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ORIGINAL PAPERMeasuring Individuals’ Virtues in BusinessDavid Dawson1Received: 15 November 2015 / Accepted: 10 March 2017 / Published online: 24 March 2017? Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017Abstract This paper argues that Shanahan and Hyman’s (JBus Eth 42:197–208, 2003) Virtue Ethics Scale (VES)should be abandoned and that work should begin todevelop better-grounded measures for identifying individ-ual business virtue (IBV) in context. It comes to this con-clusion despite the VES being the only existing measure ofindividuals’ virtues that focuses on business people ingeneral, rather than those who hold specific leadership oraudit roles. The paper presents a study that, in attempting tovalidate the VES, raises significant concerns about itsconstruction. In particular, investigation of the VES itemsleads to adjustments in the language used and examinesparticipants’ understanding of the virtue terms and theirdescriptors. Confirmatory factor analysis of data collectedfrom a sample of 137 HR practitioners establishes that the6-factor solution identified by Shanahan and Hyman is notappropriate for the sample under examination. Rather,exploratory factor analysis results in three dimensionsbased in 13 items focusing on the individuals’ reliability,resourcefulness, and leadership. Finally, multiple regres-sion establishes that these dimensions do not on the wholeshow associations with MA or PRESOR, two measuresthrough which it would be expected to establish convergentand divergent validity. The paper concludes by suggestingguidelines for the development of future measures of IBV.Keywords Virtue ethics ? Measurement ? Moral attentiveness ? PRESORIntroductionStudies of virtue ethics have begun to examine how theconcepts related to philosophical theories may be measuredin practice. This paper reports on part of a wider study thatattempted to validate existing measures of individual andorganisational virtue and examine their interaction within awider range of concepts related to ethics.1 Indeed, althoughstudies have developed measures at the individual (Libbyand Thorne, 2007; Riggio et al. 2010; Sarros et al. 2006;Seijts et al. 2015; Shanahan and Hyman 2003; Thun andKelloway 2011; Wang and Hackett 2016), team (Palanskiet al. 2011; Rego et al. 2013, 2015), and organisationallevel (Cameron et al. 2004, 2011; Chun 2005; Fernandoand Moore 2015; Kaptein 2008; Moore 2012a), limitedwork has taken place to validate these measures after theyhave been created. It is important to establish crediblemeasures of virtue, and that existing measures undergocritical examination and testing. Only through testing ofmeasures across different samples and locations will theircredibility be established. This paper reports on the ele-ment of the study that focused on the measurement ofindividuals’ virtue when working in a business context.Focusing on Shanahan and Hyman’s (2003) VirtueEthics Scale (VES), this paper attempts to validate themeasure and its ability to measure individual businessvirtue (IBV) with a sample of established business people.It does this by following through three phases of investi-gation: (1) examining the nature of the VES items, (2)testing the dimensions of the measure, and (3) examiningthe association of VES dimensions with moral attentive-ness (MA) and the Perceived Role of Ethics and SocialResponsibility in creating organisational effectiveness& David Dawson The Business School, University of Gloucestershire,Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL50 2RH, UK 1 Another part of the study is reported in Dawson (2015b).123J Bus Ethics (2018) 147:793–805, two measures with which it should be possibleto establish convergent and divergent validity. This workraises significant concerns about the VES leading to therecommendation that it be abandoned.The paper starts by considering ‘Progress to the Mea-surement of Individual Business Virtues’ and the back-ground to current efforts to measure peoples’ virtues in thebusiness context. It continues to examine ‘The Origins ofthe Virtue Ethics Scale’ and its basis in Solomon’s(1992, 1999) work. It continues to outline the ‘Method’ ofthe study and the three-phase process of investigationbefore presenting the ‘Results’. Finally, in ‘Discussion’ and‘Conclusions’ the implications of the results for the use ofthe VES in research and practice are discussed.Progress to the Measurement of Individual Business VirtuesProponents of virtue ethics argue that the fundamentalquestion for ethics to answer is ‘what kind of person shouldI be?’ rather than ‘what should I do?’ As a result, it putspeople and their characteristics in the foreground andfocuses on how good character traits (the virtues) and thehabits they invoke lead people to work for the good andpromote human flourishing (Dawson and Bartholomew2003). Human flourishing is focused on peoples’ well-be-ing and is achieved when they are meeting their physicaland emotional potential.A focus on virtue ethics in business has developed sincethe late 1980s when authors including Klein (Klein 2002),Kohn (1995, 1998), Solomon (1992), Warren (1996), andWhetstone (1998)—recognising a resurgence of virtueethics in the philosophical literature—introduced it to thebusiness ethics literature. During the early 2000s, debatefocused on the potential for virtue in business (see Beadle2002; Dobson 1997a; Dawson and Bartholomew 2003;Moore 2002, 2005). The debate about the use of virtueethics on the business ethics literature has two strands. Thefirst has focused on answering critiques of virtue as anapproach to ethics and the second on more specific con-cerns about the use of virtue in a business context. Whilst itis beyond the scope of this paper to address these concernsat length, it is important to note how they have beenanswered by proponents of virtue in the business ethicsliterature.Critics of virtue as an approach to ethics have focusedon two issues in particular, its ability to direct action and itsreliance on character. First, critics argue that virtue fails toprovide any meaningful direction to those who want toknow what it is to act ethically (e.g. Louden 1984). Inresponse proponents of virtue ethics point out that in thesame way that under other approaches to ethics there is aneed to educate people so they know what rules they needto follow or outcomes are legitimate to pursue, a personwho is new to virtue has to be educated into what it is to bevirtuous. This ethical education may use virtue rules, whichwork to assist people who have less experience of workingby virtue and are exploring for the first time how they cancontribute to human flourishing given their particular skills,talents, and role in society. In short, the virtue approach isno different to others in having to provide education in itsoperation, but by being clear about the need for inductioninto the virtues it brings that process to the fore and opensit up to examination.Second, critics argue that by relying on character thevirtue approach to ethics is deficient. Harman(2000, 2003, 2009) argues that when it is claimed thatbehaviour results from a person’s character that an error ofattribution is being made. He argues that it isn’t actuallydifferences in character that lead people to act in particularways, but it is the situational differences that people findthemselves in. Whilst acknowledging the different chal-lenges that may be presented in the situations that peoplewho are acting by virtue face, the repost provided byproponents of virtue to the situationalist critique is bothsimple and clear-cut. If people act fundamentally againsthuman flourishing, they cannot be counted as virtuousirrespective of the situation they find themselves in. Theproponents of virtue provide the same response to criticswho argue that basing an evaluation of someone on theircharacter is faulty because a person’s character may shift.Because a person moves from behaving by virtue to notdoing so does not mean that the virtue approach is faulty. Itonly points to that person having shifted from being vir-tuous to not being virtuous.Debate about the legitimacy of using the virtue approachin the context of business has focused on answeringMacIntyre’s (1985) critique of management and businessmore broadly. MacIntyre (1985) presents a framework thatargues that virtue is displayed by those who work forhuman flourishing through the performance of practicesincluding medicine, fishing, and farming that are based incommunity. He argues that because managers could beworking in any field they lack the ability to contribute to aclearly defined good. Hence management cannot constitutea practice like farming or fishing. More generally,MacIntyre (1985) argues that the value-free nature ofbusiness and its capitalist foundations will inevitably leadto the prioritisation of profit and to the practices that hesees as being essential to virtue being corrupted.In response, proponents of virtue in the context ofbusiness have argued that MacIntyre promotes a view thatfails to recognise the potential for management to supportpractices and their associated internal goods through gov-ernance (Moore 2012b) or regulation (Sinnicks 2014).794 D. Dawson123They also argue that MacIntyre fails to recognise potentialfor business to support the virtues (Maitland 1997) andfocus on community (Dawson and Bartholomew 2003)especially where for many small- and medium-sized busi-nesses profit is not the dominant driver for their owners.Indeed, Dobson (2016) argues that by focusing on thepotential for institutions to corrupt practices rather thanrogue practices to corrupt institutions, MacIntyre funda-mentally misidentifies the threats to virtue in a businesscontext. Add to this the move to apply the virtue frame-works of other contemporary virtue ethicists that are inmany ways less demanding on business (Dawson 2015a), itcan be concluded that virtue ethics is at least theoreticallyuseful in discussing how to further the role of ethics in abusiness context (Beadle 2013; Dawson 2015b; Moore2015; Sinnicks 2014).Having progressed to the stage where it was acceptedthat the examination of virtue in a business context islegitimate, the literature began to examine its application tobusiness issues. Studies examined the application of virtueto circus practices (Beadle 2013), environmental issues(Dawson 2005), garment manufacturing (Fernando andMoore 2015), health care (Dawson 2009; Oakley andCocking 2001), pharmaceuticals (Fernando and Moore2015), and retail organisations (Moore 2012a; Whetstone2003) amongst others. Most recently, there has been a shiftin the discussion as attempts in the business ethics litera-ture have moved beyond the application of generalframeworks for virtue in business to examine the structureand potential for the measurement of virtues in business.Although some remain sceptical about the possibility ofmeasuring virtues (e.g. Beadle 2013; Robson 2015), therehave been notable attempts to develop measures in thebusiness arena (Table 1).First to develop a measure of individual business virtuewere Shanahan and Hyman (2003), who in creating theirVirtue Ethics Scale (VES) were progressive and ahead ofother authors examining virtue ethics in a business context.Shanahan and Hyman (2003: 198) developed the VES to‘…assess the value placed on aspects of moral character like courage or tolerance’ and provide an alternative tomeasures that use principle-based criteria when evaluatingethical decision-making. In this, they recognise virtueethics as an alternative to Deontological and Utilitarianapproaches where decisions are guided by rules or princi-ples. Libby and Thorne’s (2004, 2007) measure of Audi-tors’ virtues is the other example of an attempt to measureindividual virtues that comes out of the business ethicsliterature. When developing their measure, they inter-viewed Auditors to provide a basis for modifying Pincoffs’(1986) typology of the virtues. Whilst some aspects of thisscale’s development are to be commended, its concentra-tion on virtues that are highly relevant to the Auditor’s rolemeans that it would be unwise to take it as a measure ofvirtue for people who work in other roles in business.Moving beyond the business ethics literature, severalmeasures of leadership virtues relevant to business havebeen developed (Riggio et al. 2010; Thun and Kelloway2011; Sarros et al. 2006; Seijts et al. 2015; Wang andHackett 2016). Sarros et al.’s (2006) Virtuous LeadershipScale (VLS), that is based on seven items measuringhumility, courage, integrity, compassion, humour, passion,and wisdom generated by a qualitative study of leaders inAustralian business organisations conducted by Barker andCoy (2003), is an early example. On the face of it thesevirtues could be applied to business people generally.However, it is important to note that in focusing on leadersthe VLS likely excludes virtues that people in businessmore generally would be expected to hold. This concern isheightened where the items are written so that they areclearly focused on leader behaviours (e.g. Riggio et al.2010; Wang and Hackett 2016) and the psychometricproperties of all the measures are assessed with data focusedon leaders’ qualities. Indeed, whilst these measures may beuseful in assessing virtue with leaders in business, it isunlikely to be appropriate to use them with people whowork in other roles.So, whilst the field has progressed to a point whereseveral measures of individual virtue in the context ofbusiness exist, Shanahan and Hyman’s (2003) VESremains the only measure that focuses on people who workin a business context generally rather than focus on peoplewho hold particular roles. Keeping in mind the aims of thebroader study to examine the virtues of people working inbusiness and that there has been no published work thatattempts to validate the VES, work was undertaken tovalidate the VES. It is the results of that work on which thispaper reports.The Development of the Virtue Ethics ScaleDrawing on Dobson’s (1997b) interpretation of MacIn-tyre’s (1985) work, Shanahan and Hyman (2003) see virtueas an approach that asks individuals to aim for excellencebased in communities. Rather than relying on rules orprinciples, virtues are developed by emulating role modelsand the character traits that drive good behaviour aredeveloped over a person’s lifetime.In order to establish their measure Shanahan and Hyman(2003) needed to identify a list of appropriate virtues. Theirliterature review identified nearly fifty that had beenapplied to business, but they turned to Solomon’s (1999)list of 45 virtues to underpin the measure. Solomon’s(1992, 1999) project, based in an Aristotelian perspectiveon the virtues, is one of the few that examines the operationMeasuring Individuals’ Virtues in Business 795123Table 1 Measures of virtue in businessLevel ofanalysisReferences Measures SamplesOrganisation Cameron et al. (2004) Organisational Virtue Instrument Location: Midwest USARespondents: employees of 18 organisations from arange of sectorsSample size: 804Organisation Cameron et al. (2011) Positive Practices Survey Location: Northeast USARespondents: employees of financial servicesorganisation/nursing unitsSample size: 1989/442Organisation Chun (2005) Virtue Ethical Character Scale (VECS) Location: UKRespondents: staff and customers of 7 firmsSample size: 2548Organisation Kaptein (2008) Corporate Ethical Virtue scale(CEV)Location: HollandRespondents: employees of Dutch organisationSample size: 312Organisation Moore (2012a) Organisational Virtue Interview Location: UKRespondents: Allianz Boots managersSample size: 21Team Palanski et al. (2011) Team Transparency, Behavioural Integrityand TrustLocation: Northeast USARespondents: nurses and nurse managersSample size: 83Team Rego et al. (2013) Team Virtuousness (adapted version ofCamron et al. 2004)Location: Portugal


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