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Workplaces are becoming increasingly diverse, and businesses constantly face the challenge of ensuring work ethics to strengthen competitiveness. Workplace ethics is affected not just by potential gains and losses of unethical action but also by employee morale, values and self-concept. The ethical reasoning process depends on both perception of what is ethical and the ability to justify unethical action in a given situation. In this study, we explore the role of individual, organisational and situational factors influencing the perceived degree of unethical behaviour at work. Individual socio-cultural factors include personal values, such as honesty, and socio-demographic factors, such as age, gender, education and tenure. Organisational factors are assessed through espoused values of honesty and responsibility. Finally, three situational factors are randomly introduced – low wage, boredom and perceived injustice. Two hundred and eight retail employees were surveyed to assess their personal values and the perceived degree of unethical behaviour at work. We found that honesty as a personal value changes ethical reasoning, especially when situational factors, such as low wage are introduced. Moreover, older employees tend to report more ethical behaviour in the workforce. We also concluded that declaring honesty and responsibility as organisational values could have a minor positive impact on ethical behaviour mitigating the impact of the introduced situational factors.
Keywords: Socio-cultural factors, values, workplace diversity, business ethics, ethical reasoning
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