[IPAC-List] Organizational Ethics Scale or Questionnaire Items?

mhammer at 295.ca mhammer at 295.ca
Fri Nov 15 16:57:33 EST 2019

Not aware of any scale as such.  My former unit (I'm retired now) was
tasked with coming up with survey questions pertaining to non-partisanship
and political impartiality in the public service.  We included some
questions addressing the respondent's self-rated ability to carry out
their duties in an impartial manner, and other items concerning their
perception of their co-workers to do their jobs in a politically impartial
manner (valuable questions these days!).  While I doubt whether
respondents' perceptions of their coworkers and workplace climate are
necessarily accurate, even misperceptions provide a sense of how much
"permission" employees perceive to be able to cross the line a little, or
a lot, now and then.

But this is only one aspect of what might fall under the banner of
"ethical climate".  Without wishing to pry, I think you'd probably need to
provide a little more information about what particular family of ethical
concerns you're most interested in.  Otherwise such a questionnaire
becomes either too vague and uninformative, or turns into something the
length of an MMPI!

For instance, ethical breaches with respect to impartiality? with respect
to mistreatment of employees, or unlawful discrimination?  financial
malfeasance? sloppy work or generally poor performance (or tolerance of)? 
Conversely, does the workplace regularly discuss ethics, and make a point
of  acknowledging exemplary ethical behavior, and not just work
performance/output? (not necessarily awards; an occasional hand on the
shoulder and "You did the right thing" counts too)  Does management set a
perceptibly good example?  Are there workshops or other materials
pertaining to optimizing ethical workplace environments within that

I consulted on a values & ethics survey for a large federal organization. 
They were poised to ask employees if they had observed any acts that
crossed the line.  I'm glad I caught them in time, because it would have
been nigh impossible to differentiate between 1000 employees who all read
the same newspaper report on one incident, and 1000 respondents who all
observed 1000 separate incidents.  Fortunately, they scrapped the
questions, else they would have had to wear the results around their neck
like a dead albatross for years.  The moral is: DON'T ask employees to say
whether they're aware of some ethical breach unless you have a means of
reliably counting such breaches and *knowing* the total is a valid total.

Then there are "markers" of ethics.  Fifteen years back, our Canadian
equivalent of the FEVS provided us with some concerning results regarding
workplace harassment (and still does), but as such surveys often do, so
much was stuffed into it that there was no room to ask any questions about
the type or origins of such harassment.  I was asked to give a
presentation to our federal VP of Values and Ethics in the Canadian PS.  I
selected about 6 questions in the survey that I felt reflected what one
might call a "democratic work unit", like whether the manager took
employees' suggestions seriously or provided them with important
information that affected their work, and so on.  Essentially productive
and open two-way communication in the work unit.  I constructed a
composite indicator of employee responses to the six items, and damned if
the composite didn't correlate about .64 or similar (it HAS been 15 years
after all) with that department/agency's responses to the frequency of
reported harassment.  So you can also turn to oblique markers of what
might predict greater and lesser attention to ethics in the work unit. 
Heck, you might already have such markers in your existing instrument.

Wish I could be of more help.  All the best, John, from one capitol to
another, and give my best to James.  We've got snow, here.  You've got

> Is anyone aware of a good scale or set of questionnaire items that
> assesses
> the ethical climate of an organization?
> We are looking at the Ethical Climate Questionnaire by John Cullen and
> Bart
> Victor, but are interested in learning about other alternatives.
> Thanks!
> John
> __
> John M. Ford
> Senior Research Psychologist
> Office of Policy and Evaluation
> U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board
> (240) 888-8537 / john.ford at mspb.gov
> _______________________________________________________
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