Managing organizational ethics: How ethics becomes pervasive within organizations

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This study analyzes real experiences of culture management to better understand how ethics permeates organizations. In addition to reviewing the literature, we used an action-research methodology and conducted semistructured interviews in Spain and in the U.S. to approach the complexity and challenges of fostering a culture in which ethical considerations are a regular part of business discussions and decision making. The consistency of findings suggests patterns of organizational conditions, cultural elements, and opportunities that influence the management of organizational cultures centered on core ethical values. The ethical competencies of leaders and of the workforce also emerged as key factors. We identify three conditions—a sense of responsibility to society, conditions for ethical deliberation, and respect for moral autonomy—coupled with a diverse set of cultural elements that cause ethics to take root in culture when the opportunity arises. Leaders can use this knowledge of the mechanisms by which organizational factors influence ethical pervasiveness to better manage organizational ethics.