Business Ethics Quarterly


The Influence of Collegiate and Corporate Codes of Conduct on Ethics-Related Behavior in the Workplace

Donald L. McCabe, Linda Klebe Trevino and Kenneth D. Butterfield


Codes of conduct are viewed here as a community's attempt to communicate its expectations and standards of ethical behavior. Many organizations are implementing codes, but empirical support for the relationship between such codes and employee conduct is lacking. We investigated the long term effects of a collegiate honor code experience as well as the effects of corporate ethics codes on unethical behavior in the workplace by surveying alumni from an honor code and a non-honor code college who now work in business. We found that self-reported unethical behavior was lower for respondents who work in an organization with a corporate code of conduct and was inversely associated with corporate code implementation strength and embeddedness. Self-reported unethical behavior was also influenced by the interaction of a collegiate honor code experience and corporate code implementation strength.

Donald L. Mccabe is Associate Professor of Organization Management on the Faculty of Management at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey and Director of Rutgers’ Executive M.B.A. program. He received his Ph.D. in Management from New York University in 1985. Dr. McCabe has conducted extensive research on issues of values and ethics among college students.

Linda Klebe Trevino is Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Smeal College of Business Administration, The Pennsylvania State University. She received her Ph.D. in Management from Texas A&M University in 1987. Dr. Trevino conducts research in the areas of organizational justice and the management of ethical conduct in organizations. She has also coauthored a textbook on managing business ethics.

Kenneth D. Butterfield is a doctoral student in the Department of Management and Organization, Smeal College of Business Administration, The Pennsylvania State University. His research interests are in the areas of organizational behavior and business ethics, currently focusing on social psychological processes underlying unethical behavior in organizations.