Does ethics code design matter? Effects of ethics code rationales and sanctions on recipients' justice perceptions and content recall

Journal of Business Ethics 14 (5):367 - 385 (1995)
Abstract
Prior research on ethics codes has suggested, but rarely tested, the effects of code design alternatives on the impact of codes. This study considers whether the presence of explanatory rationales and descriptions of sanctions in ethics codes affects recipients'' responses to a code. Theories of organizational justice and persuasive communication support an expectation that rationales and sanctions will be positively related to code recipients'' recall of code content and perceptions of organizational justice. Content recall is an obvious precondition of code compliance; justice perceptions have multiple implications for the attitudes and actions of organizational members. Results show that explanatory rationales are associated with a statistically significant increase in perceptions of organizational procedural justice, but that rationales and sanctions generally show no relationship to distributive justice perceptions and accurate content recall. These results suggest that common prescriptions regarding ethics code design are of uncertain value apart from further research which unearths the relationships among the intended and perceived purposes of codes, the organizational settings in which they are applied, and a wide variety of code designs.
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