Much of the literature on organizational ethics attribute unethical behavior in the workplace as originating from greed, inadequate ethics training, lax ethics laws, and lenient disciplinary actions when ethical lapses do occur. While this perception advances a cogent argument, it does not examine the entire concept of unethical behavior, because it does not consider the organizational culture which clearly guides employees' ethical behavior and decision making in the organization. In this study, a basic interpretative qualitative research design was employed utilizing semi-structured interviews to investigate how organizational cultural systems, member interactions, leadership role modeling and training interventions influence employees' ethical behavior in the workplace. Purposeful sampling was utilized in selecting a public sector organization with a record of ethics reforms and participants comprising of senior managers, middle level managers and lower level employees. The data analysis uncovered five seminal themes, which resulted in three major conclusions. The conclusions derived from the findings indicate that cultural systems of organizations such as code of ethics, authority, norms and peer behavior are pivotal in influencing employees' ethical behavior at the workplace. Second, the group dynamics in the organization's culture such as member interactions, leader's role modeling and training interventions are vital to encouraging and making significant changes in employees' ethical behavior. Third, external cultural factors such as religiosity and parental guidance in terms of values-based upbringing actively enhances and fosters ethical behavior among some employees in the workplace. Suggestions for research and practice in the field of HRD are also offered.

Date of publication

Fall 11-1-2015

Document Type




Persistent identifier