The Ethics Safety Scale Development and Validation

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The Ethics Safety Scale: Development and Validation
by
Keith Credo
A dissertation submitted to the Graduate Faculty of
Auburn University
in partial fulfillment of the
requirements for the Degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Auburn, Alabama
December 8, 2012
Keywords: organizational ethics, organizational safety, ethics assessment
Approved by
A. A. Armenakis, Chair, James T. Pursell, Sr. Eminent Scholar in Management Ethics
H.S. Feild, Torchmark Professor of Management
K. W. Mossholder, C. G. Mills Professor of Management
Abstract
The current study focuses on the development of an ethics assessment instrument. The
proposed instrument is unique in that it is the first ethics’ perceptions assessment instrument
designed to be applicable not only in an office environment, but in operative, labor-intensive
work environments, as well. The manuscript includes a description of six studies used to create
and validate an ethics perceptions assessment instrument appropriate for safety-sensitive
environments. Study 1 includes a summary of a qualitative assessment of ethics perceptions from
a diverse sample of 48 employees of a multi-national drilling corporation. Studies 2 and 3
examine the content adequacy and reliability of a quantitative instrument based on the results of
Study 1. Study 4 includes an exploratory factor analysis of the scale, while studies 5 and 6
include confirmatory factor analyses of the new instrument, the Ethics Safety Scale. CFAs
resulted in the Ethics Safety Scale (ESS) which includes 6 sub-scales measuring different aspects
of employee ethics perceptions. The instrument and its sub-scales showed sound reliability and
validity. Suggestions for future applications of the scale follow.
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Table of Contents
Abstract ........................................................................................................................................... ii
List of Tables ................................................................................................................................. iv
The Ethics Safety Scale: Development and Validation .................................................................. 1
Background ..................................................................................................................................... 9
Ethics Scales ................................................................................................................................. 14
The Ethics and Safety Connection ................................................................................................ 19
Safety Scales ................................................................................................................................. 22
Development of an Ethics Safety Scale: Six Empirical Field Studies .......................................... 27
Study 1: Qualitative Domain Assessment..................................................................................... 28
Study 2: Content Adequacy .......................................................................................................... 34
Study 3: Inter-item Analysis ......................................................................................................... 37
Study 4: Exploratory Factor Analysis ........................................................................................... 43
Study 5: Confirmatory Factor Analysis - Organization 2 ............................................................ 46
Study 6: Confirmatory Factor Analysis – Web Sample............................................................... 49
Discussion ..................................................................................................................................... 60
References ..................................................................................................................................... 66
iii
List of Tables
Table 1 .......................................................................................................................................... 19
Table 2 .......................................................................................................................................... 25
Table 3 .......................................................................................................................................... 31
Table 4 .......................................................................................................................................... 33
Table 5 .......................................................................................................................................... 36
Table 6 .......................................................................................................................................... 39
Table 7 .......................................................................................................................................... 40
Table 8 .......................................................................................................................................... 45
Table 9 .......................................................................................................................................... 48
Table 10 ........................................................................................................................................ 49
Table 11 ........................................................................................................................................ 51
Table 12 ........................................................................................................................................ 54
Table 13 ........................................................................................................................................ 57
Table 14 ........................................................................................................................................ 59
Table 15 ........................................................................................................................................ 60
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The Ethics Safety Scale: Development and Validation
WorldCom (Cooper, 2009), Enron (McClean & Elkind, 2003), and HealthSouth (Beam,
2009) have provided an abundance of case studies in unethical corporate behavior (Cohen, Ding,
Lesage, & Stolowy, 2010). More recently, ethics scandals at, AIG, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac
have continued to impact the way in which people think about organizational ethics (Tepper,
2010). Media focus on examples of unethical behavior in organizations has brought the public’s
attention to the impact of unethical activity (Sims & Brinkmann, 2003). Repercussions for
employees, stockholders, and consumers, including layoffs, loss of retirement funds, and
devaluation of stock have elevated the focus on ethics to the mainstream (Nielsen, 2003).
Recent catastrophes including the Deepwater Horizon sinking, which resulted in 11
employee deaths and inestimable damage to the Gulf Coast ecosystem (Lustgarten & Knutson,
2010), and the Massey Energy Company’s Upper Big Branch Mine explosion in West Virginia,
which resulted in 29 employee deaths (Mufson, 2010), have drawn public attention not only to
the questionable safety practices of organizations, such as British Petroleum (BP) and Massey
Energy Company, but to the underlying ethical standards of these organizations (Mufson, 2010 ).
All of these organizations had seemingly appropriate mission statements and even ethics
statements, but somehow these statements were not translated into organizational actions.
Slapped with increasing Federal fines and decreasing company value, companies may begin to
learn firsthand that perceptions of an organization’s actions can have more of an impact than
perceptions of an organization’s words. As a result, research on the effects of perceptions of
these organizational actions is increasingly important.
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The current study seeks to explore the effect of these organizational actions, particularly
those of organizations operating in a safety-intensive environment, from the perspective of
employees in those organizations. Ultimately these employee perceptions are used to create an
ethics assessment instrument suited for safety-related organizational environments. Despite the
overlap of ethical and safe employee treatment, there has been a lack of empirical studies
focusing directly on the link between safety and ethics (Parboteeah & Kapp, 2008). Keeping
employees safe from bodily harm not only protects employees’ best interests, but can be
considered an ethical duty of organizations (Parboteeah & Kapp, 2008). Thus, an organization’s
responsibilities to keep employees from harm in the workplace and to treat them ethically can
often be one and the same.
There is, however, strong support for the relationship between safety and ethics in the
way of anecdotal evidence. For example, on January 28, 1986, when the space shuttle
Challenger exploded shortly after liftoff, killing all seven crew members, there were immediate
concerns about the causes of the explosion. In the months following the disaster, the government
commission created to investigate the causes of the accident concluded that cold weather caused
seal failure in one of the solid rocket booster joints and led to the explosion. Testimony by
Roger Boisjoly and other engineers working at Morton-Thiokol, Inc. (MTI), the booster
contractor, revealed that MTI management had been alerted to the cold weather adversely
affecting the O-ring booster joints, well in advance of the decision to launch (Boisjoly, Curtis, &
Mellican, 1989).
Mr. Boisjoly had submitted a memo warning that the seals would not be functional in
cold weather, but MTI management classified the document as company private so it never
reached NASA (Boisjoly et al., 1989). Disregarding this warning not only resulted in a
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disastrous breach in safety, but also reflected a significant flaw in the ethical decision-making
process of MTI, placing performance over safety (Armenakis, 2002). The later tragedy of Space
Shuttle Columbia’s destruction upon re-entry into the atmosphere over Texas on January 23rd,
2003, was shown to be partially the result of an unchanged pattern of organizational decisionmaking within the space program. Organizational decision-makers ignored another key safety
issue, faulty ceramic heat barrier tiles. The unfortunate outcome was the loss of the lives of
another set of crew members (Guthrie & Shayo, 2005).
Recent catastrophes at BP and Massey Energy help further illustrate the overlap of
organizational ethics and safety. Both organizations made safety-related decisions resulting in
substantial loss of human life and environmental damage. Both organizations had been cited in
the past for safety-related violations that resulted in criminal charges. In addition to the 2010
Upper Big Branch mine explosion, Massey Energy Company had been involved in similar safety
catastrophes, including a 2006 conveyor belt fire that claimed the lives of two employees
(Mufson, 2010). The U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) cited the Upper Big
Branch location for over 1300 safety violations between 2005 and 2009, totaling over $1.89
million in fines. Not only was Massey cited for numerous safety violations, but in 2009 alone,
Massey pled guilty to at least 10 safety-related criminal charges as well (Mundy, 2010). Just in
the month of March 2010, Massey Energy was cited for over 50 safety violations, many of which
were related to improper ventilation (Mufson, 2010). Initial investigations showed Massey’s
continual neglect of its ventilation systems might have been a major contributing factor in the
Upper Big Branch explosion (Mufson, 2010). This pattern of organizational decision-making
became a focus of a lawsuit filed by the widows of the victims of the 2006 Aracoma Alma Mine,
in which Massey was accused of engendering “a corporate attitude of indifference and hostility
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towards safety measures which stood in the way of profit” (Mundy, 2010). This lawsuit was
settled for an undisclosed sum in addition to the $4.2 million in MSHA fines.
BP has also been involved in an unusually high number of safety violations issued by the
Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration (OSHA), the federal agency charged with
directing national compliance initiatives in occupational safety and health. While there is no
doubt of the inherent dangers in petroleum refining and drilling due to the nature of the work and
materials involved, OSHA safety regulations and policies have greatly reduced these dangers
over the past three decades (Lustgarten & Knutson, 2010). BP, however, has a record of
neglecting these safety protocols. BP’s safety record in its land-based refineries is no exception.
The explosion of BP’s Texas City, Texas, refinery in March 2005, which killed 15 workers,
spurred OSHA to launch an increased nationwide refinery inspection program to prevent such
catastrophic events in the future.
Still, refinery inspections show that in the following three years (2007-2010), OSHA
cited BP refineries in Texas City and Toledo, Ohio, for 862 safety violations, 760 of which were
classified by OHSA as “egregious willful” violations (Morris & Pell, 2010). Egregious willful
citations are issued by OSHA only in the most severe instances of safety policy abuse and
endangerment of worker health. OSHA defines an egregious willful violation as a “willful and
flagrant violation” with “intentional disregard” for employee safety and health, with a “high
probability of death or serious injury” (Morris & Pell, 2010). All other oil refineries in the U.S.
combined accounted for only 1 such citation issuance (Moris & Pell, 2010). Of the 761
egregious willful citations issued to all U.S. oil refineries, over 99% were issued to BP (Morris &
Pell, 2010).
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Other figures tell a similar story. Since the 2005 Texas City blast, BP has had five
additional refinery fatalities, compared with only nine fatalities at all 146 other U.S. refineries
combined (Morris & Pell, 2010). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) believes that this
high accident rate is more than circumstance or coincidence, and wants to charge top corporate
officers because they had knowledge of the deficiencies at the Texas City plant but chose not to
take corrective action. Warning signs go back even further than the Texas City disaster. In
1999, BP pled guilty to illegal dumping off the Alaskan shoreline. A follow-up investigation by
an independent arbitrator found that not only was the company responsible for environmental
crimes, but that it had been neglecting critical equipment and retaliating against employees who
complained (Lustgarten & Knutson, 2010).
In what has become a pattern at BP, the company promised to reform, but fell short. Just
a few months after the results of the 1999 investigation, state regulators in Alaska warned BP
that pipelines were unsafe and in violation of state regulations. After two years of
noncompliance, yet another investigation, conducted in 2004, revealed dangerous levels of
pipeline corrosion, as well as management pressure for employees to falsify data (Lustgarten &
Knutson, 2010). The report also warned against Richard Wollam’s (the corrosion safety
manager at the time) aggressive management style that put pressure on contractors to avoid
reporting unfavorable safety metrics. BP again promised to address the issues, but in 2006, the
Prudhoe Bay pipeline burst, spilling over 200,000 gallons of petroleum product into a protected
area of Alaskan wilderness (Lustgarten & Knutson, 2010). Another explosion in 2008 blew a 28foot section of gas line over 1000 feet in the air. Stuart Sneed, an employee who had raised
concerns about this gas line system’s integrity, was fired a few months earlier, just weeks after
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being reprimanded for reporting what BP alleged was a minor and superficial crack in the line
(Lustgarten & Knutson, 2010).
Other locations have seen similar attempts to cover signs of trouble. BP’s Carson
Refinery in California reported near perfect safety numbers between 1999 and 2002. BP barred
district inspectors from entering the facility to conduct their own legally required inspections,
and the inspectors were only able to enter after obtaining a search warrant. They found a facility
on the verge of catastrophe, with enough problems for over 1,000 violation citations. A
representative of the management district summarized the inconsistencies by saying, “They had
been sending us reports that showed 99 percent compliance, and we found about 80 percent
noncompliance” (Lustgarten & Knutson, 2010 p. 2). As a result, BP was charged with over $319
million in fines. The manager of the BP facility was then promoted to a vice president position
in the United Kingdom. The track record of suppressing safety complaints, putting profit above
ethical and safety standards, rewarding unsafe behavior, and ignoring federal and state
environmental regulations brings BP’s ethical practices into question. In the wake of the most
recent BP catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico, a key question the EPA is considering is whether or
not the ethical decision-making standards of top executives were acceptable, as well as, whether
or not the culture at BP is capable of change.
Ethics and Safety as Aspects of Organizational Culture and Climate
Organizational culture is described as having three distinct layers or levels, including
artifacts and behaviors, espoused beliefs and values, and underlying assumptions (Schein, 2004).
Artifacts are the most obvious, visible aspects of culture, such as dress codes, equipment used,
furniture, art, and even evacuation procedures posted on doors. Espoused beliefs and values,
which influence artifacts, include strategies, goals, and philosophies. Underlying assumptions,
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which influence espoused beliefs and values, include the unconscious or unspoken drivers or
motivators within an organization, such as safety-consciousness, profit orientation, or stance on
socially responsible business practices. Organizational culture tends to be relatively stable over
time and thus difficult to quickly change (Schein, 2004).
Organizational climate reflects the relative atmosphere of an organization during a certain
period of time, and although greatly influenced by an organization’s underlying culture, is
distinct and somewhat more temporary (Neal & Griffin, 2002). Organizational climate is
defined as “psychologically meaningful molar descriptions that people can agree characterize a
system’s practices and procedures” (Schneider, 1975, p. 474). A subset of organizational climate
is the concept of ethical climate, which is defined as the psychological perceptions of employees
toward the ethical policies and procedures of the organization (Victor & Cullen, 1988).
When an organization suffers from successive unethical decisions, it is more likely that
an organization is not just in the midst of more temporary climate problems, but is defined by an
organizational culture that fails to prioritize ethics. In such a situation, multiple layers of
Schein’s model will reflect this lack of ethics prioritization. According to Schein’s 3-layer
model described above, an organization that assumes ethics is not a priority will likely reflect
this underlying assumption through its value system, and will ultimately display this through
artifacts, including lapses in safety that could result in harm to individuals.
The examples of Challenger and Columbia, Massey Energy, and BP illustrate the integral
relationship between an organization’s culture or climate with both safety and ethics policies.
When safety becomes a systemic problem, injuries and employee deaths are no longer
attributable to simply chance circumstances, but to management practices, operational standards,
and willful decisions by organizational leadership. When there is a pattern of similar decisions
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over time, not only can there be a negative organizational climate, but a more permanent
problem with an organization’s culture.
Many organizational safety decisions, as illustrated in the examples above, can have an
inseparable ethical component. Some have argued that organizational concern for safety is
intrinsically related to organizational concern for ethics (McKendall, DeMarr, & Jones-Rikkers,
2002; Parboteeah & Kapp, 2008).
Although somewhat scarce, previous research has suggested
that an organization’s ethical standards influence an organization’s safety practices. For
example, Credo, Armenakis, Feild, and Young (2010) found that organizational focus on ethics
and organization-employee relationships correlated with the effectiveness of organizational
safety programs. In fact, OSHA’s system of classifying petroleum industry violations reflects
this connection. OSHA’s system for safety violations separates the isolated, unintended mistakes
from the intentional, repeated egregious willful decisions. The less serious and less common
violations are treated by OSHA as technical violations, but the egregious willful violations are
considered premeditated and often result in criminal charges against an organization. The latter
example illustrates a case in which the ethical component is inseparable from a safety-related
organizational action. The current study extends the body of research connecting organizational
ethics and safety by developing a scale to measure ethics from the perspective of the employee in
an environment where safety is a particularly important factor.
The current study expands on this theoretical and anecdotal support of the link between
organizational ethics and organizational safety by empirically examining employee perceptions
of ethics and safety. The study begins with a review of the literature pertaining to the
measurement and empirical study of organizational ethics, as well as, relevant studies of
organizational safety perceptions. This section includes a brief review of the approaches to
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assessing ethics and safety, as well as, a comparison of some of the commonly used assessment
instruments. Finally, the results of six empirical studies, using both qualitative and quantitative
methodologies, are described which ultimately resulted in a safety-based ethics assessment
instrument appropriate for use in organizations having both field- and office-based employees.
BACKGROUND
Formation of Ethics Decision Rules and Perceptions
Ethics is defined broadly in an organizational context as an answer in a given situation to
the question of “What should I do” (Victor & Cullen, 1988). Organizational factors like culture
and climate, codes of ethics, rewards, and sanctions impact individuals’ perceptions of
organizational ethics. Victor and Cullen (1988) note that ethics perceptions of employees are
distinct from organizational directives and rules. Organizational norms tend to influence
employee ideas of what is acceptable or unacceptable in an organization, but these norms are not
a substitute for individual perceptions and beliefs about what is right and wrong in an
organization. Although organizational codes of ethics and rules are usually based on what is
accepted as ethical or moral by a society, gaps and loopholes in organizational codes of ethics
resulting in organization-wide ethics scandals remind us that organizational codes and rules do
not always align with the moral codes of society on which the organization has based them. For
instance, the loopholes in not only the organizational ethics codes at Enron, but also in the
California deregulation laws, illustrate how dependence on normative rules as a substitute for
individual ethics can result in catastrophic oversights (McClean & Elkind, 2003),
Several studies have examined the concept of differential association in the context of
ethics (Bourne & Snead, 1999), that is, the ethical learning process that happens over time as a
result of interactions with individuals who observe ethical or unethical actions (Ferrell &
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Fraedrich, 1994). Because of these observations, individuals’ perceptions of what an
organization deems ethical or unethical might change. Peer groups, supervisors, and top
management have all been cited as influential on individuals’ ethical behaviors, as well
(Dubinsky & Loken, 1989; Izraeli, 1988; Wimbush & Shepard, 1994). Peers, however, have
been cited as the most influential of the target individuals; in other words, differential association
is strongest in close personal relationships (Sutherland & Cressey, 1970). Likewise, Hofestede’s
cultural dimension of power distance has been shown to impact the extent to which differential
association affects employee perceptions (Vitell, Nwachukwu, & Barnes, 1993). In cultures with
small power distance, where individual relationships with supervisors are close, supervisory and
management impact on ethics-related attitudes is greater than in countries with larger power
distances. Similarly, organizational design may have an impact on formation of ethics-related
attitudes and beliefs. Individuals in stratified organizations where there is a large gap between
organizational levels may be more likely to form their ethical attitudes based on peer input rather
than management input (Vitell, Nwachukwu, & Barnes, 1993). The variation in source of
influence on ethical behaviors can lead to variation in results of ethics assessments. As a result,
ethics assessments developed using different samples can be as unique as the varying perceptions
in the sample participants themselves. Differential association may help explain a portion of the
variation present in the content of existing ethics scales, as evidenced in the review of ethics
scales below. The particular vulnerability of ethics scales to variation in formative samples via
differential association increases the importance of carefully selecting the group used for
measurement scale construction. The current study seeks to overcome this issue by using a
diverse sample of geographically dispersed and independently managed locations of the sample
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organization. Additionally, confirmatory analyses are replicated using an even more diverse
cross-organizational web-based sample.
Assessment of Organizational Ethics Perceptions
Scales used to assess organizational ethics can be grouped into two broad categories of
normative and positive. Normative models include specific, predetermined decision-making
rules designed to promote an optimal or correct decision (Thorne & Ferrell, 1993). The
normative perspective in ethics research focuses on the measurement of what an organization’s
rules or pre-determined rules of a particular value system indicate should happen in an
organization (Loe, Ferrell, & Mansfield, 2000). Scales of the normative type have come under
scrutiny due to the inclusion of broad generalized standards and absolute truths that assume a
universal set of standards are the foundation of every organization. Normative models of
assessment are based on pre-existing standards or regulations, rather than exploratory research,
such as employee interviews. Partly as a result of the criticisms of the normative view, the
positive perspective on ethics focuses rather on what actually occurs in the organization, as
perceived by the target group of respondents (Loe et al., 2000). Hunt (1991) argues that the
content of positive models, unlike normative models, comes from empirical testability, which is
the foundation of scientific knowledge.
Due to the general scholarly agreement on the advantages of the positive perspective
(Ferrell & Gresham, 1985; Loe et al., 2000; Trevino, 1986), the scale development included in
the latter part of this study takes a positive approach using inductive methodology in a diverse
organizational sample set. Though scientifically preferable due to the reasons above, positive
models are not without problems. For the same reason positive instruments are preferred,
namely their nature as empirically-derived instruments, positive ethics assessment tools have the
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potential to vary greatly depending on the details and circumstances of the study. Like any
measurement of a group of individuals’ perceptions, the content of the data can vary with
changing organizational environments, different organizational norms, and unique individual
employee moral codes. This variation can make creating a widely applicable scale quite
challenging. Due to these issues, the less diverse the sample that is used during the scale
development and validation process, the less likely it is that the resultant scale will be widely
applicable to a variety of different organizational types. Despite calls for consistent and easily
replicated assessment tools for assessing business ethics (Martin & Cullen, 2006), there is a short
supply of published studies that use measures from prior research instruments. Many studies that
do measure similar constructs use different measures, making empirical comparison difficult
(Martin & Cullen, 2006).
Assessment and measurement of organizational ethics has been approached from a
diverse array of perspectives. Self-assessments of ethical or unethical behaviors have been
criticized due to their high susceptibility to socially desirable response bias (Brown & Treviño,
2006). Others argue that unethical behavior in general is difficult to measure because it is
usually kept hidden for fear of reprisals (Pransky, Snyder, Dembe, & Himmelstein, 1999).
Nonetheless, numerous studies have focused on the development of ethics assessment
instruments, and a much greater number of studies have used these scales in an organizational
setting (Martin & Cullen, 2006).
When assessing ethics at an organizational level, questions may be phrased in reference
to self or others. Problems with collecting accurate self-report measures of ethical behaviors
include fear of reprisal, unwillingness to violate organizational norms, and the strong relationship
between dishonesty and unethical behavior. When a dishonest person is asked if they are
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dishonest, the answer may not be credible. Similarly, ethics self-report measures, by their
nature, can be difficult to validate. Self-report measures of ethics tend to be particularly
susceptible to socially desirable responding (Randall & Fernandes, 1991). For example, a 2002
study by Uddin and Gillet found that financial officers’ individual moral reasoning significantly
influenced the extent to which they reported fraudulent activities. High moral reasoners tended
to report possible fraudulent reports, whereas low moral reasoners did not (Uddin & Gillett,
2002). Additionally, Randall and Fernandes (1991) found that self-reports of ethical behavior
were susceptible to inaccurate responding even when reports were made anonymously. The
inaccuracy of responses varied based on the personalities of respondents, and it is expected that
the level of inaccuracies in reporting might decrease in an organizational setting that did not
ensure anonymity. Furthermore, several studies have indicated that the perceived social
desirability of ethics-related questions may be among the biggest predictors of how participants
respond (Chung & Monroe, 2003; Randall & Fernandes, 1991; Schoderbek & Deshpande, 1996).
Thus, rather than answering questions honestly based on actual behaviors or attitudes, the nature
of ethics-related self-report questions may influence respondents to answer in a way they believe
others would perceive as desirable (Randall & Fernandes, 1991). Considering the problems
associated with self-assessment of ethics in organizations, a majority of ethics assessment tools
utilize third person raters. These ratings can come from a variety of sources, but a majority
comes from employees, peers, clients, or the public. Each of these sources removes the overlap
between rater and subject, thus removing the majority of pressure to respond in a socially
desirable manner (Randall & Fernandes, 1991).
The following is a review of some of the most widely used ethics perceptions assessment
instruments. To qualify for inclusion in the review, all scales needed to include at least some
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questions that assessed an individual’s perceptions of ethical behaviors, attitudes, or policies.
Self-report ethics instruments, which simply ask employees to answer questions about their own
personal behaviors, were not included. Although there are other existing scales that meet some
(not all) of the selection criteria for review above, I chose to limit the scales reviewed to those
that were cited most often throughout the safety and ethics literature.
Ethics Scales
Newstrom and Ruch (1975) are often cited as the first to develop a widely used measure
of observed unethical behavior in organizations (Kaptein, 2008a). The 17-item scale uses the
positive perspective and is described by the authors as unidimensional. Behaviors such as
“claiming credit for someone else’s work,” “calling in sick to take a day off,” and “taking longer
than necessary to do a job” were assessed by frequency of observation. This scale was compiled
using a review of managerial ethics reports. Unfortunately, the study did not include measures
of reliability or validity. Also, the scale is limited to a focus on managerial ethics, particularly
instances of intraorganizational cheating similar to the examples mentioned above (Newstrom &
Ruch, 1975). Despite these limitations, the measure has been used by many scholars in its
original form (cf. Akaah, 1992; Izraeli, 1998; Kantor, 2002) or in a modified form (cf. Peterson,
2002; Trevino, Butterfield, & McCabe, 1998).
Perhaps the most often used ethics assessment tool is the Ethical Work Climate
questionnaire created by Victor and Cullen (1988). The scale uses items derived from different
normative themes, including psychological theories of moral development based on egoism,
benevolence, and principle. Sample items are “our major concern is always what is best for the
other person” and “work is considered substandard only when it hurts the company’s interests.”
Items are grouped into climate sub-dimensions, including independence, rules, law/code, and
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caring. Though originally intended for use as an aggregate measure of an organization’s overall
ethical climate, this scale has been used in some cases to assess individual perceptions of
organizational ethics’ norms (Martin & Cullen, 2006).
Froelich and Kottke (1991) developed a two-dimensional 10-item scale to assess
individual beliefs about organizational ethics. This normative measure includes questions that
assess support for the company and lying to protect the company. Examples of items related to
support for the company are “an employee should overlook someone else’s wrongdoings if it is
in the best interest of the company” and “there is nothing wrong with a supervisor asking an
employee to falsify a document.” Examples of items related to protecting the company are “an
employee may need to lie to a customer to protect the company” and “an employee may need to
lie to a co-worker to protect the company.” Little explanation is given to the formation and
development of the scale, other than that items were generated after a review of ethics literature.
Noting the importance of the ethical behavior of leaders, Craig and Gustafson (1998)
proposed a framework for measuring perceptions of leaders’ ethics, i.e., the Perceived Leader
Integrity Scale (PLIS). The authors generated 100 items related to the domains of training,
resource allocation, truth telling, discrimination, procedure compliance, maliciousness, and selfprotection. The scale was subsequently tested and reduced to 31 final items, all written from the
positive perspective, that is, based on assessment of employee observations rather than employee
ratings of agreement or disagreement with normative statements. Sample items include “my
immediate supervisor would use my mistakes to attack me personally” and “my immediate
supervisor makes employees angry at each other.” While useful for measuring what it purports
to measure, ethical leadership, the PLIS is limited in that it is worded to pertain only to an
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employee’s single immediate supervisor, and is not suited to measure perceptions of
organizational leaders, co-workers, or indirect supervisors.
More recently, Kaptein (2008b) developed an assessment of ethical organizational
cultures, resulting in the Corporate Ethical Virtues Model (CEVM) scale. The items were based
on Kaptein’s (1998) analysis of ethical virtues and a resultant qualitative analysis of cases of
unethical employee behavior influenced by organizational culture. The items were generated by
the author with the aid of past ethics’ research and subject matter expert input. The items were
generated to reflect Kaptein’s seven virtues of ethical culture but are written in a positive rather
than normative perspective. The scale was tested using two organizations based in the
Netherlands. Sample questions include “my supervisor sets a good example in terms of ethical
behavior” and “in my job I am sometimes put under pressure to break the rules.” The scale
assumes employee knowledge of a broad range of ethical activities in the organization, including
employee knowledge of board member intentions, and may be more suited to employees in the
organization at such a level as to have knowledge of these activities.
Kaptein also developed a stakeholder-based ethics perception scale (2008a). The items
were developed via content analysis of organizational codes of ethics. The measure includes five
dimensions of ethical behaviors sorted by the stakeholder groups to which they pertain, including
financiers, customers, employees, suppliers, and society. Items are also from the positive
perspective and assess the frequency of certain behaviors perceived in the target organization
including “falsifying time and expense reports” and “engaging in anti-competitive practices.”
One limitation of the scale, due to the focus of this questionnaire on a complete spectrum of
stakeholder groups, is its reduced applicability to a general organizational cross section. For
instance, an entry level manager for an organization may not be familiar with organizational
16
policies and practices toward financiers, suppliers, or even society. That leaves only two
stakeholder dimensions, employees and customers, to which the respondent would have a frame
of reference for observance of ethical or unethical behaviors. A finance officer, on the other
hand, may be better suited to answer questions pertaining to financiers and suppliers. Thus, the
specific nature of the items in the questionnaire may not be best suited for “apples-to-apples”
comparisons within or across organizations.
Based on the review of these ethics perception scales, similarities and differences in
content themes were analyzed. Items from all scales were compiled and then sorted into
categories based on similarity to each other. Four themes emerged among the six scales,
including management rule-breaking, management neglecting responsibility, dishonesty, and
favoritism. Newstrom and Ruch’s (1975) scale focused on two dimensions, management rulebreaking and dishonesty (e.g., “claiming credit for someone else’s work”). Victor and Cullen’s
(1988) measure of organizational climate, while including measures of individual morality (e.g.,
“…people are expected to follow their own personal and moral beliefs”) and coworker support
(e.g., “… people are mostly out for themselves”), focused primarily on ethical dimensions of
rule-breaking (e.g., “…everyone is expected to stick by company rules and procedures”) and
neglect of responsibility (e.g., “…each person is expected to work efficiently”). Froelich and
Kottke’s (1991) scale included items that related to rule-breaking (e.g., “an employee should
overlook someone else’s wrongdoing if it is in the best interest of the company”), management
responsibility neglect (e.g., “a supervisor should not care how results are achieved as long as the
desired outcome occurs”), and dishonesty (e.g., “an employee may need to lie to a client to
protect the company”). Craig and Gustaffson’s (1998) PLIS included items measuring
management rule-breaking (e.g., “[my supervisor] would do things which violate organizational
17
policy and then expect his/her subordinates to cover for him/her”), management neglecting
responsibility (e.g., “[my supervisor] would allow me to be blamed for his/her mistake”),
favoritism (e.g., “[my supervisor] gives special favors to certain ‘pet’ employees , but not me”),
and dishonesty (e.g., “[my supervisor] would falsify records if it would help his/her work
situation”). Kaptein’s first model, the stakeholder-based ethics questionnaire, included items
measuring management rule-breaking (e.g., “submitting false or misleading invoices to
customers”), management neglecting responsibility (e.g., “violating employee wage, overtime, or
benefits rules”), favoritism (e.g., “discriminating against employees”), and dishonesty (e.g.,
“making false or misleading claims to the public or media”). Kaptein’s second instrument, the
CEVM scale, primarily included measures of management rule-breaking (e.g., “my supervisor
would never authorize unethical or illegal conduct to meet business goals”) and management
neglecting responsibility (e.g., “my supervisor fulfills his responsibilities”). Management rulebreaking was the most commonly occurring theme, as it was shared among all questionnaires
that were considered. Favoritism, which was measured in only two of the scales, was the least
common. The complete results are shown in Table 1.
18
TABLE 1
Management rule-breaking
X
Management neglecting responsibility
X
Kaptein (2008b)
Kaptein (2008a)
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
Favoritism
Dishonesty
Craig and
Gustaffson (1998)
Froelich and
Kottke (1991)
Victor and Cullen
(1988)
Dimension:
Newstrom and
Ruch (1975)
Components of Selected Employee Ethics Perceptions Measurement Tools
X
The Ethics and Safety Connection
The link between ethics and safety, although neglected, is not a new one. In fact, some
have argued that organizational concern for safety is intrinsically related to organizational
concern for ethics (McKendall, DeMarr, & Jones-Rikkers, 2002; Parboteeah & Kapp, 2008).
Parboteeah and Kapp proposed that since ethical climate is concerned with issues related to
employee well-being, ethical climate should provide guidance as to which safety-related
behaviors are appropriate or not appropriate. In terms of perceptions, organizations that place a
high importance on safety are usually perceived as more ethical than those that do not. This
assumption seems to be largely based on anecdotal evidence, as described earlier, as well as
19
theoretical connections between safety and ethical behavior. There is a relatively small body of
empirical research that supports the relationship between employee ethics perceptions and
employee safety perceptions, but there is an intuitive theoretical connection between safety and
ethics (Credo et al., 2010). Long-standing moral traditions, such as the Hippocratic Oath’s
doctrine of “do no harm” that medical doctors take, illustrate the idea of safe treatment of others
as an ethical work duty. The idea of “safety” as “ethical” may even be outlined in the “golden
rule” that is found almost universally in world religions (Hertzler, 1934). The rule’s call to treat
others as you would have them treat you sets a standard of avoiding putting others in harm’s
way. Just as it is in individuals’ best interest to keep themselves safe from harm, the golden rule
would dictate that we also avoid exposing others to similar harm. Applied to a work setting,
organizations can consider safety as a part of their ethical or moral contract with employees.
Perhaps not just coincidentally, a multitude of organizations refer to their safety rule sets as the
“golden rules of safety” (Falkenberg, 2004).
Despite these strong anecdotal and philosophical connections between safety and ethics,
the empirical connections have been sparse. The following review of the safety perception
measurement literature serves to illustrate the most common elements within the domain, and is
followed by a series of empirical studies designed to create an assessment instrument which
targets ethics perceptions in environments where safety is an aspect of regular concern.
Organizational Safety Assessment
Like job performance, safety performance is theorized to have three individual
components: knowledge, skill, and motivation. Organizational education and training are most
directly responsible for the first two; if an organization effectively trains and educates employees
about safety, safety behaviors should be increased to some degree (Neal & Griffin, 1997). These
20
first two are necessary but not always sufficient antecedents for the desired behavior; motivation
is also necessary. This motivation can be impacted by multiple organizational factors, including
employee perceptions of ethics, as well as, perceptions of support and the quality of social
exchange relationships between management and staff (Credo et al., 2010).
Organizational safety has been measured from multiple perspectives. For instance, safety
outcome, also called safety performance, a variable of high interest to organizations, has been
researched in many studies (Hoffman & Morgeson, 1999; Goldenhar et al., 2003; Nahrgang et
al., 2010). Due to the nature of certain measures, however, some measurement techniques may
be more suitable than others. Past research has shown that safety performance is not particularly
well-suited to measurement by archival or performance data, such as, performance appraisal or
compensation records. The primary reason for this is the low reliability of company records
(Zohar, 1980). Safety records are used in determining worker compensation rewards, and can be
both highly over-reported or under-reported based on the organization. While some studies find
a general tendency to under-report safety incidents (Pransky, Snyder, Dembe, & Himmelstein,
1999), others find differences based on the severity of the safety incident. Eisenberg and
McDonald (1988) found that 20% of organizations studied underreported safety incidents while
15% over-reported safety incidents. They found that there was systematic bias towards underreporting in major safety incidents and over-reporting of minor, insignificant safety infractions.
The bias may be related to employees’ and line supervisors’ fears of repercussions and sanctions
from upper management for major safety infractions (Eisenberg & McDonald, 1988). These
problems with company-recorded archival data of safety-related topics may ultimately introduce
unwanted systematic bias. Furthermore, some safety experts (Zohar, 1980) have called the use
of archival accident rate data not only limited, but also inappropriate. The rarity of recordable
21
safety lapses can nullify the predictive power of these data. After the 2005 explosion of BP’s
Texas City refinery, OSHA’s deputy Secretary Jordan Barab noted that “BP had a very low
recordable injury and illness rate before they blew up the [Texas City] plant” and that if the
petroleum industry continues to use similar metrics for safety performance, it will be “hard to
take their commitment seriously” (Morris & Pell, 2010, p. 2). Considering these problems, selfreport measures of employee safety perceptions have emerged in recent decades as a viable and
preferred alternative to using safety performance records (Pransky et. al, 1999).
Safety Scales
The most-cited safety scale was developed by Zohar (1980). Zohar developed the Safety
Climate Questionnaire based on a review of safety literature. As one of the first published scales
designed specifically to measure safety, Zohar assessed anecdotal and statistical reports to
determine management characteristics related to safety. Characteristics of organizations with
strong safety records were used as the basis of dimensions to the scale. Zohar chose
organizations to work with based on whether there were potential safety hazards in the particular
industry. All organizations had at least 500 employees, and each organization was in one of four
industries, including metal fabrication, food processing, chemicals, and textiles. After
interviewing production workers across 20 safety-related organizations, Zohar identified seven
sub-dimensions of safety. Of the seven dimensions included in the scale, the most commonly
found characteristics included (a) management commitment to safety, (b) emphasis by
management of safety training, (c) open communication channels, (d) frequent inspections, (e)
stable and veteran workers, and (f) organizational emphasis on guidance over blame. A review
of these dimensions shows the major role management has in cultivating a safety climate. Zohar
22
(1980) noted that management involvement is integral to employee perceptions of safety in an
organization.
Diaz and Cabrera (1997) created another safety climate instrument. The measure was
developed specifically for use in an airport environment, and included questions designed for this
application. While the items are unique, the authors note that the content of the questionnaire
was based heavily on Zohar’s (1980) Safety Climate Questionnaire, using a rational judgment
approach to modify content. Diaz and Cabrera used five dimensions in their safety climate
measure, including (a) management attitude towards safety, (b) management support of safety,
(c) organizational focus on production vs. safety, (d) employee perceptions of safety risk in
environment, and, (e) employee perceptions of workforce attitude to safety.
Hayes, Perander, Smecko, and Trask (1998) also developed a measure to assess
employee perceptions of work safety. The Work Safety Scale was developed based on a review
of research articles on measurement of workplace safety perceptions. Items were generated
based on the content of past scales using a rational approach, and tested on a sample of over
1,600 hospital patients with work-related injuries. The completed scale included the subdimensions of (a) coworker safety, (b) management safety, (c) supervisor safety, (d) safety
satisfaction, and, (e) safety environment.
Cox and Cheyne (2000) developed a safety climate questionnaire specifically for offshore
environments. Interviews of 375 offshore employees resulted in the generation of subdimensions of safety climate. Scale development procedures resulted in nine dimensions, six of
which were reported to be reliable. Cox and Cheyne (2000) note that the tool is designed
primarily for practical use by organizations. Thus, certain items and dimensions that did not meet
traditional reliability criteria were kept for possible individual usefulness to certain
23
organizational situations. Cox and Cheyne (2000) labeled the six dimensions that met traditional
reliability standards as (a) management commitment to safety, (b) employee commitment to
safety, (c) communication about safety, (d) employee attitude towards safety rules, (e) employee
involvement in safety, and, (f) work environment influences on safety.
Based on the review of these safety perceptions scales, I prepared a listing of each scale’s
major components and dimensions (see Table 2). While the scales used somewhat unique items
and dimensions, some themes, including management attitudes, coworker attitudes, and safety
environment were present in all scales. These three common themes, especially management
attitudes, are all manifestations of an organization’s culture, which can be described as the
embodiment of an organization’s values, beliefs, and underlying assumptions (Schein, 2004).
Likewise, a study by Flin, Mearns, O’Connor, and Bryden (2000) showed that one of the most
common themes, management attitudes, were among the most important factors in relation to
employee perceptions of safety. The study showed that 72% of organizations questioned used
some form of assessment of management attitudes when learning about safety culture. In fact,
organizations assessed management attitudes more often than safety systems and even risk (Flin
et al., 2000). The authors note that management attitudes may be so regularly assessed due to the
theory that culture tends to be spread throughout the organization from the top down, so
management attitudes in relation to safety culture may be indicative of the safety culture at all
organizational levels (Flin et al., 2000).
24
TABLE 2
Management safety attitudes
X
Cox and Cheyne
(2000)
Dimension:
Diaz and Cabrera
(1997)
Hayes, Perander,
Smecko, and
Trask(1998)
Zohar (1980)
Components of Employee Safety Perceptions Measurement Tools
X
X
Supervisor safety attitudes
Coworker safety attitudes
X
X
X
Management safety communication
X
Safety of work environment
X
X
X
Importance of safety personnel
X
X
X
X
Employee safety satisfaction
Organizational productivity vs. safety
focus
X
X
X
X
X
X
Needs in Future Research on Organizational Ethics and Safety
Although this review has outlined multiple research tools that may be used to assess
safety and ethics, the small amount of resultant empirical investigations making use of these
tools is a testament to the inconsistencies between the tools and lack of clarity regarding the
capabilities of each. It is also possible that organizational leaders may fear negative feedback
25
from ethics or safety assessments, thus limiting the publication of applications of these scales.
Findings of deficiencies in either ethics or safety practices in an organization can reflect poorly
on management which may discourage many organizations from assessment. A major goal of
the current review was to illustrate overlap and disparities in the research. Likewise, many of the
instruments have been developed for particular and unique samples and thus have unique
properties as a result of the development sample’s uniqueness. Due to the concept of differential
association discussed above, these scales may not be suited for application in certain
organizational settings, as variations in differential association between organizations can
undermine the applicability of instruments in certain organizational environments.
This scale development uses multi-cultural, multi-organizational international samples to
promote applicability of the resultant instrument to a diverse audience. I do not, however, intend
that these samples be generalizable to all segments of the population. As mentioned above in the
discussion of differential association, ethics research is particularly sensitive to the value systems
and cultures of the individuals and organizations at which scales are developed. Unlike past
ethics scales, the current scale development process uses organizations that have safety-related
environments; that is, all organizations and industries involved must include safety-related issues
as a daily concern. This focus on safety-related organizations for this ethics scale development is
designed to more fully understand the unique aspects of organizational ethics that may emerge in
a unique safety-related work environment.
In a series of empirical field investigations conducted and described in this dissertation,
qualitative and quantitative data illustrate that an organization’s safety-related treatment of
employees can be a critical component of employee ethics perceptions. As a result of the
studies, I argue that the concepts of organizational safety and organizational ethics are integrally
26
related, and that ethics and safety cannot always be considered as theoretically distinct
constructs.
Development of an Ethics Safety Scale: Six Empirical Field Studies
Five empirical field studies were conducted at eight North American and European
locations of a multi-national petroleum drilling organization, as well as, at two locations of a
southeastern U.S. port authority. In addition, a web survey (Study 6) was conducted with a U.S.based sample predominantly composed of mining and manufacturing employees. Because of the
differences in the few published scales described above, the development of the Ethics Safety
Scale warranted the inclusion of an inductive technique, to develop the content domain rather
than a completely deductive approach (Hinkin, 1998). An inductive approach to item generation
involves asking a sample of respondents to provide a description of observed critical incidents of
unethical behaviors by company employees (Hinkin, 1998). The remaining five empirical
studies employed quantitative methodologies in the scale development.
Studies 1 – 4: Organization One
The first organization, Organization One, which permitted the first four empirical studies
to be conducted, employs over 80,000 employees at its operations in over 80 countries. The
organization prides itself on its diversity among employees worldwide, and all employees
enrolled in the management program are required to participate in global job rotation
assignments. This organization works with a majority of the world’s largest petroleum
companies, performing specialized services, such as, seismic processing, well testing, directional
drilling, and well consulting among other activities. Due to the potentially dangerous nature of
the work, the organization spends a significant percentage of its operating budget on safety
programs. Every location has a trained safety officer, and the organization is considered a leader
27
in safety in its industry. One of the major reasons the organization chose to be involved in the
current study was to continue the organizational learning process in regard to safety.
Study 1: Qualitative Domain Assessment
The purpose of Study 1 was to assess the range of employee perceptions in regard to
ethics-related behaviors within their organization. These employees were asked general
questions about ethics to determine what actually mattered to employees in regards to ethics.
Specific questions were not included in order to avoid leading or influencing the data with
researcher bias or a priori bias related to previous related research. As discussed below,
however, safety-related issues emerged as a major part of the set of employee responses to these
ethics questions.
Organizational context. Interviews were conducted with 48 employees at a southeastern
U.S. location of Organization One. Participants included mechanical staff, administrative staff,
engineers, technical personnel, line managers, middle managers, and upper managers, and were
chosen randomly from a list of all employees working at the location. The particular location was
chosen due to its diverse workforce, with a majority of employees either having been from or
having worked in a different part of the world prior to their current assignment.
Procedure. Participants were asked a series of broad, open-ended questions about ethics.
The interviews were semi-structured and included three open-ended questions. Participants were
asked to recount critical incidents related to each of the following questions: (a) “Have you ever
observed a coworker in an activity you thought was unethical?” (b) “Have you ever observed a
supervisor in an activity you thought was unethical?” and, (c) “Have you ever felt pressure at
work to behave in a way that you felt was not ethical?” All participants were given a
confidentiality assurance statement. Additionally, clarification was given if employees were
28
unsure about what was meant by ethical. For instance, many employees were unsure as to
whether “ethical” referred to the perspective of company rules or the perspective of employees.
Since the positive rather than normative approach was being used, employees were directed to
respond based on their own perceptions of right and wrong. This critical incident approach to
construct validity was consistent with guidelines expressed in Buss and Craik’s (1983) Act
Frequency Analysis in that participants nominated acts and specific behaviors related to their
perceptions of ethics in their organization. Oral responses were recorded using pen and paper by
the interviewer. Interviews took place in a private room at a regional dispatch facility. The
average time for each interview was 15 minutes.
A content analysis of the interviewee responses was conducted to identify categories of
behaviors related to ethics. In the first step, statements were removed that did not pertain to
ethics. In the second step, the researcher used emergent theme analysis to group the remaining
statements into themed categories. Subsequently, another organizational research professional
familiar with the organization but not with the particular data set independently identified themes
and grouped the statements into the categories. The third step involved determining the extent of
agreement between the researcher and analyst in developing the categories and assigning the
statements to the theme categories.
Results. In total, 191 separate statements regarding employee perceptions of behaviors
were recorded from the interviews with the 48 employees. Exactly 152 statements were
concerned with ethics. Two raters, both having extensive experience in organizational research,
particularly in the target industries included in this study, independently sorted the 152
statements into categories based on similarity. Both raters identified the same six categories of
ethics-related statements from the set. Both raters grouped all 152 statements, which represented
29
aspects of organizational ethics perceptions from the sample into the six categories, with
statements not agreed upon between raters being removed from consideration. Krippendorff’s
alpha was calculated to be equal to .88 (Krippendorff, 2004; Weber, 1985). Krippendorff’s
alpha is regularly used in the area of content analysis (Armenakis, Harris, Cole, Filmer, & Self,
2007; Goodman & Ramanujam, 2012; Short, Broberg, Cogliser, & Brigham, 2012) and measures
the extent of agreement between two or more observers or coders. Krippendorff’s alpha is
desirable due to its generalizability across measures, usability with any number of raters, and
high reliability (Hayes & Krippendorff, 2007). Krippendorff’s alpha has been cited as desirable
in comparison to alternative measures of agreement such as percent agreement, Bennett’s,
Scott’s Pi, and Fleiss’s K. This is primarily due to the fact that Krippendorff’s alpha is the only
procedure that satisfies all the conditions of agreement between raters, grounding in the
distribution of categories used by observers, numerical interpretability between at least two
points of a reliability scale, appropriateness to various levels of data measurement, and
computable sampling behavior (Hayes & Krippendorff, 2007). The categories were (a)
Dishonesty, (b) Favoritism, (c) Endangering Employees, (d) Whistleblower Retaliation, (e)
Management Neglecting Responsibility, and (f) Management Rule-Breaking. Each category
contained between 13 and 29 statements. Sample statements are included in Table 3.
30
TABLE 3
Statements from Qualitative Interviews Sorted by Theme
Theme
Dishonesty
Favoritism
Whistleblower
Retaliation
Management
Rule-breaking
Statement
1. I have been asked to lie to a customer about what was available in
inventory from us. I had to mislead the client about our assets. My
supervisor would have been upset if I didn't.
2. Sometimes, management lies to cover up problems.
3. Sometimes we are pressured to misrepresent things to clients.
4. I was asked to express things in a certain way that was not
completely truthful. We tell employees and clients certain things to
avoid dilemmas. If you have a better or longer relationship with a
client, it is easier to be honest. With new clients you could lose
them so you have to say certain things to keep the client.
5. We always have an "official" story that we have to agree on before
we go talk to a client, so we all tell the client a similar story.
6. My manager is unfair with scheduling and plays favorites.
7. Sometimes there is favoritism, people getting unfair treatment
because they knew someone.
8. Sometimes I feel like my opinions are not as important as others
because of the section I work in. Other areas are treated as more
important.
9. There is preferential treatment to certain staff.
10. There is a double standard with managers treating some employees
differently than other.
11. Most people here don't really think the ethics hotline is safe and
anonymous.
12. People don't always report safety issues because they fear they will
lose their job if they stir trouble. I think this is even more of a
problem now because of the economy being so bad that they
wouldn't be able to find another job.
13. I feel I can't talk in safety meetings because I will be demeaned.
14. People bring up safety issues in meetings and then get laid off
shortly after.
15. I would not feel comfortable reporting ethics incidents because we
would probably get in trouble.
16. Management preaches that we should follow the safety rules, but
when money is involved there is a double standard.
17. At the top of the pyramid, managers are very explicit about how
things are supposed to be done, but first line managers have pressure
to do things according to the bottom line, not the rules.
18. Managers don't always practice what they preach. We are told to do
things one way and they do things another.
19. There is a double standard with managers following different rules
than employees.
20. Some supervisors do not follow their own safety rules.
31
TABLE 3 (continued)
Statements from Qualitative Interviews Sorted by Theme
Theme
Management
Responsibility
Neglect
Endangering
Employees
Statement
1. Sometimes the company makes blanket policies when something
bad happens, and that policy actually violates the current policy.
We ask which one to follow and they ignore the question.
2. Someone got hurt adjusting a machine because we didn't have the
proper tool to do the job. After the accident happened, management
remembered things differently and told the guy who was hurt that he
should have known better.
3. Even though management says it’s a no blame culture, you still get
blamed when something goes wrong.
4. A manager double-booked some parts, and when the clients
complained, the manager blamed the parts cleaner.
5. The managers give us all this safety stuff just to keep us from
having a leg to stand on in court if we get hurt.
6. Managers ask us to do things that they know we don't have the
resources to do safely.
7. I feel pressured by management to get things done too quickly, to
the point of being dangerous.
8. Production is always more important than safety until someone gets
hurt, then safety is back on top.
9. Until after there was a serious accident, we didn't even have the
right tool to be able to do the procedure properly.
10. Managers and safety guys ignored the fact that we did not have the
tools to do our job safely until after someone got badly hurt.
Discussion. While most of the emergent categories reflected content categories similar to
those represented in other ethics assessment instruments, a few are notably different. As
indicated in Table 4, the dimensions of Whistleblower Retaliation and Endangering Employees
were not included in past ethics assessment instruments.
32
TABLE 4
Froelich and
Kottke (1991)
Craig and
Gustaffson (1998)
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
Kaptein (2008)
Victor and Cullen
(1988)
Dimension:
Newstrom and
Ruch (1975)
Ethics Components Reflected in Study 1
Endangering employees
Management rule-breaking
Management neglecting responsibility
Whistleblower retaliation
Favoritism
Dishonesty
X
X
The Endangering Employees dimension included responses such as “managers ask us to
do things they know we do not have the resources to do safely” and “I feel pressured by
management to get things done too quickly, to the point of being dangerous” (see Table 3). A
majority of other ethics assessment instruments do not include this dimension, possibly due to
the developmental sample or target population. If an instrument is intended for office-based or
white-collar employees, a dimension concerning physical danger might not be applicable. We
believe these findings to be especially useful in the development of an ethics assessment
33
instrument intended to be used in a more diverse (in terms of organizational level and job type)
organizational setting, especially those in which safety might be an issue.
Likewise, the dimension of Whistleblower Retaliation has not been included to any
degree in other ethics assessment instruments. Responses demonstrated employee fear of
repercussions for reporting problems, including “I would not feel comfortable reporting ethics
incidents because I would probably get in trouble” and “people bring up safety issues in
meetings and then get laid off shortly after” (see Table 3). Whistleblower retaliation is
particularly important in industries where safety is a factor, due to the life-threatening
consequences of failing to correct problems. BP, for example, has come under increased legal
scrutiny for its practices of firing employees who speak up about problems. All of BP’s major
catastrophes in the last two decades that resulted in significant loss of life may have been
prevented had management responded to employee whistle blowing with constructive action
rather than retaliation (Lustgarten & Knutson, 2010).
In addition to these two new dimensions of Employee Endangerment and Whistleblower
Retaliation, several dimensions also reflected unique safety-related content. Management
Responsibility Neglect included multiple statements related to not only ethics, but also safety,
such as “[management] didn’t supply us with the proper tools to do the job safely until after
someone got hurt.” Also, the dimension of Management Rule-Breaking included safety-related
content, including statements, such as “some supervisors don’t follow their own safety rules.”
Study 2: Content Adequacy
Organizational context. A second study was conducted to assess the extent to which the
items generated in Study 1 were perceived as representative of their respective dimensions. A
survey of 29 employees from a different southeastern U.S. location of Organization One was
34
used to assess content adequacy. Participants included mechanical staff, administrative staff,
engineers, technical personnel, line managers, middle managers, and upper managers, and were
chosen randomly from a list of all employees working at the location. The particular location was
also chosen due to its diverse workforce, with a majority of employees either having been from
or having worked in a different part of the world prior to their current assignment. Participants
had not been a part of Study 1.
Procedure. Using the dimensions generated from Study 1 (the qualitative analysis), an
initial set of items was created to assess each of the six dimensions. Following standard item
development principles (Hinkin, 1998; Armenakis et al., 2007), including avoiding unfamiliar
wording, double-barreled items, and leading questions, the 33 items contained in Table 5 were
generated. Each of the 29 employees was asked to place each of the 33 items into one of the six
categories.
Results. Once responses from the 29 employees were collected, Cohen’s (1960) kappa
was used to assess the extent to which respondents perceived an item as representative of its
respective dimension. Cohen’s kappa is used to assess consistency of classifications and
represents a quantitative index of agreement among respondents. Kappa values must be equal to
or greater than .70 for each item to be considered acceptable (Cohen, 1960). In all but five items,
kappa was found to have a value of at least .70 (p < .05), with values ranging from .71 to .89.
The five items with unacceptable kappa values were deleted (see items 10, 11, 21, 27, and 32).
The statistical significance of the kappa results shows that there was sufficient agreement among
participants for the defined constructs of the Ethics Safety Scale.
35
TABLE 5
Initial Item List
Category
1. Management
Responsibility Neglect 1
2. Management
Responsibility Neglect 2
3. Management
Responsibility Neglect 3
4. Management
Responsibility Neglect 4
5. Management
Responsibility Neglect 5
6. Management RuleBreaking 1
7. Management RuleBreaking 2
8. Management RuleBreaking 3
9. Management RuleBreaking 4
*10. Management RuleBreaking 5
*11. Management RuleBreaking 6
12. Whistleblower
Retaliation 1
13. Whistleblower
Retaliation 2
14. Whistleblower
Retaliation 3
15. Whistleblower
Retaliation 4
16. Whistleblower
Retaliation 5
17. Dishonesty 1
18. Dishonesty 2
19. Dishonesty 3
Cohen’s
Kappa
.71
Item
.96
Even if an accident was not your fault, your superiors may still blame you.
.87
You have been blamed for a superior’s mistake.
.72
You would be blamed for not following rules you do not have enough time
to follow.
You would be blamed for not following rules you did not have the
equipment to follow.
There is a difference between the rules you are given in training and the
rules you are expected to follow in the field.
Some policies and rules are very different from actual practices.
.75
.71
.73
.91
If you were to get hurt at work, you might be blamed rather than supported.
.78
You are told to do things one way, but your superiors sometimes follow a
different set of rules.
Your superiors do not always practice what they preach.
.61
Your superiors do not always follow the rules they set out for employees.
.46
What your superiors say you are supposed to do and what you are expected
to actually do are different.
You are in more danger of losing your job if you report too many problems.
.91
.73
.78
You would be singled out by superiors if you complained about safety too
much.
You may be retaliated against for reporting ethics violations.
.91
You might be retaliated against after reporting an ethics problem using the
ethics hotline.
.87
Your superiors would retaliate against you if you reported them to the
ethics hotline.
.73
You have been asked to misrepresent things to clients or customers
.75
You have felt pressure to lie to cover up problems.
.72
You are given an “official” story for clients that is different than the real
story.
20. Dishonesty 4
.73
Some employees lie to cover up problems.
*21. Dishonesty 5
.62
Your coworkers would take bribes from clients.
22. Favoritism 1
.97
Some employees are treated more favorably than you.
23. Favoritism 2
.91
You would probably be promoted more quickly if you were of more friends
with your superiors.
24. Favoritism 3
.97
Workers in some sections are treated as more important than workers in
other sections.
Items marked with * removed due to Kappa values below .70 cutoff.
36
TABLE 5 (continued)
Initial Item List
Category
Cohen’s
Kappa
.87
.91
.51
.82
Item
25. Favoritism 4
Certain clients, vendors or suppliers are given preferential treatment.
26. Favoritism 5
Your superiors give special treatment to their favorite employees.
*27. Favoritism 6
Your concerns are not taken seriously because of the section you work in
28. Employee
You are asked to do things that are not safe.
endangerment 1
29. Employee
.82
You are asked to complete tasks in an unsafe amount of time.
endangerment 2
30. Employee
.73
You do not always get the equipment needed to do the job safely.
endangerment 3
31. Employee
.78
Some of the work you do here would be safer with better or different
endangerment 4
equipment.
33. Employee
.73
Some of your superiors do not really care about your safety.
endangerment 5
*32. Employee
.56
You are expected to focus more on production rather than safety.
endangerment 6
Items marked with * removed due to Kappa values below .70 cutoff.
Study 3: Inter-item Analysis
Organizational context. Employees from six different locations within the European and
North American divisions of Organization One responded to the Ethics Safety Scale. Participants
included mechanical staff, administrative staff, engineers, technical personnel, line managers,
middle managers, and upper managers from Norway, England, the southeastern U.S. and the
southern central U.S.
Procedure. Exactly 103 employees out of roughly 700 were randomly recruited to
participate in Study 3. The primary researcher along with two trained assistants collected the
data through face-to-face interviews to help ensure that respondents understood the questions.
The wording of certain items was tailored to include terminology and jargon specific to the
locations. For instance, at two locations, the term “supervisor” had to be replaced with “direct
supervisor” to avoid confusion among respondents. All questions were read aloud to participants
37
to ensure understanding. Participants were asked to indicate verbally the extent to which they
agreed or disagreed with each statement. Responses were immediately recorded into an
electronic database. The response format consisted of a five-cell Likert format, with anchors of
1 for strongly disagree and 5 for strongly agree.
Results. The variance of each of the 28 items was assessed first. While there is no
definitive established cutoff score for minimum levels of variability, past research has used
standard deviation of 1.0 (Armenakis et. al., 2007; Liden & Masyln, 1998). Items that show less
variance do not contribute meaningfully to a new scale, and their elimination will not limit the
content of the new scale (Liden & Masyln, 1998). All 28 items were shown to have variability
within an acceptable range, so no items were deleted.
Next, the inter-correlation matrix among items within the six subscales was assessed.
Past research has established that items correlating less than .40 with other items should be
dropped (Kim & Mueller, 1978). Items with correlations below this acceptable level are not
likely to belong to the same content domain (Hinkin, 1998).
Table 6 shows the inter-correlations of items contained in each of the six subscales, as
well as the means and standard deviations. All but two items showed acceptable correlations.
Items Dishonesty 4 (“Some employees lie to cover up problems”) and Employee Endangerment
5 (“Some of your superiors do not really care about your safety”) were deleted due to failure to
meet .40 cutoff. The remaining 26 items were above the acceptable benchmark and were
retained for further consideration in the Ethics Safety Scale. An intercorrelation matrix of the all
26 items is included in Table 7.
38
TABLE 6
Subscale Means, Standard Deviations, and Intercorrelations
Item
M
SD
1
1. Mgmt Responsibility Neglect 1
2. Mgmt Responsibility Neglect 2
3. Mgmt Responsibility Neglect 3
4. Mgmt Responsibility Neglect 4
5. Mgmt Responsibility Neglect 5
6. Management Rule-Breaking 1
7. Management Rule-Breaking 2
8. Management Rule-Breaking 3
9. Management Rule-Breaking 4
10. Whistleblower Retaliation 1
11. Whistleblower Retaliation 2
12. Whistleblower Retaliation 3
13. Whistleblower Retaliation 4
14. Whistleblower Retaliation 5
15. Dishonesty 1
16. Dishonesty 2
17. Dishonesty 3
18. Dishonesty 4
19. Favoritism 1
20. Favoritism 2
21. Favoritism 3
22. Favoritism 4
23. Favoritism 5
24. Employee Endangerment 1
25. Employee Endangerment 2
26. Employee Endangerment 3
27. Employee Endangerment 4
28. Employee Endangerment 5
3.20
3.05
3.02
3.54
3.40
2.89
2.91
2.85
3.38
2.30
2.23
2.24
2.41
2.44
2.21
2.10
2.62
3.20
2.72
2.92
2.86
2.81
2.52
2.51
2.60
2.60
2.74
1.59
1.08
1.19
1.33
1.06
1.17
1.09
1.14
1.10
1.18
1.02
1.06
1.00
1.01
1.03
1.01
1.07
1.15
1.00
1.18
1.17
1.04
1.10
1.01
1.12
1.15
1.20
1.15
1.02
.67**
.57**
.61**
.60**
.42**
.49**
.41**
.60**
.54**
.46**
.45**
.42**
.64**
.39*
.54**
.57**
.32*
.55**
.48**
.42**
.41**
.21*
2
3
4
5
.64**
.59**
.60**
.60**
.67**
.82**
-
.46**
.63**
.43**
-
.67**
.44**
.53**
.55**
.63**
.65**
.58**
.41**
.43**
-
.46**
.34*
.42**
.41**
.46**
.51**
-
.47**
.41**
.28*
.40**
.32*
.19*
-
-
N = 103. *p < .01. **p < .001
Note: items Dishonesty 4 and Employee Endangerment 5 were deleted due to failure to meet .40 cutoff.
39
TABLE 7
Means, Standard Deviations, and Intercorrelations
Item
1. Mgmt Responsibility Neglect 1
2. Mgmt Responsibility Neglect 2
3. Mgmt Responsibility Neglect 3
4. Mgmt Responsibility Neglect 4
5. Mgmt Responsibility Neglect 5
6. Management Rule-Breaking 1
7. Management Rule-Breaking 2
8. Management Rule-Breaking 3
9. Management Rule-Breaking 4
10. Whistleblower Retaliation 1
11. Whistleblower Retaliation 2
12. Whistleblower Retaliation 3
13. Whistleblower Retaliation 4
14. Whistleblower Retaliation 5
15. Dishonesty 1
16. Dishonesty 2
17. Dishonesty 3
18. Dishonesty 4
19. Favoritism 1
20. Favoritism 2
21. Favoritism 3
22. Favoritism 4
23. Favoritism 5
24. Employee Endangerment 1
25. Employee Endangerment 2
26. Employee Endangerment 3
27. Employee Endangerment 4
28. Employee Endangerment 5
M
3.20
3.05
3.02
3.54
3.40
2.89
2.91
2.85
3.38
2.30
2.23
2.24
2.41
2.44
2.21
2.10
2.62
3.20
2.72
2.92
2.86
2.81
2.52
2.51
2.60
2.60
2.74
1.59
SD
1.08
1.19
1.33
1.06
1.17
1.09
1.14
1.10
1.18
1.02
1.06
1.00
1.01
1.03
1.01
1.07
1.15
1.00
1.18
1.17
1.04
1.10
1.01
1.12
1.15
1.20
1.15
1.02
1
2
3
4
5
6
.67**
.57**
.61**
.60**
.48**
.51**
.01
-.08
.27**
.20**
.28**
.26**
.15**
-.08
-.11
-.23
-.09
-.21**
-.02
-.02
.14
.01
-.04
.14
.08
-.17*
.27**
.64**
.59**
.60**
.44**
.48**
.02
-.06
.38**
.28**
.39**
.45**
.29**
.01
-.02
-.11
-.01
-.21
.04
-.09
.15*
.07
.01
.21**
.23**
-.13
.42**
.60**
.67**
.54**
.61**
-.06
-.15
.39**
.37**
.35**
.38**
.18**
-.11
-.17
-.29**
-.11
-.33**
-.16*
-.24**
-.01
-.07
.14
.30**
.17*
-.20**
.42**
.82**
.50**
.56**
.05
.04
.35**
.32**
.38**
.34**
.25**
.06
-.04
-.06
.01
-.13
.00
-.02
.12
.07
.03
.24**
.20**
-.07
.35**
.53**
.65**
.04
-.06
.40**
.35**
.42**
.40**
.25**
-.07
-.13
-.19*
-.05
-.22**
-.03
-.10
.09
.00
.05
.27**
.25**
-.14
.44**
.77**
.49**
.41**
.33**
.32**
.29**
.29**
.25**
.13
-.06
-.20**
-.04
-.13
.01
-.03
.06
-.02
.02
.25**
.10
.00
.33**
N = 103. *p < .01. **p < .001
Note: items Dishonesty 4 and Employee Endangerment 5 were deleted due to failure to meet .40 cutoff.
40
TABLE 7 (continued)
Means, Standard Deviations, and Intercorrelations
Item
1. Mgmt Responsibility Neglect 1
2. Mgmt Responsibility Neglect 2
3. Mgmt Responsibility Neglect 3
4. Mgmt Responsibility Neglect 4
5. Mgmt Responsibility Neglect 5
6. Management Rule-Breaking 1
7. Management Rule-Breaking 2
8. Management Rule-Breaking 3
9. Management Rule-Breaking 4
10. Whistleblower Retaliation 1
11. Whistleblower Retaliation 2
12. Whistleblower Retaliation 3
13. Whistleblower Retaliation 4
14. Whistleblower Retaliation 5
15. Dishonesty 1
16. Dishonesty 2
17. Dishonesty 3
18. Dishonesty 4
19. Favoritism 1
20. Favoritism 2
21. Favoritism 3
22. Favoritism 4
23. Favoritism 5
24. Employee Endangerment 1
25. Employee Endangerment 2
26. Employee Endangerment 3
27. Employee Endangerment 4
28. Employee Endangerment 5
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
.46**
.63**
.44**
.36**
.35**
.39**
.27**
.02
-.06
-.21**
-.06
-.10
.02
.03
.13
.05
.09
.26**
.18*
-.09
.42**
.43**
.11
.18*
.10
.03
.14
.32**
.41**
.47**
.27**
.32**
.31**
.42**
.33**
.28**
.33**
.18*
.33**
.26**
.08
.18*
.20**
.20**
.04
.13
.34**
.32**
.27**
.21**
.38**
.36**
.48**
.34**
.38**
.25**
.22**
.34**
.27**
.00
.60**
.54**
.46**
.45**
.11
.06
-.05
.06
-.01
.11
.14
.20**
.17*
.10
.37**
.41**
-.03
.29**
.67**
.44**
.53**
.15*
.18*
.10
.09
.01
.12
.21**
.17*
.17*
.23**
.32**
.38**
-.01
.31**
.55**
.63**
.10
.15*
.02
.08
-.10
.07
.15*
.27**
.14
.15*
.31**
.46**
.04
.34**
.65**
.16*
.09
-.16*
-.03
-.08
.02
.02
.23**
.13
.11*
.28**
.39**
-.08
.39**
N = 103. *p < .01. **p < .001
Note: items Dishonesty 4 and Employee Endangerment 5 were deleted due to failure to meet .40 cutoff.
41
TABLE 7 (continued)
Means, Standard Deviations, and Intercorrelations
Item
1. Mgmt Responsibility Neglect 1
2. Mgmt Responsibility Neglect 2
3. Mgmt Responsibility Neglect 3
4. Mgmt Responsibility Neglect 4
5. Mgmt Responsibility Neglect 5
6. Management Rule-Breaking 1
7. Management Rule-Breaking 2
8. Management Rule-Breaking 3
9. Management Rule-Breaking 4
10. Whistleblower Retaliation 1
11. Whistleblower Retaliation 2
12. Whistleblower Retaliation 3
13. Whistleblower Retaliation 4
14. Whistleblower Retaliation 5
15. Dishonesty 1
16. Dishonesty 2
17. Dishonesty 3
18. Dishonesty 4
19. Favoritism 1
20. Favoritism 2
21. Favoritism 3
22. Favoritism 4
23. Favoritism 5
24. Employee Endangerment 1
25. Employee Endangerment 2
26. Employee Endangerment 3
27. Employee Endangerment 4
28. Employee Endangerment 5
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
.27**
.24**
.06
.05
.03
.11
.21**
.20**
.24**
.15*
.23**
.38**
.07
.32**
.42**
.64**
.39*
.38**
.28**
.38**
.34**
.36**
.20**
.24**
.17**
.36**
.06
.58**
.41**
.41**
.24**
.47**
.28**
.39**
.31**
.22**
.26**
.29**
.18*
.43**
.45**
.36**
.41*
.27**
.35**
.23**
.13
.14
.31**
.01
.32**
.23**
.29**
.16*
.28**
.25**
.19
.10
.14
.03
.54**
.57**
.32*
.55**
.18*
.07
.15*
.38**
-.05
.46**
.34*
.42**
.15*
.16*
.32
.28**
.02
N = 103. *p < .01. **p < .001
Note: items Dishonesty 4 and Employee Endangerment 5 were deleted due to failure to meet .40 cutoff.
42
TABLE 7 (continued)
Means, Standard Deviations, and Intercorrelations
Item
1. Mgmt Responsibility Neglect 1
2. Mgmt Responsibility Neglect 2
3. Mgmt Responsibility Neglect 3
4. Mgmt Responsibility Neglect 4
5. Mgmt Responsibility Neglect 5
6. Management Rule-Breaking 1
7. Management Rule-Breaking 2
8. Management Rule-Breaking 3
9. Management Rule-Breaking 4
10. Whistleblower Retaliation 1
11. Whistleblower Retaliation 2
12. Whistleblower Retaliation 3
13. Whistleblower Retaliation 4
14. Whistleblower Retaliation 5
15. Dishonesty 1
16. Dishonesty 2
17. Dishonesty 3
18. Dishonesty 4
19. Favoritism 1
20. Favoritism 2
21. Favoritism 3
22. Favoritism 4
23. Favoritism 5
24. Employee Endangerment 1
25. Employee Endangerment 2
26. Employee Endangerment 3
27. Employee Endangerment 4
28. Employee Endangerment 5
21
22
23
24
25
26
.41**
.46**
.20*
.16*
.25**
.34**
.05
.51**
.11
.30**
.34**
.28**
.19*
.23**
.22**
.36**
.31**
.13
.48**
.42**
.41**
.21*
.47**
.41**
.28*
.40**
.32*
Note: N = 103. *p < .01. **p < .001. Items Dishonesty 4 and Employee Endangerment 5 were deleted
due to failure to meet .40 cutoff.
Study 4: Exploratory Factor Analysis
Organizational context. A separate group of employees from the same six locations of
Organization One used in Study 3 were asked to participate in Study 4. Participants included
mechanical staff, administrative staff, engineers, technical personnel, line managers, middle
managers, and upper managers.
43
Procedure. Exactly 104 employees were recruited to participate in the study. These
employees made up the remainder of the organizational members that did not participate in the
previous study. The primary researcher along with two trained assistants collected the data
through face-to-face interviews to help ensure that respondents understood the questions. All
questions were read aloud to participants to ensure understanding. Participants were asked to
indicate verbally the extent to which they agreed or disagreed with each statement. Responses
were immediately recorded into an electronic database. The response format consisted of a fivecell Likert format, with anchors of 1 for strongly disagree and 5 for strongly agree.
Results. Using the 26 items remaining from Study 3, an exploratory principal components
factor analysis with varimax rotation was conducted. The number of factors was not specified.
Appropriately developed values should have a scree plot equal to the number of sub-scales
included (Hinkin, 1998). Results not only indicated that a six-factor solution was most
appropriate, but that all but one item (i.e., Management Rule-breaking item #1: Your supervisors
do not always practice what they preach) loaded on its respective dimension. All 6 dimensions
showed eigenvalues greater than 1.0. All 25 items retained met the suggested .40 cutoff for
meaningful factor loadings (Hinkin, 1998). The rotated factor solution for the items is included
in Table 8.
44
TABLE 8
Exploratory Factor Analysis Results of
Perceived Organizational Ethics Questionnaire
Construct
Item
1. Mgt Responsibility Neglect1
2. Mgt Responsibility Neglect 2
3. Mgt Responsibility Neglect 3
4. Mgt Responsibility Neglect 4
5. Mgt Responsibility Neglect 5
6. Mgt Rule-breaking 1
7. Mgt Rule-breaking 2
8. Mgt Rule-breaking 3
9. *Mgt Rule-breaking 4
10. Whistleblower retaliation 1
11. Whistleblower retaliation 2
12. Whistleblower retaliation 3
13. Whistleblower retaliation 4
14. Whistleblower retaliation 5
15. Dishonesty 1
16. Dishonesty 2
17. Dishonesty 3
18. Favoritism 1
19. Favoritism 2
20. Favoritism 3
21. Favoritism 4
22. Favoritism 5
23. Employee endangerment 1
24. Employee endangerment 2
25. Employee endangerment 3
26. Employee endangerment 4
1
2
3
4
5
6
.819
-.041
.048
-.103
.054
-.089
.784
-.096
.214
.022
.014
.071
.768
-.033
.204
-.067
-.272
.209
.828
-.013
.154
.062
.046
.026
.840
.049
.209
-.074
-.063
.109
-.013
.484
.134
.037
.552
.052
.051
.752
.057
.175
.284
.052
-.083
.670
.058
.283
.314
.163
.708
.105
.229
-.144
.055
.103
.331
.200
.634
-.067
.094
.107
.223
.247
.733
.107
.029
.104
.266
.116
.782
.038
.046
.133
.294
-.154
.724
-.047
.068
.159
.091
-.098
.824
.109
.166
.092
.020
.140
-.017
.804
.139
.032
-.125
.078
.161
.645
.352
.182
-.160
.235
-.055
.773
.316
.049
-.189
.090
-.101
.255
.736
.005
.010
.277
-.004
.067
.651
.038
-.088
.232
.136
.226
.689
-.008
.155
.055
.156
.018
.649
.173
.051
.038
.120
.193
.701
.140
.412
-.055
.208
.058
-.003
.655
.234
.093
.214
.119
.138
.655
.085
.212
.386
-.066
.311
.615
-.204
-.065
-.108
.056
.489
.596
Note: N= 104. Bold numerical represent acceptable factor loading loadings for each construct.
*Rule-breaking item 4 removed due to cutoff failure
45
Study 5: Confirmatory Factor Analysis - Organization Two
Organizational context. The sample for Study 5 included employees from two sites of a
large municipal port authority in the southeastern U.S. The port district encompasses over 200
square miles and accommodates over 52 million tons of cargo annually. The port employs 124
machinery operators, laborers, inspectors, managers, and support staff. The work environment
at the port involves similar job roles as compared to Organization One. Additionally, although
the nature of shipping work and petroleum work involve some unique job roles and
responsibilities, the heavy machinery and large equipment used at the port presents similar levels
of physical hazards as those in Organization One, thus making Organization Two an appropriate
choice for study 5.
Procedure. Exactly 98 employees were recruited to participate in the study. Participants
included mechanical staff, administrative staff, engineers, technical personnel, line managers,
middle managers, and upper managers, and were chosen randomly from a list of all employees
working at the location. The survey included the 25 items retained from Study 4. Employees
were each individually interviewed in person by the primary researcher to help ensure that
respondents understood the questions. All questions were read aloud to participants to ensure
understanding. Participants were asked to indicate verbally the extent to which they agreed or
disagreed with each statement. Responses were immediately recorded into an electronic
database. The response format consisted of a five-cell Likert format, with anchors of 1 for
strongly disagree and 5 for strongly agree.
Results. First, internal consistency reliability was checked. Internal consistencies for the
subscales and the overall scale were acceptable at both sites studied. No significant differences
were found between samples at the two sites. Coefficient alpha for Endangering Employees,
46
Management Rule-Breaking, Management Neglecting Responsibility, Whistleblower
Retaliation, Favoritism, and Dishonesty were .83, .89, .91, .95, .90, and .90, respectively (N=98).
Coefficient alpha for the all 25 items grouped into an overall scale was .94 (N=98).
Next, the 25 items comprising the overall scale and the six sub-scales were tested using a
confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) in the statistical software package AMOS. Standard cutoff
values were used to assess goodness of fit. We used comparative fit indices (CFI) to compare
the fit of our model to the null model. CFI values above .90 usually indicate reasonable fit
(Kline, 2005, p.135). RMSEA is an index of fit taking into account error of approximation.
Values less than .10 indicate acceptable fit (Kline, 2005, p. 139).
Standardized root mean
square residual (SRMSR) was also used to assess fit. Values above .10 are considered
undesirable (Kline, 2005, p.141). Chi-square over degrees of freedom assesses the validity of the
distribution of data (Kline, 2005, p.141). The results of the CFA showed acceptable fit,
including CFI = .94, RMSEA = .070, χ2/ df = 1.46, and SRMSR = .07. These results support the
6-factor model of safety-based ethics. The final item list for the Ethics Safety Scale is included
in Table 9. Table 10 shows results of the CFA for the port authority sample.
47
TABLE 9
Final Item List
Category
1. Management
responsibility neglect 1
2. Management
responsibility neglect 2
3. Management
responsibility neglect 3
4. Management
responsibility neglect 4
5. Management
responsibility neglect 5
6. Management rulebreaking 1
7. Management rulebreaking 2
8. Management rulebreaking 3
9. Whistleblower
retaliation 1
10. Whistleblower
retaliation 2
11. Whistleblower
retaliation 3
12. Whistleblower
retaliation 4
13. Whistleblower
retaliation 5
14. Dishonesty 1
15. Dishonesty 2
16. Dishonesty 3
17. Favoritism 1
18. Favoritism 2
19. Favoritism 3
20. Favoritism 4
21. Favoritism 5
22. Employee
endangerment 1
23. Employee
endangerment 2
24. Employee
endangerment 3
25. Employee
endangerment 4
Item
If you were to get hurt at work, you might be blamed rather than supported.
Even if an accident was not your fault, your superiors may still blame you.
You have been blamed for a superior’s mistake.
You would be blamed for not following rules you do not have enough time
to follow.
You would be blamed for not following rules you did not have the
equipment to follow.
There is a difference between the rules you are given in training and the rules
you are expected to follow in the field.
Some policies and rules are very different from actual practices.
You are told to do things one way, but your superiors sometimes follow a
different set of rules.
You are in more danger of losing your job if you report too many problems.
You would be singled out by superiors if you complained about safety too
much.
You may be retaliated against for reporting ethics violations.
You might be retaliated against after using an ethics reporting hotline or
website.
Your superiors would retaliate against you if you reported them to the ethics
hotline.
You have been asked to misrepresent things to clients or customers
You have felt pressure to lie to cover up problems.
You are given an “official” story for clients that is different than the real
story.
Some employees are treated more favorably than you.
You would probably be promoted more quickly if you were of more friends
with your superiors.
Workers in some sections are treated as more important than workers in
other sections.
Certain clients, vendors or suppliers are given preferential treatment.
Your superiors give special treatment to their favorite employees.
You are asked to do things that are not safe.
You are asked to complete tasks in an unsafe amount of time.
You do not always get the equipment needed to do the job safely.
Some of the work you do here would be safer with better or different
equipment.
48
TABLE 10
Results of CFA – Port Sample
Item
1. Mgt Responsibility Neglect 1
2. Mgt Responsibility Neglect 2
3. Mgt Responsibility Neglect 3
4. Mgt Responsibility Neglect 4
5. Mgt Responsibility Neglect 5
6. Rule-breaking 1
7. Rule-breaking 2
8. Rule-breaking 3
9. Whistleblower retaliation 1
10. Whistleblower retaliation 2
11. Whistleblower retaliation 3
12. Whistleblower retaliation 4
13. Whistleblower retaliation 5
14. Dishonesty 1
15. Dishonesty 2
16. Dishonesty 3
17. Favoritism 1
18. Favoritism 2
19. Favoritism 3
20. Favoritism 4
21. Favoritism 5
22. Employee endangerment 1
23. Employee endangerment 2
24. Employee endangerment 3
25. Employee endangerment 4
Estimate
S.E.
P-value
.973
.133
.001
.869
.132
.001
1.225
.134
.001
1.188
.132
.001
1.00
-
-
.938
.073
.001
.753
.082
.001
1.00
-
-
.733
.071
.001
.907
.056
.001
1.024
.033
.001
.944
.094
.001
1.00
-
-
1.056
.093
.001
1.008
.092
.001
1.00
-
-
.958
.089
.001
1.008
.096
.001
.908
.093
.001
.699
.102
.001
1.00
-
-
1.002
.149
.001
1.116
.154
.001
.928
.151
.001
1.00
-
-
Note: N= 98.
Study 6: Confirmatory Factor Analysis – Web Sample
Organizational context. Considering the encouraging results of the CFA in Study 5, an
additional sample with greater power due to larger sample size was administered the Ethics
Safety Scale in Study 6. The data collection service Zoomerang was utilized, which recruits
49
from a diverse population of over 30 million U.S.-based respondents. Although Zoomerang
includes safeguards to avoid low-quality data, we also included specific items to verify that
respondents were not randomly responding and actually worked in a job role and organization
that met our criteria. The sample included employees of U.S. mining and manufacturing
industries. Participants included machinery operators, laborers, inspectors, managers, and
support staff. The work environment of the industries used in Study 6 includes similar job roles
as compared to Organizations One and Two. The industries used in each study are all monitored
closely by OSHA due to the potential hazards in the workplace. As an added check to insure that
all participants worked in a safety-related industry, a question was included in the web survey
asking participants if physical hazards were a possibility in their workplace and immediate job
role. The sample was 53% female and the average age was 48.5. All participants worked in a
safety-related job role in the industries of mining or manufacturing.
Procedure. Exactly 170 employees were recruited to participate in the study. Survey
invitations were sent electronically to individuals working in the industries of either mining or
manufacturing. Once participants elected to participate, they were directed to a secure website
and given information regarding informed consent and the usage of their information, as well as
assurance of anonymity. The survey included the 25 items retained from Study 4. The response
format consisted of a five-cell Likert format, with anchors of 1 for strongly disagree and 5 for
strongly agree.
Results. First, internal consistency reliability was checked. Internal consistencies for the
subscales and the overall scale were acceptable. The coefficient alpha for Endangering
Employees, Management Rule-Breaking, Management Neglecting Responsibility,
Whistleblower Retaliation, Favoritism, and Dishonesty were .91, .93, .91, .94, .92, and .92,
50
respectively. Next, the 25 items comprising the overall scale and the six sub-scales were tested
using a confirmatory factor analysis in the statistical software package AMOS. Standard cutoff
values were used to assess goodness of fit. The results of the CFA showed acceptable fit,
including CFI = .92, RMSEA = .092, χ2/ df = 2.51, and SRMSR = .05. These results further
support the six-factor model of the Ethics Safety Scale (see Table 11).
TABLE 11
Results of CFA – Web Sample
Item
1. Mgt Responsibility Neglect 1
2. Mgt Responsibility Neglect 2
3. Mgt Responsibility Neglect 3
4. Mgt Responsibility Neglect 4
5. Mgt Responsibility Neglect 5
6. Rule-breaking 1
7. Rule-breaking 2
8. Rule-breaking 3
9. Whistleblower retaliation 1
10. Whistleblower retaliation 2
11. Whistleblower retaliation 3
12. Whistleblower retaliation 4
13. Whistleblower retaliation 5
14. Dishonesty 1
15. Dishonesty 2
16. Dishonesty 3
17. Favoritism 1
18. Favoritism 2
19. Favoritism 3
20. Favoritism 4
21. Favoritism 5
22. Employee endangerment 1
23. Employee endangerment 2
24. Employee endangerment 3
25. Employee endangerment 4
Estimate
1.030
.913
.843
.935
1.00
1.035
1.042
1.00
.893
.936
.994
.952
1.00
1.052
.995
1.00
.964
.799
.950
.776
1.00
.846
.878
.952
1.00
S.E.
.056
.071
.068
.060
.057
.060
.053
.053
.044
.073
.054
.060
.058
.062
.054
.061
.051
.056
.073
-
Note: N= 170.
51
P-value
.001
.001
.001
.001
.001
.001
.001
.001
.001
.001
.001
.001
.001
.001
.001
.001
.001
.001
.001
-
Convergent and Discriminant Validity
An often-used way to determine convergent validity is to compare correlations between a
new scale and constructs based on previously tested empirical findings (cf. Campbell & Fiske,
1959; Liden & Maslyn, 1998). With the study of any construct, it is important to know the
boundaries of that construct. The study and measurement of organizational ethics has been
compared to other related organizational constructs, such as, organizational trust and support
from organizational leaders. These constructs share a morally good or positive aspect.
Conversely, several studies have compared the negative aspects of ethics (unethical behaviors) to
theoretically similar constructs, such as, organizational deviance, narcissism, and political
behavior (Kish-Gephart, Harrison, & Trevino, 2010). Unfortunately, despite the theoretical
similarities between ethics and other ethically charged constructs (e.g., trust), relatively few
studies have tested the extent of these relationships.
Though not empirically tested, the content domain of ethics scales may have a large
degree of overlap with organizational trust, particularly in regard to the ethics of truth-telling,
lying, and dishonesty. The Froelich and Kottke (1991) measure of ethics, for instance, employs
five items concerning lying, a behavior integrally related to trust (Robinson, 1996).
Additionally, due to the safety-related nature of several of the dimensions of the Ethics Safety
Scale, safety-related measures, such as Supervisor Safety (Zohar & Luria, 2005) may be related.
First, the Ethics Safety Scale dimensions of Dishonesty, Favoritism, and Whistleblower
Retaliation were compared to Trust using the Schoorman and Ballinger (2006) Supervisory Trust
measure. The seven-item measure assesses the extent to employees feel their supervisors are
likely to behave in an unsupportive manner, using items such as, “It is important for me to have a
good way to keep an eye on my supervisor” (Schoorman & Ballinger, 2006). Favoritism,
52
Dishonesty, and Whistleblower Retaliation all measure employee perceptions of unethical
supervisor behaviors, which should be related to employee expectations of trustworthy behaviors
measured with the Supervisor Trust items. Analyses showed moderately positive correlations,
including r = .41 (p < .01) for Favoritism and Supervisor Trust, r = .38(p < .01) for Dishonesty
and Supervisor Trust, and r = .44 (p < .01) for Whistleblower Retaliation and Supervisor Trust.
Next, the Ethics Safety Scale dimensions of Employee Endangerment, Management
Responsibility Neglect, and Management Rule Breaking were compared to employee
perceptions of supervisor safety behaviors measured using Zohar and Luria’s (2005) Safety
Climate Scale (see Table 9). The scale was reported to have acceptable reliability (r = .95) and
was used as a measure of group level, safety-related interactions between supervisors and
subordinates. I included the 16-item Safety Climate measure in the data collection for Study 6
(see Table 12). Zohar and Luria’s (2005) scale, which assesses the extent to which employees
perceive their supervisor engaging in safe behaviors, was compared to the Ethics Safety Scale
dimensions of Employee Endangerment, Management Responsibility Neglect, and Management
Rule Breaking. Each of these 3 sub-dimensions of the overall Ethics Safety Scale was chosen
due to the particular focus on employee perceptions of actions taken by supervisors in relation to
safety and ethics. Analyses showed moderately strong positive correlations, including r = .46 (p
< .01) for Employee endangerment and Safety Climate, r = .45(p < .01) for Management
Responsibility Neglect and Safety Climate, and r = .43 (p < .01) for Management Rule Breaking
and Safety Climate.
53
TABLE 12
Additional Study 6 Variables Measured
Scale
Items
Perceived Organizational Support items from
Eisenberger et al. (1986)
1. The organization strongly considers my goals and
values.
2. Help is available when I have a problem.
3. The organization really cares about my well-being
4. The organization is willing to extend itself in order to
help me perform my job to the best of my ability.
5. Even if I did the best job possible, the organization
would fail to notice.
6. The organization cares about my general satisfaction
at work.
7. The organization shows very little concern for me.
8. The organization cares about my opinions.
9. The organization takes pride in my accomplishments
at work.
Leader-Member Excahnge items from Graen & UhlBien (1995)
1. I know where I stand with my boss.
2. I usually know how satisfied my boss is with what I
do.
3. My boss recognizes my potential.
4. I have enough confidence in my boss that I would
defend his/her decision if he/she was not present to do
so..
5. My boss understands my job problems and needs.
6. I have an effective working relationship with my boss.
7. My boss would use his/her power to help me solve a
problem.
Creative Self-Efficacy items from Tierney & Farmer
(2002)
1. I feel that I am good at generating novel ideas.
2. I have confidence in my ability to solve problems
creatively.
3. I have a knack for further developing the ideas of
others.
Trust items from Schoorman & Ballinger (2006)
1. My supervisor keeps my interests in mind when
making decisions.
2. I would be willing to let my supervisor have complete
control over my future in this company.
3. If my supervisor asked why a problem occurred, I
would speak freely even if I were partly to blame.
4. I feel comfortable being creative because my
supervisor understands that sometimes creative solutions
do not work.
5. It is important for me to have a good way to keep an
eye on my supervisor.
6. Increasing my vulnerability to criticism by my
supervisor would be a mistake.
7. If I had my way I wouldn’t let my supervisor have any
influence over decisions that are important to me.
54
TABLE 12 (continued)
Additional Study 6 Variables Measured
Scale
Items
Safety Culture items from Zohar & Luria (2005)
1. My supervisor makes sure we receive all the
equipment needed to do the job safely.
2. My supervisor frequently checks to see if we are
obeying the safety rules.
3. My supervisor discusses how to improve safety with
us.
4. My supervisor uses explanations (not just compliance)
to get us to act safely.
5. My supervisor frequently tells us about hazards in our
work.
6. My supervisor refuses to ignore safety rules when
work falls behind schedule.
8. My supervisor is strict about working safely when we
are tired or stressed.
9. My supervisor reminds workers who need reminders
about safety.
10. My supervisor makes sure we follow all the safety
rules, not just the most important ones.
11. My supervisor insists that we obey safety rules when
fixing equipment or machines.
12. My supervisor says a good word to workers who pay
special attention to safety.
13. My supervisor is strict about safety at the end of the
shift, when we want to go home.
14. My supervisor spends time helping us learn to see
problems before they arise.
15. My supervisor talks about safety issues throughout
the week.
16. My supervisor insists we wear our protective
equipment even if it is uncomfortable
To assess discriminant validity I compared alternate one-factor, two-factor, three-factor,
four-factor, and five-factor models to the hypothesized six-factor model. Model 1 was a fivefactor model in which Favoritism and Employee Endangerment were combined to form a single
factor. Model 2 was a four-factor model in which Favoritism and Employee Endangerment were
combined and Whistleblower Retaliation and Dishonesty were combined. Model 3 was a threefactor model in which Favoritism and Employee Endangerment were combined, Whistleblower
55
Retaliation and Dishonesty were combined, and Management Rule-Breaking and Management
Responsibility Neglect were combined. Model 4 was a two-factor model in which Favoritism,
Employee Endangerment, Whistleblower Retaliation, and Dishonesty were combined, and
Management Rule-Breaking and Management Responsibility Neglect were combined. And
Model 5 was a model in which all six factors were combined into one general factor. Table 10
shows the fit indices supported the six-factor model (see Table 10). Thus, these results
demonstrated support for the hypothesized model of six distinct factors (Barger & Grandey,
2006).
56
TABLE 13
Comparison of Measurement Models
Χ
Model
1. Hypothesized model
624.07**
2. Five factors: Baseline model with
Favoritism and Employee
957.84**
Endangerment merged into one factor
3. Four factors: Baseline model with
Favoritism and Employee
Endangerment combined and
1442.56**
Whistleblower Retaliation and
Dishonesty combined.
4. Three factors: Baseline model with
Favoritism and Employee
Endangerment combined,
Whistleblower Retaliation and
1659.78**
Dishonesty combined, and
Management Rule-Breaking and
Management Responsibility Neglect
combined.
5. Two factors: Favoritism, Employee
Endangerment, Whistleblower
Retaliation, and Dishonesty combined,
1966.93**
and Management Rule-Breaking and
Management Responsibility Neglect
combined.
6. One factor: All factors merged into
2231.38**
one.
Standardized estimates are shown. N = 170
**p < .01.
2
df
237
Δχ2
-
RMSEA
.092
CFI
.916
SRMSR
.049
242
333.77
.105
.878
.072
246
817.86
.135
.795
.087
249
1035.71
.146
.759
.088
251
1342.86
.160
.707
.086
252
1607.31
.172
.662
.090
I also assessed discriminant validity using a marker variable (Lindell & Whitney, 2001).
Lindell and Whitney (2001) developed the marker variable technique to check common method
variance between variables of substantive interest and a marker variable that is theoretically
unrelated. A measure of creative self-efficacy (Tierney & Farmer, 2002) was included as the
marker variable in the questionnaire for Study 6. Creative self-efficacy (CSE), a variable that
should not be theoretically related to perceptions of safety or ethics, should result in a nonsignificant correlation. The use of a marker variable has also demonstrated worth as a way of
57
showing common method variance is not artificially inflating the nonsignificant data to levels of
significance (Lindell & Whitney, 2001). In selecting creative self-efficacy as a marker variable,
I followed Lindell and Whitney’s suggestion that marker variables have documented evidence of
high reliability and be theoretically unrelated to the variable of interest. Lindell and Whitney
(2001) suggest that the smallest observed correlation between the marker variable and any
theoretically unrelated variable of interest is the result of CMV. Once the smallest correlation is
determined, the value reflecting CMV is partialed out from the substantive variables.
Analyses showed correlations between the variables of interest in this study and CSE (M
= 4.58, SD = .54) were low. In the current study, the smallest correlation (close to 0) was
between CSE and the Whistleblower Retaliation subscale (r = .02). Partial correlations were
calculated between all dimensions of the EES.
Table 14 shows the original correlations, as well as, the correlations adjusted for
correction of CMV. All correlation coefficients remained significant after controlling for CMV,
indicating that CMV did not affect the study results. Additionally, as a preventive measure
against common method bias, I followed Podsakoff et al.’s (2003) suggestions to vocalize and
print assurance to participants that their anonymity would be protected.
58
TABLE 14
Assessment of Common Method Variance
Original r Corrected r
Management Responsibility Neglect – Whistleblower Retaliation
.79**
.77**
Management Responsibility Neglect – Dishonesty
.67**
.65**
Management Responsibility Neglect – Favoritism
.64**
.63**
Management Responsibility Neglect – Employee Endangerment
.78**
.77**
Management Responsibility Neglect – Management Rule Breaking
.72**
.70**
Whistleblower Retaliation - Dishonesty
.76**
.75**
Whistleblower Retaliation - Favoritism
.68**
.66**
Whistleblower Retaliation - Employee Endangerment
.80**
.78**
Whistleblower Retaliation - Management Rule Breaking
.77**
.76**
Dishonesty – Favoritism
.60**
.68**
Dishonesty - Employee Endangerment
.72**
.71**
Dishonesty - Management Rule Breaking
.68**
.67**
Favoritism – Employee Endangerment
.61**
.64**
Favoritism – Management Rule Breaking
.72**
.70**
Employee Endangerment – Management Rule Breaking
.61**
.59**
Note: N = 170; r denotes the zero-order correlation coefficient. ** p<.01
Criterion-Related Validity
Based on Studies 2 through 6 I conclude that the Ethics Safety Scale demonstrates
content, convergent and discriminant validity. To test criterion-related validity I evaluated the
effectiveness of the scale to predict outcomes consistent with past research.
Since the Ethics Safety Scale assesses employee perceptions of ethics in the organization
and its leaders, the overall scale should relate to overall perceptions of support from the
organization and its leaders. Recent research has shown that employee perceptions of ethics may
predict both Perceived Organizational Support and Leader-Member Exchange (Credo et al.,
2010). Both Perceived Organizational Support (POS) and Leader-Member Exchange (LMX)
were included as ways to measure employee perceptions of support from supervisors and higherlevel organizational leaders, respectively. The questionnaire administered in Study 6 measured
POS with Eisenberger’s (1986) scale. LMX was measured using a seven-item measure of
59
employee perceptions of supervisor support (Graen & Uhl-Bien, 1995). Regression analyses
showed the Ethics Safety Scale significantly predicted POS (r = .36, p < .01) and LMX (r = .52,
p< .01), supporting the criterion validity of the measure. Means, standard deviations, and
intercorrelations of all study variables are included in Table 15.
TABLE 15
Means, Standard Deviations, and Intercorrelations of Study Variables
Variable
M
1.Management
2.31
Responsibility
Neglect
2. Management
2.79
Rule-Breaking
3. Whistleblower
2.33
Retaliation
4. Dishonesty
2.00
5. Favoritism
3.01
6. Employee
2.18
Endangerment
7. Perceived
3.57
Organizational
Support
8. Leader-Member 3.70
Exchange
9. Creative Self
2.58
Efficacy
10. Trust
3.27
11. Safety Culture 3.63
Note: N = 170. **p < .001.
SD
1.04
1
-
2
3
4
5
6
1.21
.72**
-
1.14
.79**
.77**
-
1.05
1.13
1.09
.67**
.64**
.78**
.68**
.72**
.61**
.90
.47**
.88
7
8
9
.76**
.68**
.80**
.60**
.72**
.61**
-
.47**
.51**
.37**
.56**
.56**
-
.40**
.33**
.40**
.34**
.40**
.38**
.56**
-
.89
.07
.14
.02
-.07
.05
.03
.16
.12
-
.60
.93
.26**
.27**
.34**
.31**
.44**
.35**
.38**
.35**
.41**
.33**
.34**
.34**
.47**
.46**
.61**
.61**
.16
.11
10
.53**
Discussion
While many scales purport to measure organizational ethics, a majority of these scales
actually focus on the measurement of employee perceptions of ethics in some part of the
organization. To further complicate the measurement of ethics perceptions, many of these
measurement scales focus on only a specific subset of organizational activities, which may be
too specific to be recognized by a majority of organizational members. More recently, research
has focused on covering a broader spectrum of ethical and unethical organizational activities, but
60
even these more complete ethics measurement tools may include questions that are not directly
relevant to a majority of members within a given organization, or worse, may neglect dimensions
that are relevant to certain organization members. Results of the current study show that
measurements of employee perceptions traditionally used only within the domain of
organizational safety can also be considered an important area of focus in the domain of ethics
assessments.
The current study was also designed to overcome some of the problems associated with
the limited methodological scope of past safety and ethics scale development studies. The
qualitative organizational assessment in Study 1 indicated that the organizational context used to
create previous ethics instruments did not adequately represent the content domain of
organizational ethics in an operative or industrial setting. In particular regard to ethics
assessment scale development, no previous scales have been developed using non-office based
organizational settings. The current study was designed specifically to bridge this gap in ethics
research.
Additionally, previous research has cited the problem of differential association leading
to varying organizational and cultural norms from one organization to the next (Chung &
Monroe, 2003; Randall & Fernandes, 1991; Schoderbek & Deshpande, 1996). These variations
can reduce the scope of applicability for scales created using unique organizational examples.
While all participants in the current study worked in safety-related environments, varying
samples were chosen for confirmatory studies to overcome potential problems of differential
association variations. The port authority sample used in Study 5 consisted of a distinct
organizational culture compared to the drilling organization used in Studies 1 through 4. Also,
the web-based mixed organizational sample used for Study 6 consisted of individuals from
61
unique organizations but in similar job roles. The similarity of job roles allowed for comparison
to samples in Studies 1 through 5, while the uniqueness of each respondent’s organization
removed the similarity of peer and leader influence typically causing differential association
issues.
These differences between office-based and industrial perceptions of the content domain
of ethics may be expected in the context of differential association theory.
No past studies have focused on whistleblower retaliation in relation to employee
perceptions of organizational ethics. Part of the reason for this may be the relatively recent trend
towards mandatory employee participation in ethics programs. As a result of public attention
towards ethics scandals including Enron, Tyco, WorldCom, and, more recently, AIG and Wall
Street bailouts, organizations are devoting increased attention and resources towards ethics
programs. Organizations may respond to the call for more focus on ethics by implementing an
ethics training program, a regular ethics refresher program, or even an ethics hotline.
Unfortunately, increased employee fear of management retaliation may be an unintended
consequence of increased organizational focus on facilitating ease of reporting ethics violations.
Whistleblower Retaliation is particularly important in industries where safety is a factor, due to
the life-threatening consequences of failing to correct problems. BP, for example, has come
under increased legal scrutiny for its practices of firing employees who speak up about problems.
All of BP’s major catastrophes in the last two decades that resulted in significant loss of life may
have been prevented had management responded to employee whistle blowing with constructive
action rather than retaliation (Lustgarten & Knutson, 2010). In light of major organizational
ethics breakdowns in the past decade, many of which might have been subverted if more
employees had reported problems earlier, there is an increasing number of organizations that
62
have set up ethics hotlines and other channels for employees to report problems in their
organizations. Unfortunately, the implementation of these programs has not been sufficiently
tuned, and many employees are in danger or fear danger of retaliation if these “safeguards” are
actually used. Organizations that allow employees to report problems freely and without
consequence are keeping open lines of communication between organizational levels,
communication that an organization cannot function without. Assessing employee perceptions
of whistleblower retaliation is a positive first step for organizations wanting to take measures to
maintain these lines of communication.
Another area of importance unique to the current study is the dimension of Employee
Endangerment. A majority of past ethics assessment instruments do not include Employee
Endangerment, possibly due to the development sample or target population. If an instrument is
intended for office-based or white-collar employees, a dimension concerning physical danger
might not be applicable. I believe these findings to be especially useful in the development of an
ethics assessment instrument intended to be used in a more diverse setting, especially those in
which safety might be an issue.
In regard to the psychometric properties of the Ethics Safety Scale, initial results are
encouraging. Studies 1 through 6 included individuals operating at a variety of safety-inclusive
organizations across multiple job roles in multiple countries. This diversity in the research
sample helps build a strong case for the generalizability of the new instrument. The coefficient
alpha for the sub-dimensions of Ethics Safety Scale were all above 0.90, indicating not only that
the safety-based ethics perceptions instrument is useful as a whole, but that each sub-dimension
may be valuable in its own right.
63
In regard to the validity of Ethics Safety Scale, initial results are promising. The
development of the instrument along Hinkin’s (1998) guidelines adds evidence of construct
validity. Additionally, the results of convergent and discriminant validity checks add support for
the usefulness of the Ethics Safety Scale in future studies.
Future studies may also benefit from more diverse cross-cultural examinations,
particularly in developing nations in which government regulation of labor standards is less
developed or non-existent. In such countries, a greater proportion of the responsibility for
organizational safety and ethics lies with the company, which would make organizational
policies in relation to safety-related ethics to be of even more importance.
While the results of the current ethics assessment show much agreement with previous
ethics assessment instruments, the Ethics Safety Scale developed for this study benefits from
inclusion of additional aspects, particularly employee perceptions of dangerous neglect in the
work environment, as well as, employee comfort with reporting ethical violations. There were
5,488 deaths and 4 million non-fatal injuries resulting from workplace accidents in 2007 alone
(Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2008). The associated administrative and medical costs, wage and
productivity losses, and loss of capital cost an estimated $164.7 billion (National Safety Council,
2008). It is no surprise that in the face of such statistics, organizations have continually focused
on identifying the antecedents to workplace safety. The current study adds ethical performance
to the list of reasons organizations must prioritize the safety of its employees.
The current study is not without limitations. One potential limitation is the relatively
small sample size for some of the studies, which can lead to a lack of power and in some cases, a
lessened ability to reject the hypothesis that the model is an appropriate fit (Kelloway, 1998).
One advantage is that in the face-to-face studies in which sample size tended to be on the smaller
64
size, response rate was exceptionally high, near 100% in most instances. Additionally, the
potential for common method variance (CMV) is a concern. Although several precautionary
measures were taken to minimize the effects, multiple sources of data in future studies may be
desirable.
The study of ethics in business can be a comprehensive undertaking. With various
definitions of what ethics is, and even more varied arrays of individual perceptions of what these
definitions mean, confusion permeates the literature regarding business ethics. Rather than add
to the confusion, I hope that the current qualitative and quantitative approach may help
organizations capture a more complete domain of employee ethics perceptions, particularly in
operative and industrial types of environments.
65
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