Unit 05: the fragility of ethical climate in the workplace

There are many different factors that might effect the ethical climate of an ever changing work place. Think about an environment, like a place of work, as a living, breathing thing. Everything fits together well until something changes and the balance is shifted. This shift in balance can be caused by anything from a change in policy, to a new employee. 

According to Victor and Cullen, ethical work climate can be defined as the combination of an organization’s members and the perspectives or perceptions of those members. Victor and Cullen proposed an idea that every situation can be looked at through a different lens based on different perspectives. According to their model, there are two major factors to an ethical climate, and those two factors are both broken up in to three sub-perspectives. The first category, ethical criteria, is broken up into the perspectives of egoism (doing what is best for the self), benevolence (doing what is good or right), and principle (adhering to a standard). The second part of an ethical climate is made of up difference perspectives for judgement that an individual uses, or, a locus of analysis. These perspectives include individual, local (the perspective of the directly involved), and cosmopolitan (the perspective of society). Using these sub-categories, we can determine what kind of ethical climate a situation might present (Victor and Cullen, 1987).

There are so many different things that might tip the balance of the living, breathing environment that you might work in, however, every single one of them can be analyzed using this descriptive model. Take sexual harassment, for example. If you are a witness to the act of sexual harassment, but you do nothing, where do you fall on this model? I might place you with egoism, doing what is best for you, certainly not what is good, and with their perspective of an individual. This very short sighted behavior is narrow and very individualistic. This might also have cause consequences that cause irreparable damage to the environment. By taking care of only yourself in the work place, you have turned a blind eye and told the perpetrator that he or she can get away with whatever type of harassment that they are committing. 

The ethical climate in the workplace is fragile and ever changing. This model helps to identify perspective that might change behaviors in the work place. This change of behavior could ultimately lead to a much better ethical climate.

Victor, B., & Cullen, J. B. (1987). A theory and measure of ethical climate in organizations. Research in Corporate Social Performance and Policy, 9, 51-71.

One Comment

  1. erf134 December 2, 2018 at 9:53 PM #

    The blog was very insightful, as it resonated with a recent ethical climate change that occurred in the office due to a shift in employee tasks, as several employees were out of the office for vacation, conferences, etc. For a span of three days, there was a decrease in the number of operational employees present in the facility; which meant that the clinical team needed to step into several operational roles. The residents in the facility took advantage of the situation and demonstrated behaviors not becoming of residents who have been in the program for a period of time and have expectations to be role models. It was clear that the senior residents were falling out of the “principle” category and into an “egoism” category. The residents became significantly demanding and displayed an individualistic position. The ethical climate was restored by the staff members by maintaining the same expectations and providing structure to the environment immediately.

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