Codes of Ethics as Signals for Ethical Behavior

Journal of Business Ethics 29 (3):199 - 211 (2001)
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Abstract

This study investigated effects of codes of ethics on perceptions of ethical behavior. Respondents from companies with codes of ethics (n = 465) rated role set members (top management, supervisors, peers, subordinates, self) as more ethical and felt more encouraged and supported for ethical behavior than respondents from companies without codes (n = 301). Key aspects of the organizational climate, such as supportiveness for ethical behavior, freedom to act ethically, and satisfaction with the outcome of ethical problems were impacted by the presence of an ethics code. The mere presence of a code of ethics appears to have a positive impact on perceptions of ethical behavior in organizations, even when respondents cannot recall specific content of the code.

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