Do Business Ethics and Ethical Decision Making Still Matter: Perspective of Different Generational Cohorts

Igor Klopotan 1 , Ana Aleksić 2  and Nikolina Vinković 3
  • 1 Polytechnic of Međimurje in Čakovec, Croatia
  • 2 University of Zagreb
  • 3 University North, Koprivnica, Croatia


Background: Research in business ethics shows that individual differences can influence one’s ethical behaviour. In addition, variability in attitudes towards ethical issues among different generations is emphasized. Still, results are inconclusive and call for an additional examination of possible generational differences with regard to ethics and ethical values.

Objectives: Our objective is to test if the perception of the importance of business ethics, attitudes towards ethical issues and aspects influencing ethical behaviour, differ among the four generations currently present in the workforce.

Methods/Approach: Theoretical implications are empirically tested on a sample of 107 individuals, members of Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials and Generation Z.

Results: In general, the results indicate that there are little or no generational differences related to the analysed aspects of business ethics. The significant difference is present only in the importance given to factors that influence ethical decision-making: (i) formal rules and procedures, (ii) performance management system and (iii) job pressures, between the members of Generation Z and older generations.

Conclusions: In spite of employee diversity, ethics continues to present an important aspect of the business environment. Thus, organizations need to be oriented towards creating ethical leaders and a positive ethical climate that ensures that ethical values and behaviours are present throughout the organization.

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