The Associations between Ethical Organizational Culture, Burnout, and Engagement: A Multilevel Study

Abstract

Purpose

Ethical culture is a specific form of organizational culture (including values and systems that can promote ethical behavior), and as such a socially constructed phenomenon. However, no previous studies have investigated the degree to which employees’ perceptions of their organization’s ethical culture are shared within work units (departments), which was the first aim of this study. In addition, we studied the associations between ethical culture and occupational well-being (i.e., burnout and work engagement) at both the individual and work-unit levels.

Design/Methodology/Approach

The questionnaire data were gathered from 2,146 respondents with various occupations in 245 different work units in one public sector organization. Ethical organizational culture was measured with the corporate ethical virtues scale, including eight sub-dimensions.

Findings

Multilevel structural equation modeling showed that 12–27 % of the total variance regarding the dimensions of ethical culture was explained by departmental homogeneity (shared experiences). At both the within and between levels, higher perceptions of ethical culture associated with lower burnout and higher work engagement.

Implications

The results suggest that organizations should support ethical practices at the work-unit level, to enhance work engagement, and should also pay special attention to work units with a low ethical culture because these work environments can expose employees to burnout.

Originality/Value

This is one of the first studies to find evidence of an association between shared experiences of ethical culture and collective feelings of both burnout and work engagement.

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Acknowledgments

This paper is based on a research project supported by the Finnish Work Environment Fund (Grant No. 110104) and it has received funding from the Finnish National Doctoral Program of Psychology.

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Correspondence to Mari Huhtala.

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Huhtala, M., Tolvanen, A., Mauno, S. et al. The Associations between Ethical Organizational Culture, Burnout, and Engagement: A Multilevel Study. J Bus Psychol 30, 399–414 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10869-014-9369-2

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Keywords

  • Ethical organizational culture
  • Well-being
  • Multilevel study
  • Burnout
  • Work engagement