On Understanding the Human Nature of Good and Bad Behavior in Business: A Behavioral Ethics Approach

34 Pages Posted: 19 Jan 2010

Date Written: October 23, 2009

Abstract

The numerous scandals in business, such as those at AIG, Tyco, WorldCom, Enron and Ahold, have made all of us concerned about the emergence of unethical and irresponsible behavior in organizations. Such widespread corruption in business and politics has, as result, prompted a growth of interest in the field of business ethics. At the same time, however, within the academic world it is also recognized that to tackle those unethical actions in an efficient way, the field of business ethics needs to integrate insights from behavioral science. In this inaugural address I focus more closely on the benefits that a behavioral approach can bring to the field of business ethics. In presenting these benefits, I draw a distinction between prescriptive and descriptive approaches and outline how the field of psychology can help in integrating these two perspectives so that we can move towards a more comprehensive understanding of behavioral business ethics. This integration is illustrated by my own research addressing how sanctioning and regulation systems affect behavior, the benefits of procedural fairness and the workings of trust repair strategies. Finally, I formulate some implications for academia, the government and economics.

Keywords: business ethics, behavioral ethics, descriptive, trust repair, sanctions, procedural fairness

JEL Classification: M10, L2, M12, M, G38

Suggested Citation

De Cremer, David, On Understanding the Human Nature of Good and Bad Behavior in Business: A Behavioral Ethics Approach (October 23, 2009). ERIM Report Series Reference No. EIA-2009-041-ORG, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1538728

David De Cremer (Contact Author)

University of Maastricht ( email )

P.O. Box 616
Maastricht, 6200MD
Netherlands

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