Economy and Supervisors’ Ethical Values: Exploring the Mediating Role of Noneconomic Institutions in a Cross-National Test of Institutional Anomie Theory

Journal of Business Ethics 156 (3):823-838 (2019)
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Abstract

This study examined the direct influence of national economic condition, as well as the indirect effects through the strength of noneconomic institutions on supervisors’ ethical reasoning using the institutional anomie theory developed by Messner and Rosenfeld :1393–1416, 2001). Utilizing data of 20,025 supervisors across 52 countries, the analyses showed that high disparity in the economic distribution directly and indirectly leads to unethical values. High economic inequality in a country resulted in high tendency of supervisors to justify unethical acts. In addition, some of this influence went through the institutional strength of family, education, polity, and religion, thereby indicating partial mediation. As a result, the study presented the important roles of social institutions in explaining supervisors’ attitude and behavior. The findings of this research contribute to the institutional anomie theory by clarifying the multilevel path of the macrostructures’ conditions in explaining supervisors’ ethicality. Moreover, since some of the relationships between variables resulted in the direction opposite to the propositions of the theory, this study suggested other theoretical models that may be integrated with IAT. Along with these theoretical contributions, practical implications to businesses and society are discussed to strengthen supervisors’ ethics.

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