Organizational Virtue and Performance: An Empirical Study of Customers and Employees

Journal of Business Ethics 146 (4):869-881 (2017)
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Abstract

This paper offers the first large-scale empirical study of organizational virtue as perceived by both internal and external stakeholders and of the links between these virtues and organizational outcomes such as identification, satisfaction, and distinctiveness. It takes a strategic approach to virtue ethics, one that differs from a more traditional Aristotelian concept of virtue and from Alasdair MacIntyre’s manner of distinguishing between internal and external goods. The literature review compares three different perspectives on the empirical study of organizational virtues, taken by virtue theorists, POS scholars, and strategy scholars. The main study describes an empirical research undertaking that involved the analysis of 2548 usable questionnaires administered to employees and customers of seven organizations in the U.K. A structural equation model was used to test the linkages of the six dimensions of organizational virtue to satisfaction, identification, and distinctiveness. All the links were significant, with the strongest between virtue and identification. For employees, identification was driven most significantly by integrity, whereas customers’ identification was principally influenced by empathy. The empirical finding also sounds an alarm bell to the global firms who focus on creating a differentiated image based on CSR in the hope that it will lead to satisfaction. The results lead to a discussion of how companies might build favorable stakeholder perceptions of key dimensions of virtue that most shape their identification and differentiation in the marketplace.

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