U05 – The Ethical Work Climate and Deviant Workplace Behavior

Deviant workplace behavior can have a damaging effect on a company.

Any action that is outside the norm of what is accepted or expected by society is considered deviant. We all have a general understanding of what workplace behavior should be and although people’s opinions may differ, the basic foundation is obvious. In the business environment, when a person acts in a deviant manner, there is an impact on the work environment. There can be many situational and organizational factors which might influence the behaviors and attitudes of employees. Isolated instances can be attributed to personalities or temporary conditions, but when an organization has an unhealthy ethical work climate, deviant behaviors can be overlooked, accepted or even expected.

One theory developed to measure the Ethical Work Climate that has been studied and validated is the Ethical Climate Index (Arnaud, 2010). The ethical work climate is defined as “the subjective reactions of organizational members to the organization” (PSY 533, 2017).

Arnaud’s Ethical Climate Index (ECI) measures the ethical climate by scoring an organization’s Collective Moral Sensitivity, Collective Moral Judgment, Collective Moral Motivation, and Collective Moral Character.  The resulting ECI, according to Arnaud’s theory, represents a potential predictor of ethical or unethical behaviors within the organization and can serve as a tool for identifying some specific reasons for these behaviors (Arnaud, 2010).

The desired end-state is to work toward developing a better ethical work climate. The basic idea is that the environment within the organization should not only allow ethical behavior but rather, it should encourage it (PSY 533, 2017).  The absence of an ethical climate can be the source of deviant workplace behaviors.  Deviant behaviors violate   organizational norms and threaten the well-being of a company, its employees, and in many cases, the products and/or services that they provide.


PSY 533. (2017). Unit 05, Lesson 13: Ethical Climate. Retrieved from https://psu.instructure.com/courses/1868786/pages/l13-overview?module_item_id=23063514


Arnaud, A. (2010). Conceptualizing and Measuring Ethical Work Climate: Development and Validation of the Ethical Climate Index. Business & Society, 49(2), 345-358. Retrieved from http://journals.sagepub.com.ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/doi/pdf/10.1177/0007650310362865

One Comment

  1. Alana Lorraine Constable November 29, 2017 at 6:22 PM #

    Hi Thomas
    I believe you bring up a very good point, and example, of how bad behavior can really impact and organization and how important it is to have an ethical climate. PSY 533 (2017) states, When a leaders’ behaviors match the values of the culture of the organization they help to set up an ethical work climate. I feel that this aligns with your mention of deviant behavior as I feel that if a direct report is acting that way – it should be up to the leader to understand that this behavior can and will have an affect on the organization and others on the team.

    I feel this goes back to the discussion around ethics in general and that companies need to adopt some sort of ethics so that they can share with their employees the expectations of the company’s ethical culture and he repercussions of what can happen if the ethical expectations are not met. I feel that if a supervisor was to see unnecessary behavior they should address it with their direct report and escalate as necessary. If another peer on the team sees the same behavior they should know that they are supported in reporting such things and that no harm can come to them as long as the report was made in good faith.

    For an organization to have an ethical principle or expectation in place I feel that this shows the level of tolerance (or non-tolerance) the company and its managers/people may have around behavior like this. For instance, APA (2010) has Principle C on Integrity which is all about promoting accuracy, honesty, and truthfulness. I feel that these areas are certainly areas where someone could have possible deviant behavior that you mentioned. With that, the ethical standards that are in place to address the resolution of ethical issues would provide expectations and rules about how this type of behavior would be handled in the workplace. Such an example would be around APA (2010) 1.05 Reporting Ethical Violations, 1.07 Improper Complaints and 1.08 Unfair Discrimination against Complaints and Respondents.

    All of that being said, regardless if there is an ethical expectation or principles in place, it really does come back to the right people in the right positions making the right decisions. I agree with PSY 533 (2010) where they stated, if leaders do not actually exhibit the values of the organization, followers conclude that the values are not that important and they become less likely to follow those values which results in the foundation for an ethical climate not being established. To me that is huge and I do agree with leaders “talking the talk and walking the walk” (PSY 533, 2017) as a way to influence their peers and the organization as a whole.


    American Psychological Association. (2010). Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct: Including 2010 and 2016 amendments. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/ethics/code

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

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