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Human Resource Development International Vol. 13, No. 3, July 2010, 299–315

Dimensions of ethical business cultures: comparing data from 13 countries of Europe, Asia, and the Americas Alexandre Ardichvilia*, Douglas Jondleb and Brenda Kowskec
a Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA; bCenter for Ethical Business Cultures at the Opus College of Business, University of St. Thomas, Minneapolis, Minnesota; cKenexa Research Institute, Kenexa, Minneapolis, Minnesota

(Received 5 October 2009; final version received 28 December 2009) This paper reports the results of a survey-based study of perceptions of ethical business practices in 13 countries of Europe, Asia, and the Americas. Responses from more than 23,000 managers and employees were analyzed using multivariate analysis of variance and post-hoc comparisons, aimed at identifying homogenous sets of countries. Anglo countries (US, UK, Australia, and Canada) clustered together, and were joined by India in most cases. Japan and Italy formed a homogenous subset significantly different from all other countries. Countries of continental Europe, China, Mexico, and Brazil formed various mid-range groupings. The paper discusses some salient differences between groups of countries and presents implications for human resource management (HRD) practice and research. Keywords: ethical business culture; business ethics; HRD; cross-cultural HRD research

Study background and goals Research suggests that ethical behaviour in business organizations is a function of both individual characteristics and contextual factors. Among these factors, organizational culture is one of the key influences (Meyers 2004; Trevino and Nelson 2004). Trevino et al. (1999) demonstrated that in the United States ethical business organizations have, as a rule, clearly communicated ethics guidelines or codes of ethics. Such organizations have incentive systems that are clearly tied to ethical behaviour, and promote the achievement of both economic outcomes and non-economic goals (Trevino and Weaver 2001). According to Gabler (2006, 339), employees of an ethical business have ‘a sense of responsibility and accountability for their actions and for the actions of others . . . and freely raise issues and concerns without fear of retaliation’. In such businesses ‘Managers model the behaviours they demand of others; and . . . communicate the importance of integrity when making difficult decisions’ (Gabler 2006, 339). The question arises, are the practices, perceived as contributing to the creation of ethical business cultures, the same around the world? Numerous international

*Corresponding author. Email: ardic001@umn.edu
ISSN 1367-8868 print/ISSN 1469-8374 online Ó 2010 Taylor & Francis DOI: 10.1080/13678868.2010.483818 http://www.informaworld.com

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studies of business ethics were conducted in the last two decades (e.g. Helin and Sandstrom 2008; Robertson, Gilley, and Street 2003; Robertson et al. 2008). Some of these studies explored the impact of cultural values on business ethics in countries of Asia, North America, and Europe (e.g. Cheung and Chan 2005; Husted and Allen 2008; Ip 2003; Jackson 2001). Most of the extant studies focused on a limited number of practices and behaviours (e.g. ethical decision making or ethical leadership) and were conducted, as a rule, in a small number of countries. To our knowledge, none of the studies attempted to compare ethical business practices in a large group of companies from a culturally and economically diverse sample of countries of the world. In this paper we explore whether patterns of ethical behaviour are similar or different in business organizations from 13 countries and three different continents. The countries in our study represent a diverse sample of cultures, levels of economic development, and socio-political systems. We test a number of hypotheses...
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