U05: Ethical Climate and its effects on small groups.

According to PSY 533 (2017), the basic idea of ethical climate is that the environment within the organization not only allows ethical behavior but encourages it. That being said, some types of work climate provide psychological environments conducive to increased managerial job performance and satisfaction, especially when the climates are congruent with managerial needs (Downey, Hellriegel, & Slocum, 1975; Pritchard & Karasick, 1973). So how does the ethical climate affect both the groups that make up an organization and the managers in that organization? Groups are made of up people that are all there to contribute to one end goal, although they may have different motives, a group comes together to work and learn from each other and through that the ethical climate influences their overall job performance.

According to PSY 533 (2017), ethical climate is very important because it can make or break the organizational climate as a whole. At the same time PSY 533 (2017) states, small groups preset another dimension of ethical decision making and action as they introduce other aspects to the ethics process such as increased chance of conflict of interest or multiple roles. Having always worked in small groups, there has been an ongoing effort of managers to make sure their teams are aligned with expectations, that we are motivated to work together and toward a goal, and that we understand the importance of how we all play a role in our success as a team. PSY 533 (2017) echoes this idea by stating, it is important for small groups to periodically examine how their specific mission fits into the larger organizational vision. These small groups are managed by leaders and the leaders are just as important in the ethics of the team as well as their overall performance. According to PSY 533 (2017), Leadership helps set the values and culture of the organization, and in turn leaders’ behaviors either endorse those values and culture or invalidate them. PSY 533 (2017) goes on to say that when leaders’ behaviors match the values and culture of the organization, they help set up an ethical work climate.

I once had a leader that was a perfect example of how his ethics and the ethical climate he created for us as a team really influenced our overall success. Our leader, who we will refer to as John, was heading up a small project for the company with about 6 direct reports. John had the group of us meet weekly to set expectations, check in about how things are going, make sure that we aired out any issues we had and also aligned with our project milestones map. He was promoting the idea of us being a cohesive team which PSY 533 (2017) defines as the bond that links group members together and continues to state that for the most part a cohesive group is a very good thing because cohesion creates trust between members. All of that being said, where I felt that John truly came in to “walk the walk” *PSY 533, 2017) was when we were falling behind on a deadline for the project due to a team member being out sick. John realized that there was some concern for this in our team meeting and instead of holding himself at the managerial level – he said to us that we could all order pizza and sodas and we would work together as a team that evening to get the deliverables done. Originally I had thought that he was just expecting us to get the work done and stay late, but then I heard him on the phone with his wife saying that he had some work to do as part of the team project and he would be home later. I appreciated not only that he was inclusive with his wording about “team project” but also that he was all hands on deck to help us as we were a team and together we either passed or failed. I have never forgotten John as a leader and how both cohesive and inclusive his style was. I appreciated worked with him and his demonstration of teamwork and ethics and that nothing was too big or too small for him to be a part of for our success as individuals and as a group.

According to PSY 533 (2017), If leaders do not actually exhibit the values of the organization, followers conclude that the values are not important and they become less likely to follow those values which in turn as a result the foundation for an ethical climate is not established. I would venture to say that the small group of us that worked for John, as an example, did feel as though he set a perfect example of a good working ethical climate as well as made us feel supported as a team so that we could understand our role in the big picture/project. He encouraged us all to do our best and when we needed help he was there to deliver as a team member and not as a higher level manager. This, to me, supports the idea that groups are made of up people that are all there to contribute to one end goal, although they may have different motives, a group comes together to work and learn from each other and through that the ethical climate influences their overall job performance. This could not have been achieved, in my opinion, had we not had the support and influence from John as well as his work ethics to learn from in the overall scope of project and the organization we were supporting. This just proves to me how important ethical climate, groups and managerial influence are all needed to be cohesive and successful.


Downey, H. K., Hellriegel, D., & Slocum, J. W. (1975) Congruence between individual needs, organizational climate, job satisfaction and performance. Academy of Management Journal, 18:149-155.

Pritchard, R. D., & Karasick, B. W. (1973) The effects of organizational climate on managerial job performance and job satisfaction. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance. 9:126-146.

PSY 533. (2017). L11: Small Groups. Retrieved from: https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1868786/pages/l11-introduction?module_item_id=23063493

PSY 533. (2017). L13: Ethical Climate. Retrieved from: https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1868786/pages/l13-ethical-climate-defined?module_item_id=23063518


One Comment

  1. Hannah Hand December 3, 2017 at 1:37 PM #


    When I’m training new supervisors and up and coming leaders in our organization, one of the first things they’re told is to remember that they set the standard for the employees they supervise and/or who look up to them as leaders. Everything they say and do is being watched, learned and evaluated by others — even the smallest actions. For your team, John set a real standard for teamwork by having meetings that built team cohesiveness and engaging directly as part of the team when there was a gap. I’d venture to guess that members of that team quickly realized the expectation that being part of the team meant considering what was best for the team, even if that meant going beyond your own role responsibilities to do so. It’s one thing to tell people what the expectations are and another entirely to demonstrate and abide by them. John set the standard by doing the latter.

    This is how I think of ethical climate. It’s one thing to set expectations for ethical behavior in the workplace, and another entirely to create an ethical climate through demonstration and adherence to those expectations. It isn’t enough to tell people what the organizational values are. Worse yet, to tell people what the values are and then demonstrate the opposite. The ethical climate is the result of a true standard, communicated and demonstrated by leaders and management.

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