Is Behavioral Ethics Ready for Giving Business and Policy Advice?

This essay is a critical perspective of the applicability of behavioral ethics in business and policy interventions. I summarize a series of proposed interventions to increase people’s honesty, inspired by ethical dissonance theory, such as increasing salience of moral norms, visibility, and self-engagement. Although I agree that behavioral ethics could offer simple, low-cost interventions with the potential of reducing unethical behavior (not only) in organizations, there are several risks and methodological limitations not sufficiently discussed. The interventions thus could eventually lead to weaker positive impacts or even long-term negative consequences. I suggest several alternative approaches to decrease dishonesty such as making the moral choice easier, implementing salient accountability, and removing dishonesty temptations and dishonest employees. The article concludes with a warning that unrealistic expectations may damage the credibility of behavioral ethics.

Citation: Houdek, P. (2017). Is Behavioral Ethics Ready for Giving Business and Policy Advice? Journal of Management Inquiry. ISSN: 1056-4926. doi: 10.1177/1056492617712894