Situating ethical behavior in the nomological network of job performance


Purpose: Our objective was to generate, define, and evaluate behavioral dimensions of ethical performance at work that are common across United States occupations.

Design/Methodology/Approach: This project involved three studies. Study 1 involved (a) qualitative review of published literature, professional codes of ethics, and critical incidents of (un)ethical performance and resulted in (b) behavioral dimensions and ethical performance rating scales. The second and third studies used a retranslation methodology to evaluate the ethical performance dimensions from Study 1. The behavioral dimensions were linked to the performance determinants (personal attributes) in Study 3.

Findings: Study 1 resulted in draft dimension definitions and rating scales for 10 ethical performance dimensions. In Studies 2 and 3, retranslation data provided strong support for 10 behavioral dimensions of ethical performance at work. Results from Study 3 shed light on possible relationships among the performance dimensions based on their underlying performance determinants.

Implications: Communicating an organization’s ethical standards to employees is important because some ethical breakdowns can be attributed to simply failing to recognize an ethical matter (in: DeCremer, Managerial ethics: Managing the psychology of morality, Routledge, New York, 2011). Definitions of ethical behavior in the workplace provide a tool for researchers, employers, and employees to communicate about ethical situations and a foundation for folding ethics into employee training and performance management.

Originality/Value: These studies provide a taxonomy of ethical performance at work that generalizes to a diverse array of occupations and industries, and dimensions and rating scales have value for performance management, training/curriculum development, job analysis, predictor development and/or validation, and additional research.

Journal of Business and Psychology, 32, 253-271
James A. Grand
James A. Grand
Associate Professor, Psychology

A scientist at heart, an organizational psychologist by training, and a lucky dad and husband all the time.