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Center for Responsibility in Finance, Department of Banking and Finance

Ethical Business Culture and Leadership

The emergence of unethical behvavior in the work context often is not only a question of individual characteristics but is also depenent on the (value-)culture of an organization. With the term corporate ethical culture, we summarize the structures, norms, values, and behaviors in businesses, which are made visible, for example, by role models, goal setting and subtle contextual factors (such as pictures, symbols, or a focus on profits) and can impact (un)ethical behavior. Our key research interests include how organizational cultures can be measured and how such mainly unwritten values and principles can impact the emergence of unethical behavior.

Promoting honesty in business

Honesty plays a vital role in society and business, supporting mutual trust and efficient interactions. Research on the effectiveness of intervention strategies suggests that a mere focus on structure-oriented or command- and control programs face the problem that they can lead to undesirable side-effects. That makes enhancing individuals' capacity for moral self-governance an important topic for new research. We address this issue by focusing on a value-oriented or self-regulatory approach that centers on increasing individuals' capabilities to cope with ethical challenges at the workplace. In this ongoing research, we draw on the idea to develop and examine the power of facing oneself with simple but smart questions.

Publications: Wagner & Tanner (work in progress)

Ethical business culture

We define ethical culture to include 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 (2019), Tanner, Gangl & Witt (2019)

Ethical leadership

We explore 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. Our findings support the view that ethical behaviors of leaders contribute positively to employee work attitudes and working outcomes.

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

Weiterführende Informationen

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Applied behavioral research on fostering ethical conduct

Dr. Baiba Renerte collaborates with corporate behavioral scientists to explore the drivers and derailers of speaking up. Psychological safety, a phenomenon studied extensively by coauthor Prof. Amy Edmondson (Harvard Business School), is found to be important for forming strong ethical cultures where employees feel comfortable speaking up.

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Our latest column on how we can use digital games to train personal integrity

Prof. Carmen Tanner's newest colum describes our interdisciplinary research project on the use of serious moral games to train personal integrity in business and finance. Empirical studies with our game uFin: The Challenge provide evidence that this game-based training promotes the sensorium for violations of values/rules and concerns for others.