Unethical tone at the top (UTAT) carries a lot of risks and unsolicited results for both the people and companies. The purpose of this paper is to uncover the systematic differences in managers’ perception of UTAT based on their demographic characteristics, and subsequently to specify some useful recommendations to inform how companies can assist in increasing managers’ sensitivity to the harmful top-down practices and thus support ethicality in the workplace.
Eight demographic factors that, based on prior findings from the literature, might play a role in varying perception of UTAT were examined on data from 772 management professionals working in diverse industries. The Kruskal-Wallis test statistics was utilised to infer significant differences in perceptions of UTAT among managers.
Findings suggest that male managers tended to perceive UTAT as significantly less harmful than did their female counterparts. Similarly, top managers inclined to perceive UTAT as less detrimental than the middle and line management levels. Managers with higher tenure (10+ years of managerial experience) perceived UTAT as more detrimental in contributing to unethical leadership decisions and workplace culture. Respondents who have studied business-oriented programs perceived UTAT to be less harmful for the company than the non-business students. Interestingly, age, level of education, span of control and even the ethics training received during career were all found to be not relevant in this respect.
Based on solid empirical findings this study fills the gap in literature on the tone at the top and helps in understanding what can be done in organisational practice to improve managers’ awareness of the damaging effects of UTAT and thus to minimise threats to an ethical workplace culture.
Lašáková, A. and Remišová, A. (2019), "The relationship between demographic factors and managers’ perception of unethical tone at the top", Journal of Management Development, Vol. 38 No. 1, pp. 25-45. https://doi.org/10.1108/JMD-07-2018-0213Download as .RIS
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