1899, January 24). Speech at Mansion House. London.Google Scholar
  36. Rabl, T., & Kühlmann, T. M. (2008). Understanding corruption in organizations—Development of empirical assessment of an action model. Journal of Business Ethics, 82, 477–495. doi:10.1007/s10551-008-9898-6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Robinson, P. (2007). Ethics training and development in the military. Parameters: U.S. Army War College, 37, 23–36.Google Scholar
  38. Schein, E. H. (1985). Organizational culture and leadership. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  39. Schwartz, M. S., Dunfee, T. W., & Kline, M. J. (2005). Tone at the top: An ethics code for directors? Journal of Business Ethics, 58(1–3), 79–100. doi:10.1007/s10551-005-1390-y.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Siehl, C., & Martin, J. (1990). Organizational culture: A key to financial performance? In B. Schneider (Ed.), Organizational climate and culture (pp. 241-281). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  41. Sims, R. R., & Brinkmann, J. (2003). Enron ethics (Or: culture matters more than codes). Journal of Business Ethics, 45, 243–256.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Sutton, R. I., & Callahan, A. L. (1987). The stigma of bankruptcy: Spoiled organizational image and its management. Academy of Management Journal, 30(3), 405–436.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Sweeney, B., Arnold, D., & Pierce, B. (2010). The impact of perceived ethical culture for the firm and demographic variables on auditors’ ethical evaluation and intention to act decisions. Journal of Business Ethics, 93(4), 531–551. doi:10.1007/s10551-009-0237-3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Vitell, S. J., & Festervand, T. A. (1987). Business ethics: Conflicts, practices and beliefs of industrial executives. Journal of Business Ethics, 6(2), 111–122. doi:10.1007/BF00382024.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Watson, G. W., & Berkley, R. A. (2008). Testing the value-pragmatics hypothesis in unethical compliance. Journal of Business Ethics, 87, 463–476. doi:10.1007/s10551-008-9953-3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Watson, G. W., Berkley, R., & Papamarcos, S. D. (2009). Ambiguous allure: The value-pragmatics model of ethical decision-making. Business and Society Review, 114(1), 1–29. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8594.2009.00333.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Weber, J. (2010). Assessing the “tone at the top”: The moral reasoning of CEO’s in the automobile industry. Journal of Business Ethics, 92(2), 167–182. doi:10.1007/s10551-009-0157-2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Webley, S., & Werner, A. (2008). Corporate codes of ethics: Necessary but not sufficient. Business Ethics: A European Review, 17(4), 405–415.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Werhane, P. H. (1999). Moral imagination and management decision-making. Oxford: University Press.Google Scholar
  50. Williams, O., & Murphy, P. (1992). The ethics of virtue: A moral theory for business. In O. F. Williams & J. W. Houck (Eds.), A virtuous life in business (pp. 9–27). Lanham, MD: Roman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  51. Zhang, J., Chiu, R., & Wei, L. (2009). Decision-making process of internal whistleblowing behavior in China: Empirical evidence and implications. Journal of Business Ethics, 88, 25–41. doi:10.1007/s10551-008-9831-z.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of BusinessSaint Mary’s University of MinnesotaWinonaUSA

Personalised recommendations