Moral Character: What It Is and What It Does

Cohen, T. R., & Morse, L. (2014). Moral character: What it is and what it does. Research in Organizational Behavior, 34, 43-61.

69 Pages Posted: 31 May 2014 Last revised: 9 Jan 2015

See all articles by Taya R. Cohen

Taya R. Cohen

Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business

Lily Morse

Carnegie Mellon University - David A. Tepper School of Business

Date Written: October 10, 2014

Abstract

Moral character can be conceptualized as an individual’s disposition to think, feel, and behave in an ethical versus unethical manner, or as the subset of individual differences relevant to morality. This essay provides an organizing framework for understanding moral character and its relationship to ethical and unethical work behaviors. We present a tripartite model for understanding moral character, with the idea that there are motivational, ability, and identity elements. The motivational element is consideration of others — referring to a disposition toward considering the needs and interests of others, and how one’s own actions affect other people. The ability element is self-regulation — referring to a disposition toward regulating one’s behavior effectively, specifically with reference to behaviors that have positive short-term consequences but negative long-term consequences for oneself or others. The identity element is moral identity — referring to a disposition toward valuing morality and wanting to view oneself as a moral person. After unpacking what moral character is, we turn our attention to what moral character does, with a focus on how it influences unethical behavior, situation selection, and situation creation. Our research indicates that the impact of moral character on work outcomes is significant and consequential, with important implications for research and practice in organizational behavior.

Keywords: character; morality; ethics; unethical behavior; personality; couterproductive work behavior (CWB); organizational citizenship behavior (OCB)

Suggested Citation

Cohen, Taya R. and Morse, Lily, Moral Character: What It Is and What It Does (October 10, 2014). Cohen, T. R., & Morse, L. (2014). Moral character: What it is and what it does. Research in Organizational Behavior, 34, 43-61., Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2443685 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2443685

Taya R. Cohen (Contact Author)

Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business ( email )

5000 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States
4122686677 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.tepper.cmu.edu/our-faculty-and-research/about-our-faculty/faculty-profiles/tcohen/cohen-t

Lily Morse

Carnegie Mellon University - David A. Tepper School of Business ( email )

5000 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States

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