Responsibility, Integrity, Respect

I’m going to spend a few posts thinking out loud about the the Academy’s Code of Ethics. I should emphasize that this is not an official statement, but my own personal interpretation. As with everything here at the Ethicist, it’s part of a conversation, not the last word on something. Please let me know what you think. Let’s talk about it.

The word “ethics” derives from the Greek “ethos”, meaning “habitual character and disposition; moral character; habit, custom; an accustomed place.” To me, this emphasizes the rather ordinary nature of ethical behavior. Ethical behavior does not usually require any drama; one just does one’s work properly, decently. This underlying ordinariness of ethical action can be seen in the Code’s “General Principles”, which state that Academy members should comport themselves with responsibility, integrity and respect. While this may seem pretty straightforward, adhering to such principles is, of course, as difficult as, well, being alive. That difficulty is what being a human being in a social milieu is all about.

At the core of the Code’s definition of responsibility lies the idea that our work is carried out within relationships that are based on trust. This, in turn, requires us to define our roles and obligations clearly; after all, we have to know who we can trust in what matters. It also requires us to avoid conflicts of interest, which undermine trust, and even to actively help others without being compensated, which builds trust. To draw on etymology again: being responsible means being “answerable”. Ethical people, we might say, are able to account for their actions.

The Code defines integrity as a concern for “accuracy, honesty, and truthfulness”. Basically, we try to ensure that when when people are talking to us, they don’t come to believe things that are untrue. So we don’t lead them to believe we have qualifications we don’t have. We don’t lead to believe that our rivals are less competent than we know they are. We don’t misrepresent the facts, or obscure our sources of the facts. We don’t, in short, claim to know something we don’t understand or to own something that isn’t ours. The commonsense injunctions against lying and stealing capture this principle nicely.

Finally, the Code invokes the principle of respect–specifically for the rights and dignity of others. And here we can begin to see the difficulty that an ethical life implies. After all, treating one person with respect may come into conflict with your responsibilities to another; certainly, being honest with someone is not always the most respectful thing you can do. The Code sorts the concern with confidentiality under “respect”; clearly this sometimes precludes being entirely truthful, which it sorts under “integrity”. (Even to let on that you know something about someone that you are not allowed to say can be a breach of their privacy.) There’s an important ethical tension here.*

There is a lively discussion these days about the importance of being aware of your “privilege”. Do your words and actions carry extra weight because they channel a power that is rooted in history of injustices, whether of race, or class, or gender, or sexuality? If so, these injustices are, importantly, historical. The list will no doubt have to be amended in the future as we become aware of forms marginalization we haven’t seen before. The value of the Code is that it requires us to face these issues explicitly, and then to work through them as our cultural values, personal morals, and actual responsibilities change throughout our careers. Like I say, it’s as difficult as being alive. Doing it well is correspondingly rewarding.

P.S. In a post from 2013, Kathy Lund Dean put this point forcefully: “Ethical and principled behavior is de-stabilizing to important, instrumental relationships in business, and there are costs to that.” I’ll write more about this in my next post.

It’s been great, and THE ETHICIST moves on…….

The Ethicist LogoThanks! It’s been great, and THE ETHICIST moves on…….


As Thomas Basboll’s post on THE ETHICIST (February 2, 2015) indicates, it is time for THE ETHICIST to engage in “A Change of Pace,” and take on new bloggers. We are delighted that the Academy of Management is continuing with this important community engagement space, and that Benson Honig and Thomas Basboll are taking on the lead blogging roles. We have a significant sense of ownership over the future of THE ETHICIST and plan to continue to be part of the blog, writing from time to time ourselves, as the blog moves ahead with new authors, editors and topics.

As we look back on the last several years since the inception of THE ETHICIST, it’s interesting to see how blogging itself has evolved. Much of the advice of best blogging practices reinforces what Thomas will change about THE ETHICIST, including shorter and more frequent posts, and expanding the scope of the discussions.  The international diplomacy-building organization DiploFoundation recommends using the “E.K.G.” approach for blogging: Engage with other blogs and your own readers, Keep the material fresh and exciting, and Give people a reason to return. The blog hosting site HubSpot says readers want to see the blogger’s personality come out, and that readers come back to blogs that treat topics in unusual and cross-disciplinary ways. All of this advice mirrors plans for THE ETHICIST and we are looking forward to seeing energetic treatment of ethical issues.

The common advice about blogging — no matter whose advice one takes — revolves around content: compelling, thoughtful and timely content is the make-or-break blog factor. And in this respect, we are confident that THE ETHICIST will broaden its community reach with Thomas and Benson at the helm. There is so much to share about how the Academy is integrating ethical practice into meetings and member resources, and how we as an academic community are grappling with significant ethical questions. All five of us are members of the Ethics Education Committee; we have facilitated lively discussions throughout the Academy in multiple ways and venues: at doctoral consortia, via webinars, through YouTube video discussions, and in myriad annual meeting sessions. We have found our fellow Academy members, particularly doctoral students, to be enormously interested in how to do the right thing, and how to resolve conflicts in ethics in ways that allow them to flourish.

Thank you to everyone who has supported THE ETHICIST so far. We gratefully acknowledge in particular the help of Terese Loncar; our advisory panels for research, teaching and professional life;  members of the Ethics Education Committee and the Board of Governors of the Academy of Management; and our home departments. We look forward to the great new conversations and connections to be made ahead.

Lorraine, Kathy & Paul

Lorraine Eden
Lorraine Eden
Kathy Lund Dean
Kathy Lund Dean
Paul Vaaler
Paul Vaaler


A Change of Pace

At the Academy Meeting in Philadelphia this summer the Ethics Education Committee discussed, among other things, a new direction for this blog. Benson and I have been talking about our approach behind the scenes and we’re now ready to begin implementing the changes, so I thought I ‘d take a few moments to explain what we are going to try to do.

First, however, I’d like to thank Lorraine Eden, Kathy Lund Dean, and Paul Vaaler for the great work they’ve done over the past few years, providing thoughtful and informative content about ethical issues to the readers of the blog. We’re building on a solid foundation now, thanks to their efforts, and we will no doubt be dipping into the archives every now then for inspiration for upcoming posts. A blog is ideally the site of an ongoing conversation, and we’re very aware that we’re walking into a room that is already filled with vibrant dialogue. Don’t be surprised to see a guest post by one of them every now and then in the months and years to come. We’ll be drawing on all the expertise we have access to.

Going forward, our plan is to post at least once a week (and at most once a day) on a broad range of issues grounded in the Academy of Management Code of Ethics. As most everyone is aware, ethics is not the domain of easy questions, where a clear right and clear wrong can be straightforwardly determined. Rather, there will always be a need to interpret the Code, and what we will be offering here are attempts at such interpretations. In the end, all Academy members will face their own more or less unique ethical dilemmas, and the difficulty in each case will be one of applying the Code’s general principles and standards to their specific circumstances. We can’t make a determination for you, but we can model ethical reasoning by thinking through particular cases in an open and frank manner.

In this, my first, post, then, I’ll show what this means by beginning with a sentences from the Code’s preamble:

AOM members respect and protect civil and human rights and the central importance of freedom of inquiry and expression in research, teaching, and publication.

It’s an important sentence because it is rooted in the Academy’s mission as a organization of scholars. While its members are also often professionals, their ethical orientation is rooted in their identity as researchers and teachers. What this means in practice is that the value of “freedom of inquiry and expression” occupies a central place in our thinking about right and wrong behavior. This is not a trivial issue; it does not apply in all fields. Intelligence professionals, lawyers and engineers, for example, may value discretion, confidentiality and secrecy above freedom of inquiry. This does not make them unethical, and AOM members do of course keep their promises of confidentiality when they give them. The point is simply that a dilemma may arise for them when they do so, and the specific choices within that dilemma are shaped by the high value that a scholar places on the search for the truth. A scholar is uncomfortable–ethically uncomfortable–with any arrangement that restricts his or her freedom of inquiry and expression. As in all things, this is not an absolute principle, but it is an important concern.

I said earlier that we’re going to endeavor to be open and frank here at the Ethicist. The sentence I quoted from the preamble is my attempt to anchor that ambition in the Code, which it is the mandate of the Ethics Education Committee to disseminate. And this will be how we proceed from week to week. (On Friday I’ll look at our General Principles.) The idea is to use the blog to reflect on the best way to present the issues that the Code addresses. And this means that the blog will also be a site for the development of our contribution to the Professional Development Workshops at the Academy’s meetings. Not only will you be able to get a good sense of what the committee is up to, you’ll be able to influence our thinking.

For that reason the comments are open. We will be moderating them quite closely, but we have not yet developed a specific commenting policy. Basic principles of respect and decency, of course, apply. But we have a sense that the readers of a blog called the Ethicist will be reasonable people. One decision that we have made is not to let this blog become a place to discuss cases that are not already in the public domain. Like any blog, we will no doubt find much material in the news of the day. But we will confine ourselves to commenting on the news, not breaking it. That goes also for the comments.

Finally, a note on the length of the posts. We’ll be posting more often than has been the case in the past, but they will be significantly shorter.  I’ve just hit 830 words, for example, which is right in the ball park of the length of the posts we’re shooting for. Somewhere between 500 and 1000 words. So, with that promise of keeping it brief, I’ll stop. More on Friday.



Ethics in the Academy of Management

Subject:  Twenty Questions: Ethical Research Dilemmas for PhD Students (PhD Students and Research Ethics, Part A)


Date:  October 16, 2014

KEY INSIGHT:  The PhD timeline, from admission through graduation, is a unique period in a scholar’s life. It is a time when students are apprentices, learning from faculty mentors how to become researchers and academics.  In the four to six years of a typical doctoral program, students engage in all stages of research from problem identification, literature reviews and theory development, through data collection and analysis, to writing, presenting and publishing their work.  At each stage, doctoral students face ethical research dilemmas, similar to those faced by faculty members, but with unique aspects that come from being doctoral students. This blog post is the first of two pieces examining research ethical dilemmas involving PhD students.  Part A consists of 20 research dilemmas that are meant to facilitate classroom or small group discussions among doctoral students and faculty about research ethics. Part B explores the unique aspects of doctoral students in the research process, implications for research misconduct, and possible coping mechanisms. My co-author Kevin McSweeney, a first year doctoral student in Management at Texas A&M University, and I welcome your comments.


Each of the cases below may or may not have an ethical dilemma facing the PhD student. The cases are designed to encourage discussion on different topics that face PhD students in their research activities. We recommend the following questions to start the discussion:

  •  Is there an ethical dilemma here? If yes, what is it and why?
  • What are the available options facing the PhD student?
  • What ethical course of action do you recommend and why?  


1.  Aidan decided to go back to school for his PhD in Management and had talked with the doctoral program director at University X several times by telephone. The program director assured Aidan that he would be able to work with renowned Professor Macro if Aidan chose to do his doctoral studies at University X. Aidan’s research interests aligned perfectly with Professor Macro’s research. Aidan was also convinced he would develop excellent research skills working under Professor Macro’s direction and might therefore have some publications before graduation. Aidan’s official visit to the university as well as his interactions with the program director during the visit went well and further strengthened his views. However, Professor Macro was out of town during Aidan’s visit so they did not meet. Nevertheless, the program director assured Aidan that Professor Macro loved to work with doctoral students. Aidan, taking into consideration the professor’s reputation in the field and the program director’s opinion that Aidan would be able to work with Professor Macro, accepted the offer to attend University X. After Aidan’s arrival, however, the situation turned out to be quite different. He discovered that Professor Macro was going on sabbatical leave for a year and that his passion for working with doctoral students had lessened. It became quite evident that the program director had not consulted with Professor Macro about his willingness or ability to work with incoming doctoral students. Aidan feels that he has been misled.


Intellectual Property Rights

2. Nicolas writes a term paper for his PhD seminar and presents it in class. Barbara, another PhD student in the class, is assigned to critique the term paper. Nicolas does not get a very good grade on the term paper and, after the class is over, he decides the term paper needs too much work to bring the paper up to publishable quality so he puts the paper on the “backburner.” Barbara, however, really likes this topic and writes her own paper, which she submits to the annual Academy of Management conference. Barbara’s paper is accepted for presentation at the meetings. Nicolas sees Barbara’s paper on the AOM conference program and realizes that her paper is on the same topic as his term paper. He accuses her of stealing his term paper.


3. Two PhD students, James and Willem, are office mates. Each of them is working on a single-authored paper and they occasionally discuss their research ideas. They both know it is very important for their job search to have multiple papers on their CVs. James and Willem realize that, if they each added the other as a co-author, they would generate mutual benefits for each other: doubling their chances of a publication and beefing up their resumes when they enter the job market. They agree to go ahead and add each other has a co-author to the other’s papers.

4. Xiao is assigned as a research assistant to Professor Micro and spends the semester gathering and analyzing data for one of Professor Micro’s projects. Kevin is doing the same thing for Professor Macro. At the end of the semester, Professor Micro invites Xiao to be a co-author on a paper that will be based on their joint research; Professor Macro does not invite Kevin to be a co-author on a paper that will be based on their joint research. Xiao and Kevin discover the different treatment when they get together to discuss their research assignments this semester.

Order of Authors 

5.  Nadia and Christof are third year PhD students who will be on the job market next year. Nadia is working a joint research project with Professor X; Christof is doing the same with Professor Y. One day, Nadia and Christof are discussing their current research projects. Nadia tells Christof how excited she is to receive third authorship on the paper she is working on with Professor X. Christof mentions that he will be the first author on a paper he is working on with Professor Y. Nadia asks Christof how they determined the order of authorship. Christof admits to Nadia that Professor Y did most of the work on the paper, but Christof would be on the job market shortly so Professor Y agreed to give Christof first authorship. Nadia is perplexed. She tells Christof that Professor X, a foreign-born professor from a power-respecting culture, believes that authorship should be determined by seniority. Professor X was therefore unequivocal in assigning authorship based on seniority. Since Nadia had the least seniority on the project, she was automatically the last author regardless of her contribution. Christof informs Nadia that other professors in their department practice the same authorship philosophy as Professor Y, not Professor X.

6. Alain works with Bianca and Carlos, under the direction of Professor X, on a research paper. Alain is in his first year; Bianca and Carlos are both in their fourth year. The terms of authorship are solidified at the beginning of the project as follows (Professor X-Bianca-Carlos-Alain). Alain feels that the authorship agreement was fair and is excited to contribute to a project that has a high likelihood of being published. As the project progresses, Alain finds himself contributing more to the project than either Bianca or Carlos. The paper goes through several rounds of reviews, in which Alain does more work than either Bianca or Carlos. The paper finally gets accepted at a top journal, with the original authorship agreement, despite the incongruence in contributions made by the three PhD students. Alain does not want to upset too many people so he asks Denise, a fellow PhD student, for her opinion on the topic. Denise tells Alain that Professor X tends to give authorship order preference, regardless of actual contribution, to his more senior PhD students who will be entering the job market.

7.  Andrew, Barbara and Cameron are co-researchers on a project. All three are PhD students: Andrew and Cameron are in their second year; Barbara is on the job market. When they started this project, they agreed that the order of authors would be alphabetical because they each were contributing equally to the project. Now the paper is finished and they are getting ready to submit it to a journal. Barbara approaches Andrew and Cameron to ask if they could change the order of authors so that she can be first author. Barbara argues that she is on the job market and so needs the publication more than they do. Barbara promises to return the favor by being third author on the next two papers coming out of their work together.

Errors and Omissions

8.  Justin and Kara are working with Professor X on a joint paper. They are on a tight deadline; submission for the annual Academy of Management meetings is only two weeks away. Justin is tasked to collect some missing data for their empirical work. He is also in the middle of exams and so quickly gathers the data without checking the numbers. Kara discovers that the data are flawed, but realizes that if she brings this to the attention of Professor X they will likely miss the window for submitting the paper to the AOM meetings.

9. Isabella is a research assistant for Professor X on a project that extends work Professor X had already published in a top-tier journal. She is very excited to be included as a co-author on the paper Professor X is writing based on the research they have been doing. When Professor X invites her to read and comment on the first draft of the paper, she realizes that multiple paragraphs in the paper are identical to those in the earlier publication.


10.  Lukas, while in the PhD program at University X, is working on a good paper that he likes very much. He wants to give the paper at a conference where he can get some good feedback on the paper prior to submitting it for publication in a journal. Lukas also likes to travel and sees that there are conferences coming up in Vancouver, San Diego and Miami, places where he has not visited and would like to visit. His department has the funds to send PhD students to these conferences. Lukas decides to submit the same paper to all three conferences, and he is delighted when the paper is accepted for presentation at all three venues.

11.  Rebecca is the lead author on a paper with two other PhD students Tomas and Jean Luis. Rebecca submits their co-authored paper for presentation at the annual Academy of Management meetings, but does not inform her co-authors, believing that they had a joint understanding that she would submit the paper to the AOM meetings. Jean Luis, as part of his work on other three research teams, had already agreed to submit the three papers to the AOM meetings; Jean Luis, therefore, was in violation of the Rule of Three that limited submissions by any one author to three papers. Jean Luis tells Rebecca that he is violating the Rule of Three. Rebecca suggests that she take Jean Luis’s name off their joint AOM submission now. If the paper is accepted and they do present it at the meetings, they will put Jean Luis’s name back on the paper and slide presentation; he can attend the session and present too. They will tell everyone in the session that Jean Luis is a co-author.



12.  Kayla has been working for a year, building a dataset for her dissertation. This dataset extends the original dataset provided by her dissertation chair by adding new variables and years. Kayla’s dissertation chair has several publications out of the original dataset. Kayla discovers, to her horror, that there is a major error in the variables constructed in the dataset and that the error is large enough to potentially invalidate the papers that her chair has already published. Kayla does not know whether (1) she should fix the error in her own dataset, (2) tell her chair about the problem and (3) whether to inform the journals where the papers were published that they are fundamentally flawed.

13.  Ashley has spent a year developing her dissertation dataset and is very proud of the work she has done. She believes the dataset will enable her to answer several unanswered questions in her field of study. She is getting close to defending her dissertation and her chair has asked for her to share her dataset with him. This particular professor has a reputation for not including PhD students as co-authors on his research projects. Ashley is worried that the professor may use her dataset, without including her as a co-author.


14.  Jordan’s dissertation chair is an internationally famous scholar, traveling so much that she is seldom available to meet with Jordan. As a result, Jordan had basically written his dissertation by himself, with little to no help from his chair. When Jordan submits the dissertation to his chair, she tells Jordan that he must agree to put her name on all publications coming out of his dissertation or she will not sign off on the dissertation.

15. Patrice is working in his office on polishing up his dissertation, which will be defended next week. His chair comes into Patrice’s office, very excited, and tells Patrice that she has secured publication of his dissertation with a well-known scholarly press. The only string attached is that the book must have Patrice’s chair as a co-author and the chair must be the first author on the book.


16.  Javier’s dissertation at a US university is well underway with one main chapter and two supporting chapters. Javier receives an invitation from a former undergraduate professor in Mexico inviting him to publish a chapter out of his dissertation in the professor’s edited book. Javier will have a quick publication on his resume, making him more attractive on the job market. Javier will also have done a favor to his former professor who wrote a strong letter that helped Javier get accepted into this PhD program. Since the book will be published in Spanish, there is little chance that Javier’s chapter will be read by non-Spanish speaking scholars. Therefore, Javier does not think publishing his dissertation chapter in this edited book will create a problem for him submitting the chapter for publication in a scholarly journal afterwards.

17. Karolina’s dissertation consists of three papers, which is the norm at her university. While she is writing her dissertation, Karolina and a faculty member submit one of her chapters to a journal and the paper is accepted for publication as a co-authored article before Karolina has defended her dissertation. The chair of Karolina’s dissertation committee discovers that one of her dissertation chapters has been co-written with another faculty member, and the chair refuses to accept the chapter as part of her dissertation. Karolina’s chair tells her that all three chapters must be sole authored and none published prior to her defense; Karolina must therefore write another chapter.


18.  Stefanie’s dissertation chair offers Stefanie the opportunity to use the private dataset that he had hand collected for his own research. Stefanie’s chair requests, in return for use of the dataset, that he be included as a co-author on all publications by Stefanie that uses this dataset. Stefanie and her chair discuss this issue, and she agrees verbally to do this. Stefanie and her chair write several papers together. Ten years later, Stefanie writes and publishes a single-authored paper that uses the original dataset provided by her chair. Stefanie justifies the single-authored paper on the grounds that the theory development is hers and that “enough is enough”; 10 years of joint work is long enough to pay for the use of the original dataset. Stefanie’s chair is furious, arguing that they had a verbal agreement that all published work coming out of the original database should be joint authored.

19.  Fletcher and two other PhD students write an empirical paper investigating the impact of a particular set of variables on firm performance. In their paper, a second group of variables are treated as controls in the model. Fletcher graduates and takes a position at a foreign university. Once he is settled in, Fletcher starts a second project with colleagues in his new department. In this paper, the controls from the first paper are now independent variables, and the independent variables from the first paper are now controls. The two projects proceed independently, with only Fletcher aware of both projects. Both papers are submitted about the same time to different journals and, by chance, have a common reviewer. The reviewer tells both journal editors about the other paper and recommends that both papers should be rejected on the grounds they are too similar to one another.

20.  Lorraine is carving her dissertation into papers for submission to journals where she hopes they will be published. She prepares two papers and submits them about the same time to two journals, making no reference in either submission to the other paper. Both papers use the same dataset and share most of the same variables; however, the theoretical arguments and hypotheses are different. Lorraine is pleased when the first paper receives a positive revise-and-resubmit decision from Journal A, but disappointed when the second paper is rejected after review at Journal B. Lorraine makes minor modifications to the second paper based on the reviewers’ comments and submits the revised paper to Journal A, reasoning that the positive success that the first paper has received might be repeated with the second paper.  



These ethical scenarios were developed by the authors to illustrate the various types of ethical dilemmas that can face doctoral students in their research activities. All individuals appearing in these cases are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, or to actual events or incidents is purely coincidental.

We gratefully acknowledge helpful comments by Chi Anyansi-Archibong, Jean Bartunek, Anthony Cannizzaro, Kathy Lund Dean, Michael Hitt, Benson Honig, Susan Jackson, Paul Sears, Laszlo Tihanyi,  Anne Tsui, Erik van Raaij and Stuart Youngblood on earlier versions of this post.



The Ethicist Terms of Use: AOM, contributors to THE ETHICIST, and AOM officers, staff and volunteers accept no responsibility for the content of all postings on THE ETHICIST, including the opinions and information posted or circulated by users on THE ETHICIST.  The content of all postings is solely the responsibility of the users. AOM cannot warrant the accuracy of any information posted on THE ETHICIST and disclaims all warranties with regard to information circulated on THE ETHICIST.  This disclaimer includes all warranties of merchantability and fitness.



Part 2 of ethical issues with student evaluations of teaching: Now what?

Key Insight:

In my column last month, I wrote about some of the ethical issues with student evaluations of teaching (SET), using Quinn’s competing values model. Among my top concerns are serious and documented validity issues with SET instruments, as well as how external stakeholders may use SET data as a big stick to weed out faculty who offer unpopular or controversial viewpoints, or who may be judged as ineffective based on this single (mostly invalid) instrument. In this column, I want to talk more about the “now what?” aspect of SETs.

Continue reading “Part 2 of ethical issues with student evaluations of teaching: Now what?”

In Memoriam: John E. Fleming, PhD

Long before the Ethicist Blog and the Ethics of Research and Publishing Video Series, the Academy’s voice of ethics was embodied in John E. Fleming, Professor Emeritus at University of Southern California.  John was a long-time member of the AOM Ethics Committee and a regular contributor to the Academy of Management Newsletter. John contributed articles about ethics that translated ethics experiences in academe to include vignettes on research, professional life and teaching, much like the topical areas found on the Ethicist Blog.  He recognized that being able to articulate our core shared professional values further builds our ethical culture.  Sadly, John Fleming passed away on February 2, 2014 and while he leaves behind his loving family and many colleagues and friends, his words and contributions about ethics will remain in the Academy’s memory.  You can read John’s full obituary in the March 2014 edition of AcadeMY News.

In honor of John Fleming’s memory, we’d like to share one of his later contributions to the Ethics Column.


By John E. Fleming, Emeritus Professor, University of Southern California; Member of the AOM Ethics Committee  (Originally published October 2006 AOM Newsletter)

This column deals with the Introduction, the Preamble, and both the General and Professional Principles in the first part of the Academy’s revised Code of Ethics.  I suspect that you are finding in your reading of the Code that it is a very complete professional document that requires diligent study and thoughtful application.  But there are also a number of important surprises along the way.

The most interesting thing that I have found in my study of this first part of the code is the emphasis that it places on the need for the very highest levels of professional ethics.  If we think of ethics as dealing with relationships between people, the Code requires that such relationships exist at the highest ethical level.  On the first page of the Code in the Introduction this is stated very clearly: “The Preamble, General Principles, and Professional Principles set forth aspirational goals to guide AOM members toward the highest ideals of research, teaching  practice, and service.”

Continue reading “In Memoriam: John E. Fleming, PhD”

Retraction: Mistake or Misconduct?


Ethics in the Academy of Management


Columnist: Lorraine Eden, Visiting Professor (The Ohio State University) and Professor (Texas A&M University),

Date: October 28, 2013




KEY INSIGHT:  Seeing a journal article with the word “RETRACTION” written in diagonal watermark across the front page is probably a shock to most management and business scholars. Not only is the percentage of articles withdrawn from publication across all disciplines very small (the estimate is less than .02% per year), the number of retracted articles in business and management journals is small relative to those in, for example, biomedical journals. Recently, however, a number of our well-known journals including Journal of Management Studies, Organization Science and Strategic Management Journal – even the Journal of Business Ethics! — have posted retraction notices. Why are articles retracted? I discuss the various categories of article retraction, look at retraction in the context of business and management journals, provide examples of retraction categories,  and end with questions for discussion. Continue reading “Retraction: Mistake or Misconduct?”

The Thought Leader Series: Robert A. Giacalone on being “Broken when Entering”

Key Insight: Bob Giacalone and Mark Promislo co-authored an article in the most recent Academy of Management Learning & Education, entitled, “Broken when Entering: The Stigmatization of Goodness and Business Ethics Education.” In this month’s column, I first react to their work, and then share some of my conversation with Bob about the article. I also fielded some reactions from Kabrina Krebel Chang of Boston University, who is directing the School of Management’s comprehensive new ethics education effort.

Continue reading “The Thought Leader Series: Robert A. Giacalone on being “Broken when Entering””

Ethical Issues in Professional Life: Tribalism

Apologies for Some Rip Van Winkle-ism

Your professional life correspondent took a literary nap that let April pass without a post.  My apologies to the Ethicist, to my fellow correspondents, and to our (growing) readership.  I’ve wandered back to town, trimmed the beard, and found quill, ink and parchment.  In other words, the semester’s teaching is done.  Now to this (last) month’s topic.

A Great Paper from “Outsiders”

I’ll get to the topic momentarily, but first a vignette about an article.  My research interests include issues related to international business (“IB”), that is, issues about multinational firms and cross-border transactions.  So I am a faithful reader and occasional contributor to the Journal of International Business Studies (“JIBS”).  A relatively recent JIBS article is also one of my favorites.  It’s a 2010 article by Nathan Jensen, Quan Li and Aminur Rahman about apparently unaddressed challenges associated with using data from certain cross-national firm-level surveys popular with IB and related management scholars (Jensen, N., Li, Q., & Rahman, A. 2010.  Understanding corruption and firm responses in cross-national firm-level surveys.  Journal of International Business Studies, 41:  1481-1504).  Jensen, Li and Rahman develop and test a theory of under-response and false response biasing measures derived from those cross-national surveys, which ask questions about bribery and corruption faced by local businesses.

Here’s their theory in brief.  Individuals from firms in politically-repressive countries are less likely to respond at all or respond truthfully to questions about bribery and corruption.  Respondents in those countries fear that their response will get back to the local mayor, chief of police or party official shaking them down for a “contribution” important to continued business survival and success. Better either to not respond or respond that there’s little or no bribery or corruption.  Here’s their evidence in brief.  Non-response rates in a prominent cross-country survey by the World Bank increase with lower levels of press freedom in a given country.  False report rates also increase with less press freedom.  Respondents tell the World Bank surveyor that corruption isn’t as severe as alternative non-survey measures indicate.  The end result is that some of the most frequently used survey data on bribery, corruption and related cross-country business issues (e.g., quality of the business environment) are biased.  At a minimum, there are important adjustments for researchers to make if using these survey data.  Most haven’t, so publications based on such “evidence” merit renewed scrutiny and revision.

Jensen, Li and Rahman might not be familiar names in IB and management journals.  Jensen and Li are political scientists, and quite productive researchers in journals within the political science field.  Rahman is an economist at the World Bank.  They’re not rank-and-file management faculty in a business school regularly attending the Academy of Management meetings.  They’re “outsiders” who crossed disciplinary and professional boundaries to submit, revise and publish provocative research with a stinging critique of an empirical research stream in our field.  Way to go.

Why doesn’t this happen more often?  The answer is tribalism.  Finally, my topic for the blog.

Disciplinary Tribalism                                                                                                                       

There is more than a little tribalism in the Academy.  By tribalism, I mean that researchers in one discipline have a tendency to ignore much of the work on a common topic of interest another group of scholars are addressing in another discipline.  Maybe it’s research and researchers in psychology and management asking common questions about why individuals and firms escalate commitments in an apparently irrational way.  Maybe it’s research and researchers in law and political science asking common questions about constitutions and the quality of government.  In any case, we tend to look inward at our disciplinary “tribe” for reference regarding which scholars, ideas and publications are relevant for a given topic of discussion and debate.  We look less often, if at all, outside our field for insight on the same topic. Discipline-based professional associations, conferences and journals reinforce this inward-looking tendency.  I’ll admit that we need some tribal lines in order to define intellectually-distinct fields, set professional standards and qualifications, and more generally bring order to what is and isn’t immediately relevant to our work.  That aside, though, the inward-looking trope is probably not a good thing.  Tribalism raises barriers.  It limits outside voices in discussion and debate.  It leads to intra-disciplinary navel-gazing.

Crossing Tribal Lines:  Individually and Collectively

There are things we can do as individuals and as a groups to deal with some of tribalism’s negatives.  Individually, it’s possible to look outside many ways. Offer a class with a cross-listing in another department (good) or in another college (even better).  Serve on a masters or doctoral thesis committee in another field dealing with a research topic that overlaps with your own interests.  Attend, serve on a panel, submit and present research in progress at a professional meeting in another disciplinary field –economics, political science, engineering, sociology, law.

Of course, published scholarly research is foundational to career development in research universities. So submitting to, revising and, ultimately, publishing in high-quality journals outside your primary field constitutes a strong blow against tribalism.  But it’s difficult.  Tribalism has some strong defenders, and as I noted earlier, their defense is sometimes justified, and often well-meaning.  For researchers looking to cross lines, the barriers put up by their own tribe can be substantial.  The range of acceptably “high-quality” journals is almost always longer within your disciplinary field (tribe) than it is in almost any other field.  That’s usually because we know less than we think about those other fields.  In my Department of Strategic Management & Entrepreneurship at the Carlson School of Management, there is no list of high-quality journals in management.  (I guess we’re supposed to just know what they are.)  I recently asked an SME colleague what s/he thought was a high-quality journal in political science.  S/he spent a few seconds thinking, and then told me, “I know, I know. Journal of Political Economy.”  Nice try.  Tribal defenders may have a very short written or mental list of outside journals that “count” for tenure and promotion purposes.  That can be a pretty strong deterrent to crossing lines for research and journal publication outside your primary field.  That helps me understand why articles by the Jensen, Li and Rahman’s of this world are infrequent.

Collectively, there are other initiatives worth thinking about to combat tribalism.  I’ve mentioned some teaching and service initiatives for individuals to consider.  Commendation of (or at least indifference to) such efforts from departmental faculty colleagues, departmental chairs, and college deans would be helpful.  Research-wise, I can think of few more important individuals to fight tribalism for the rest of us than journal editors.  It was not an accident that Jensen, Li and Rahman submitted their manuscript to JIBS.  Their submission followed presentation of the paper at an inter-disciplinary conference with editorial team members from JIBS in attendance.  No doubt, they received encouragement to go further and submit the paper to the journal for review.   The JIBS editor-in-chief at the time made it part of her mission to attend and speak at conferences outside IB and management.  I attended a political science conference where she gave one of those speeches.  She emphasized the inter-disciplinary nature of the journal and its openness to research submissions from other disciplines.  Such efforts to fight tribalism paid off with more submissions from scholars outside the IB and management rank and file, and more notice of (and citation to) JIBS articles.   I am pretty sure the outside submissions got just as tough a review as rank-and-file submitters.  I noted  three revisions over more than a year for the Jensen, Li and Rahman article. It was no quick hit.  Tough, constructive reviews from JIBS editorial board members likely made the article better for an intended audience that begins with IB and management scholars but goes beyond that to others outside our tribe.

How often does that happen at other journals?

Your Tribe, But Also Your Career

As I said earlier, some tribalism is inevitable and not unwelcome.  For doctoral students and junior faculty striving to develop a research agenda and reputation, tribal lines help.  Early in a career, the lines help us understand which people, institutions, conferences and publication outlets will support that agenda and recognize that growing reputation sooner.  But an academic career isn’t always so instrumentally driven.  We are lucky.  We get paid to find interesting intellectual debates, learn the issues guiding it, and then weigh in with sound thinking grounded in rigorous theory and broad-based evidence.  As careers develop, maybe the location of those debates should matter a little less.  If they are outside your department or college, go forth and weigh in.  Push that further.  Find those outside debates, weigh in, and then translate their implications for others in our home department and college –our tribe.  Prompt colleagues down the hall to look outward rather than inward.

Why not?  Strike a blow against tribalism.  And enrich your career.

Please address your comments to:

Paul M. Vaaler

Department of Strategic Management & Entrepreneurship

Carlson School of Management

University of Minnesota

3-424 CarlSMgmt

321 19th Avenue South

Minneapolis, MN 55455

Tel (612) 625-4951

Fax (612) 626-1316


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Better by the Dozen: The Ethicist Blog Posts July 2011-Feb 2013

With the February 2013 blog post on “Ethics in Research Scenarios: What Would YOU Do?”,  The Ethicist has now published two dozen blogs on three areas of ethics that affect not only AOM members, but all members of the scholarly professions: research, teaching and professional life. Links to each of these posts are provided below, together with a downloadable one-page PDF for printing and circulation. Enjoy!


Continue reading “Better by the Dozen: The Ethicist Blog Posts July 2011-Feb 2013”