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From Symbolic to Substantive Documents: When Business Codes of Ethics Impact Unethical Behavior in the Workplace

Authors
Disciplines
  • Communication
  • Philosophy

Abstract

A business code of ethics is widely regarded as an important instrument to curb unethical behavior in the workplace. However, little is empirically known about the factors that determine the impact of a code on unethical behavior. Besides the existence of a code, this study proposes five determining factors: the content of the code, the frequency of communication activities surrounding the code, the quality of the communication activities, and the embedment of the code in the organization by senior as well as local management. The full model explains 30.4% of unethical behavior while the explanatory value of a code alone is very modest.

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