Effect of a ubiquitous moral cue on ethical leadership, moral disengagement and goal difficulty: Real-world outcomes of a novel behavioural intervention by mobile application technology
Author(s)TAN, Boon Heon
Technology and Innovation
Full recordShow full item record
AbstractFirms invest significant resources in their ethical infrastructure to influence the ethical decision-making of employees. The advent of mobile technology has extended the frontier of interventions that may discourage unethical behaviour, through the use of ubiquitously-present mobile-based moral cues. I conducted a prospective, randomized field experiment, to study how a ubiquitous moral cue may positively enhance ethical decision-making. Sales professionals working in a pharmaceutical firm in China were assigned randomly by teams to either receive, or not, a mobile application from their firm’s compliance department. Over six months, participants completed three cross-sectional surveys, and were randomly monitored by an independent external third party for non-compliant behaviour. The interactions of the mobile application with individual, team and firm factors that influence ethical decision-making were studied using ANOVA and regression methods to identify direct and indirect effects of the intervention. The results showed that a ubiquitous moral cue strengthened the negative relationship between ethical leadership and unethical behaviours. This result was demonstrated both by team self-reported unethical behaviours as well as third-party audit findings. Also, more third-party audit findings were found among participants reporting high difficulty in achieving their goals in the control arm, but not among those receiving a ubiquitous moral cue. Supplementary analyses also suggested that the greater the perceived ubiquity of the application, the lower the team self-reported unethical behavior, an outcome that supports the need to conduct further study of this new concept. However, contrary to expectation, a ubiquitous moral cue strengthened the effect of moral disengagement on team self-reported unethical behaviour. This study answers the call for more empirical research on the effectiveness of ethical and compliance infrastructure, and has immediate implications on the use of a ubiquitous moral cue as a behavioural intervention in practice.