Behavioral Ethics & Moral Intelligence

a) Honesty in economic decision-making

In an interdisciplinary collaboration (Psychology and Finance), we explore the role of (dis)honesty in economic decision making (the focus being on decisions of managers and investors). In experimental studies we testing the hypothesis that at least some individuals may be committed to honesty and therefore more willing to sacrifice monetary benefits. In general, we observe that this latter group of individuals is more resistent to the influence of monetary incentives and social norms. We also study the role of further situational influences on truthtelling, such as depletion or time pressure.

PublicationGibson, Tanner, & Wagner (2013). In: American Economic Review.

b) Ethical competences (“Moral intelligence”)

Corporate ethical scandals and the financial crisis has given rise to the view that individual or organizational agents need, beyond professional skills, emotional and social intelligence, also moral/ethical competences (“moral intelligence”). We have recently developed a theoretical framework specifying the abilities that facilitate moral functioning. Based on interdisciplinary collaborations, we are currently working at new ideas and projects aimed at developing and establishing instruments to measure essential dimensions of moral intelligence. Such tools are planed to serve as diagnostic and educational tools. One current project is designed to develop an instrument and tool to assess moral sensibility/awareness.

Publication: Tanner & Christen (2014).

c) Ethical leadership

Still little is known about what characterizes ethical leadership and whether ethical behavior pays off. We argue that leaders’ values only matter to organizations and followers if they convey those beliefs and values through their actions on a regular basis. To address this, we have begun to build the Ethical Leadership Behavior Scale (ELBS), which is based on concrete manifestations of ethical values (e.g., fairness, respect, caring) across occasions and situational challenges. First findings also support the view that ethical behaviors of leaders contribute positively to employee work attitudes and working outcomes.

Publication: Tanner, Brügger, Van Schie & Lebherz (2010).

d) Ethical business culture

By ethical culture we mean those aspects of an organizational context which support the development of ethical behavior. Drawing on previous and current work, we have developed the ‘Corporate Ethical Culture Scale’ (CECS). This measure is designed to assess those dimensions of an organizational culture that are expected to facilitate ethical behavior. Overall, the CECS distinguishes between three groups of factors: compliance, integrity and role modelling. Compliance factors refer to strategies designed to control consistency with rules (e.g. by punishment or sanctions). They include examples such as the extent to which people believe that misconduct is detectable or sanctioned.

Publications: Stimmler & Tanner (in press).

e) How valuable is the “Swiss Bank Secret” for Swiss?

In the last years, the international pressure on the “Swiss bank secret” has tremendously increased. In 2009, we conducted a representative survey for the German-speaking Swiss population to examine how Swiss Germans think about the bank secret and how they respond to international pressure.

Publication: Tanner & Hausmann (2009)