Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 160, Issue 3, pp 657–674 | Cite as

The Presence of Ethics Codes and Employees’ Internal Locus of Control, Social Aversion/Malevolence, and Ethical Judgment of Incivility: A Study of Smaller Organizations

  • Sean R. ValentineEmail author
  • Sheila K. Hanson
  • Gary M. Fleischman
Original Paper


Workplace incivility is a current challenge in organizations, including smaller firms, as is the development of programs that enhance employees’ treatment of coworkers and ethical decision making. Ethics programs in particular might attenuate tendencies toward interpersonal misconduct, which can harm ethical reasoning. Consequently, this study evaluated the relationships among the presence of ethics codes and employees’ locus of control, social aversion/malevolence, and ethical judgments of incivility using information secured from a sample of businesspersons employed in smaller organizations (N = 189). Results indicated that ethics code presence was associated with a more internal locus of control and stronger ethical judgment of workplace incivility. Social aversion/malevolence was negatively related to ethical judgment, and internal locus of control was positively related to ethical judgment. Smaller firms should develop ethics codes to manage individuals’ perceptions of control, thus encouraging enhanced ethical reasoning in situations that involve the mistreatment of coworkers; they should also monitor counterproductive tendencies that harm such reasoning and precipitate incivility.


Ethics codes Dark Triad Locus of control Ethical decision making 



The authors wish to thank O.C. Ferrell and Eric Arnould for their assistance with the questionnaire and Lynn Godkin for his assistance collecting the data in the convenience sample.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflicts of interest.

Informed Consent

Participation in this self-report attitude survey was voluntary; participants were only encouraged to complete the questionnaire (“Please complete this ‘sales relations survey’” was used as introductory text in the questionnaire); anonymity and confidentiality were ensured on the questionnaire (“Confidential when completed—You will remain anonymous” was included as descriptive text in the questionnaire).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sean R. Valentine
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sheila K. Hanson
    • 2
  • Gary M. Fleischman
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of ManagementUniversity of North DakotaGrand ForksUSA
  2. 2.School of EntrepreneurshipUniversity of North DakotaGrand ForksUSA
  3. 3.Rawls College of BusinessTexas Tech UniversityLubbockUSA

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