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Thursday, February 20, 2014

(Un)Ethical Behavior in Organizations

Linda Klebe Treviño, Niki A. den Nieuwenboer, and Jennifer J. Kish-Gephart
Annual Review of Psychology
Vol. 65: 635-660 (Volume publication date January 2014)
First published online as a Review in Advance on July 3, 2013
DOI: 10.1146/annurev-psych-113011-143745


This review spotlights research related to ethical and unethical behavior in organizations. It builds on previous reviews and meta-analyses of the literature on (un)ethical behavior in organizations and discusses recent advances in the field. The review emphasizes how this research speaks to the influence of the organizational context on (un)ethical behavior, proceeding from a more macro to a more micro view on (un)ethical behavior and covering ethical infrastructures, interpersonal influences, individual differences, and cognitive and affective processes. The conclusion highlights opportunities for future research.


Starting in the 1980s, the systematic study of (un)ethical behavior in organizations—often referred to as behavioral ethics in organizations or as organizational ethics (Treviño et al. 2006)—began to take shape. Over the years, a series of ethical debacles has only increased the salience of this area of study for practitioners and researchers alike. Indeed, as a testament to the growing interest among researchers, a number of literature reviews have appeared in recent years—including several qualitative reviews (O'Fallon & Butterfield 2005, Tenbrunsel & Smith-Crowe 2008, Treviño et al. 2006), a meta-analysis of research on the sources of unethical choice in organizations (Kish-Gephart et al. 2010), a meta-analysis of the ethical climate literature (Martin & Cullen 2006), and a meta-analysis of the whistleblowing literature (Mesmer-Magnus & Viswesvaran 2005). The meta-analytic reviews, in particular, represent a major advance, showing that enough research has been conducted for investigators to undertake such statistical reviews.

The entire article is here, behind the paywall.