Emerging from Ethical Scandal: Can Corruption Really Have a Happy Ending?
Behavioral and Organizational Sciences (CGU)
Leadership Studies | Social and Behavioral Sciences
Prior research suggests that companies with ethical leadership, a climate characterized by ethical values, and a formal ethics program have employees who engage in less misconduct. In this study, we examine one company’s journey to develop these three elements and successfully emerge from scandal to eventually be hailed as a model of organizational ethics. A qualitative analysis of newspaper articles across three periods from scandal exposure to scandal emergence is used to explore the media’s role in framing and reframing the perceptions of (un)ethical leadership actions and eventually changing the reputation of one organization. Results suggest that the leaders in this case study helped move beyond the scandal by avoiding even the appearance of impropriety, making ethics visibly stand out from the everyday business environment, and working to symbolically create perceptions of an ethical climate both inside and outside of the organization. Leadership lessons and limitations of the study are discussed.
© 2009 Sage Publishing
O’Connell, W., & Bligh, M. C. (2009). Emerging from Ethical Scandal: Can Corruption Really Have a Happy Ending? Leadership, 5(2), 213-235.