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A Cross-Cultural Comparison

of Ethical Attitudes of
P. Maria Joseph Christie
Ik-Whan G. Kwon
Business Managers: India,
Philipp A. Stoeberl
Korea and the United States
Raymond Baumhart

ABSTRACT: 1 Culture has been identified as a
toward business ethics are related to their personal
significant determinant of ethical attitudes of business
integrity; their attitudes toward questionable business
managers. This research studies the impact of culture
practices are related to the external environment and
on the ethical attitudes of business managers in India,
gender, as well as to their personal integrity. A strong
Korea and the United States using multivariate
relationship exists between cultural dimensions of
statistical analysis. Employing Geert Hofstede’s
individualism and power distance and respondents’
cultural typology, this study examines the relationship
ethical attitudes toward certain questionable
between his five cultural dimensions (individualism,
practices.* The analysis of the relationship between
power distance, uncertainty avoidance, masculinity,
cultural dimensions of masculinity, uncertainty
and long-term orientation) and business managers’
avoidance and long-term orientation and respondents’
ethical attitudes. The study uses primary data
ethical attitudes toward questionable practices
collected from 345 business manager participants of
produced mixed results, likely due to the lack of
Executive MBA programs in selected business
notable differences in cultural dimension scores
schools in India, Korea and the United States using
among the countries surveyed.
Hofstede’s Value Survey Module (94) and an
instrument designed by the researchers to measure
respondents’ ethical attitudes (attitudes toward
business ethics in general and toward twelve common
questionable practices in particular). Results indicate
that national culture has a strong influence on
business managers’ ethical attitudes. In addition to
national culture, respondents’ general attitudes

Father Maria Joseph Christie, S.J., Dean and Professor of
Phillipp A. Stoeberl, Ph.D., SPHR, is a Professor of
Decision Sciences at Loyola Institute of Business
Management at the John Cook School of Business at
Administration, Chennai, India, received his Master's in
Saint Louis University. He specializes in Strategy,
Statistics from the University of Madras, India and
Management Theory, and Current Issues in Management.
Master's and Doctorate in Business Administration from
He is a member of the Academy of Management and has
Saint Louis University, St. Louis, U.S.A. He has many
written many articles in such publications as the Journal
articles to his credit and is actively engaged in various
of Business and Psychology, the International Journal of
research projects, particularly the effect of culture on
Human Resource Management, and the Journal of
globalization and business ethical attitudes.
Management Studies.
Ik-Whan G. Kwon, Ph.D., is a Professor of Decision
Father Raymond Baumhart, S.J., former President of
Sciences at Saint Louis University and Director of the
Loyola University of Chicago, received his doctorate in
Consortium for Supply Chain Management Studies. He
business administration from the Harvard Business
holds two Ph.D. degrees: one in Economics and one in
School. He is widely known for his scholarship in
Health Sciences Research. He has published many
business ethics and has many publications to his credit.
articles in the areas of economics and applied statistics in
He was the first researcher to do an empirical study in
healthcare management. His recent interests include
business ethics and his book, Ethics in Business, has
supply chain strategies, design and implementation. He
become a classic in the field of business ethics.
was a Senior Fulbright Scholar to Korea in 2002.

Journal of Business Ethics 46: 263-287, 2003.
© 2003 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.

P. Maria Joseph Christie et al.
Fritzsche, 1995; Grunbaum, 1997; Honeycutt et al,

1995; Hood & Logsdon, 2002; Husted, Dozier et al,
There has been an increased research interest in the
1996; Jackson, 2001; Jose, 1996; Kennedy &
area of business ethics, at both the conceptual and the
Lawton, 1996; Leurkittikul, 1994; Lysonski et al,
empirical levels, during the last three decades, as
1991; McDonald & Pak, 1996; Moore & Radloff,
clearly revealed by the increase in the number of
1996; Nyaw & Ng, 1994; Okleshen & Hoyt, 1996;
journals which specialize in or focus on business
Ralston et al, 1994; Robertson & Schlegelmilch,
ethics during that period (Dunfee & Werhane, 1997).
1993; Singhapakdi et al, 1995; Small, 1992; Swinyard
Empirical research on business ethics began thirty
et al, 1990; Tsalikis & LaTour, 1995; Tsalikis &
five ago, triggered by rising scandals in business
Nwachukwu, 1991; Tsalikis & Ortis-Buonafina,
corporations, with Baumhart (1961, 1968) publishing
1990; Whipple & Swords, 1992; White & Rhodeback,
a descriptive study on the ethical behavior of
1992). These studies are descriptive in nature; i.e., the
main objective is to state similarities and differences
During the last two decades, phenomenal growth
in ethical attitudes and behavior between cultures.
in the globalization of business and a corresponding
These investigations do not tell us how culture
increase in ethical conflicts faced by multinational
influences ethical attitudes and behavior (Vitell,
firms such as Nestle (infant food formula
Nwachukwu, & Barnes, 1993).
controversy), Lockheed (problem of bribery), Union
In most of these studies culture is considered as
Carbide (Bhopal tragedy), Mitsubishi (sexual
one of the independent variables influencing one’s
harassment), Ford-Bridgestone/Firestone (tire crisis),
ethical attitudes and behavior. Culture can never be
Royal Dutch Shell (environmental controversy), Nike
treated as a single independent variable affecting the
(sweatshop conditions in Southeast Asia), Enron,
ethical attitudes and behavior, for it is a loaded and
ImClone, Adelphia, Tyco, Qwest, Global Crossing,
complex variable, overarching many areas in life.
and WorldCom (accounting irregularities and fraud),
Culture includes an extensive number of dimensions
Johnson and Johnson (falsification of data to cover
and values. Two countries can be closely similar in a
lapses in the manufacture of Eprex) and McDonald’s
particular cultural dimension and highly dissimilar in
(exploitation of workers and human health) have
various other dimensions. For example, India and the
spurred research interest in international business
U.S. are greatly similar in the uncertainty avoidance
ethics, particularly on the influence that culture has on
index, but exceedingly dissimilar in the individualism
the ethical attitudes and conduct of business
index (Hofstede, 1997). Consequently on certain
attitudes related to uncertainty avoidance, Indians and
The authors of this study use ‘culture’ as
Americans may exhibit similarities while on certain
encompassing all that which influences the behavior
other attitudes related to individualism, they may
and mental life of a particular group of people. It has
display dissimilarities.
to do with ideas (Geertz, 1973; Goodenough, 1981;
Culture is an abstraction and not an
Keesing, 1981); the way a group of people
independently existing entity (Biernatzki, 1991). To
conceptualize and represent the world and life to
facilitate cross-cultural comparisons, one needs to
themselves. The idea about what life is and what life
operationalize culture and identify aspects or
should be has set the standards for what is right and
dimensions common to all cultures (Ronen, 1986),
what is wrong, what is good and what is bad, what one
particularly in the area of business. For the
can be and what one could be. It is about definitions
operationalization of culture, Hofstede’s cultural
of what men and women are and should be. It is a
dimensions have been widely accepted in the
shared set of meanings and standards by which the
international business field and have been repeatedly
members of a society regulate their lives. Culture
validated over time (e.g., Hoppe, 1990; Sondergaard,
plays a significant role in the ethical reasoning and
1994 ). A conceptual model on the effects of culture
ethical attitudes of a person.
on ethical decision-making using Hofstede’s original
To date more than thirty empirical cross-cultural
four cultural dimensions already exists. It postulates
studies on ethical attitudes and ethical behavior have
that there may be a strong relationship between these
been conducted, and practically all of them recognize
dimensions and one’s perception of ethical situations,
the influence of national culture on one’s ethical
ethical judgment and behavior (Vitell et al., 1993).
attitude and behavior (Abratt et al, 1992; Alderson &
The main purpose of the present research is to
Kakabadse, 1994; Allmon et al, 1997; Armstrong et
study empirically whether there are differences in
al, 1990;Armstrong, 1992; Dubinsky et al, 1991;
ethical attitudes among business managers in the

A Cross-Cultural Comparison of Ethical Attitudes of Business Managers
United States, India, and Korea and whether these
people’s lives (Rokeach, 1973; Schwartz, 1994).
variations are influenced by cultural dimensions
They serve as criteria for determining what is good
identified by Hofstede (1980, 1997).
and bad, for choosing between available alternatives.

Though values may change in response to major
Literature Review and Testable Hypotheses
changes in technology, economy and politics, they are

fairly stable (Schwartz, 1992). People from different
A. Culture, values, attitudes and ethics in business
societies (cultures) may hold different values with

varying degrees of intensity (relevance) and direction
Culture. Contemporary anthropologists define culture
(Hofstede, 1980). Each culture has its own value
as “an ideational system,” referring to “what humans
system, i.e., hierarchical ordering of values in terms of
learn, not what they do and make” (Keesing, 1981:
their importance.
68-69). In Geertz’s words, “culture is the fabric of

meaning in terms of which human beings interpret
Attitudes. Attitudes are learned predispositions
their experiences and guide their action” (Geertz,
(Manstead, 1995) and not inherited. Culture is one of
1973:145). It is the web of significance created by
the main sources for the formation of attitudes. Other
man and in which he suspends himself (Geertz,
sources include generation effects, social role, laws,
1973). In this sense, culture has to do with shared
mass media, total institutions (e.g., military units,
ideas, the way a group of people conceptualize and
prisons), school, family and parents, peers and
represent the world and life to themselves. Culture,
reference groups and direct experience (Douglass &
viz., the shared ideas and meanings about what life is
Pratkanis, 1994). A person raised in a particular
and what life should be, sets “standards for
culture may acquire and cultivate certain attitudes,
perceiving, believing, evaluating and acting”
without even questioning the validity of these
(Goodenough, 1970: 104). These ideas provide
attitudes. Numerous research studies in sociology,
standards for what is right and what is wrong (norms);
psychology, management, business ethics, etc., have
what is good and what is bad (values); what one can
confirmed that different attitudes are associated with
do and how to go about doing it (Goodenough, 1961).
different cultures.
They set definitions of what man and woman are and

should be. These shared ideas and meanings, what
Culture and business-ethical attitudes. Ethics is a
Hofstede (1997) calls “software of the mind” or
systematic approach to moral judgments based on
“mental programs” (p. 4) shape the values that people
reason, analysis, synthesis, and reflection; business
in a society acquire and hold onto steadfastly; they
ethics is the application of ethical principles to issues
affect people’s attitudes toward life, the world and
that arise in the conduct of business activity - it
people (Geertz, 1973); they influence their behavior;
pertains to situations in which individuals are in an
they differentiate people of one society from another.
organizational position and act as (responsible) agents
Understanding culture is not an easy task.
of the company and its owners (Baron, 2000).
Culture is an abstraction and not an entity to be
Business ethics is the study of what constitutes right
measured. To describe other people’s culture is a very
or wrong, good or bad human conduct in a business
complicated endeavor (Goodenough, 1970). One can
environment. It is an application of general ethical
never fully understand a culture. “Cultural analysis is
principles to actual practical problems in the area of
always incomplete... the more deeply it goes, the less
business such as dishonesty in advertising, bribery,
complete it is” (Geertz, 1973: 29). It becomes more
etc. to determine what conduct is ‘ethical’; i.e., what is
complicated when we embark on studies on
considered to be appropriate or ‘right’ conduct in
cross-cultural comparative analysis. It is an utterly
conformity with the general ethical standards.
futile and meaningless attempt to compare cultures in
Culture has been identified as one of the
general. Meaningful comparison between cultures can
important determinants of business ethical
be conducted only on similar standards of human
decision-making. Culture influences ethical
conduct (Goodenough, 1970).
decision-making both directly and indirectly by

interacting with other variables (e.g., what a person
Values. Values form the core of culture (Hofstede,
means by ‘ethical’). Bartels (1967) was the first to
1970). They are enduring beliefs about important
recognize the importance of the role of culture in
goals in life, which serve as guiding principles in
ethical decision-making in marketing. He notes that,

P. Maria Joseph Christie et al.
“contrasting cultures of different societies produce
Okleshan and Hoyt (1996), McDonald and Kan
different expectations and become expressed in the
(1997), Alderson and Katabadse (1994), Dolecheck
dissimilar ethical standards of those societies” (p. 23).
(1987), Becker and Fritzsche (1987), Fritzsche
According to his model, cultural factors such as
(1995), and Swinyard et al (1990), all found
“law, respect for individuality, nature of power and
significant differences in influence of culture on one’s
authority, rights of property, concept of deity, relation
perception of ethical attitudes and behavior and the
of the individual to the state, national identity and
way people perceive ethical problems.
loyalty, values, customs and mores, state of the arts,
However, not all empirical cross-cultural studies
etc.” (p. 22) are the most basic determinants of ethical
confirmed the influence of culture on business
standards of a society.
leaders’ ethical beliefs, perceptions, attitudes and

behavior. Several studies did not support the
Cross-cultural studies in business ethics.
hypothesis that there were differences in business
Cross-cultural empirical studies that have so far been
ethical attitudes and conduct across cultures (e.g.,
conducted focus on investigating the relationship
Abratt et al., 1992; Lysonski & Gaidis, 1991; Preble
between culture and business ethics, and particularly
& Reichel, 1988; Whipple & Swords, 1992). Rather,
in testing the hypothesis that there are cross-cultural
they seem to support the convergent hypothesis that
differences in business-ethical beliefs, perceptions,
individuals, irrespective of cultures, are forced to
attitudes, and behavior of people involved or
adopt the industrial attitudes to survive in today’s
associated with business. Most of these cross-cultural
industrialized society, which is becoming
empirical investigations study the respondents’
increasingly homogeneous due to
business-ethical attitudes, behavior etc., based on
rapid-communication channels and globalization of
respondents’ answers to vignettes describing certain
business (Kelley et al., 1987).
questionable business practices such as giving or
Certain obvious cross-cultural research
receiving ‘gifts’ or ‘gratuities’, software piracy, and
methodological problems in some of these studies
dishonesty in advertising. Many of them (e.g.,
may have contributed to the research outcome, such as
Dubinsky et al., 1991) focus on the ethical perception
(a) choice of sample size (Abratt et al. 1992; Jackson
of the respondents by examining their responses as to
& Artola, 1997), (b) choice of countries (Vijver &
whether specific problem situations present ethical
Leung, 1997; Whipple & Swords 1992), (c) possible
dilemmas. Some studies (e.g., Dolecheck M. &
influence of other personal, organizational and
Dolecheck C., 1987) examine the ethical attitudes of
environmental factors besides the culture and their
the respondents to various questionable business
interactive effects on culture (Jackson & Artola, 1997;
practices by determining to what degree they
Newstorm & Ruch, 1975; Ferrel & Weaver 1978;
approve/disapprove or agree/disagree with these
Izraelis, 1988; Kelley et al., 1987), and (d) lack of
business practices. A few additional studies
rigor in statistical analysis (Izraelis ,1988). Therefore,
investigate the respondent’s ethical behavior (e.g.,
in order to draw valid conclusions from a
Fritzsche & Becker, 1983), analyzing the
cross-cultural research, it is imperative to study the
respondents’ answers to a series of ethical dilemmas.
differences and similarities among the countries
A couple of studies explore the role of culture in the
chosen for a study and their relationship with each of
identification of ethical problems by asking the
the issues studied. In this study, we are using
respondents to identify ethical problems from a list of
Hoftede's cultural dimensions to examine the
questionable business practices. Yet, adequate effort
similarities and differences among the countries
has not been given in these studies in making clear
distinctions between ethical perceptions, ethical
Based on above literature review, the following
beliefs, ethical attitudes and ethical behavior
hypothesis will be tested:
particularly in the empirical analysis. Most often such

distinctions are taken for granted.
H-1: There are differences in the ethical
Many cross-cultural studies confirm the
attitudes among business managers in the
hypothesis that culture influences one’s ethical
United States, India and Korea.
perception, attitude and behavior. Studies also

indicate that culture plays a role in the way people
B. Hofstede’s Cultural Typology
across cultures identify situations posing ethical

problems. For example, Dubinsky et al (1991),
Hofstede is one of the first scholars in the field of
Singhapakdi et al (1994), Honeycutt et at (1995),
international management to develope an empirically

A Cross-Cultural Comparison of Ethical Attitudes of Business Managers
validated typology, which affects human behaviour
dimensions to five. Long-term orientation
and business organizations. He identified the
characterizes cultures which place more importance
following four dimensions through a combination of
on values associated with future orientation while
multivariate statistics and theoretical reasoning in his
short-term orientation cultures place more importance
study of IBM employees around the world in 1970’s.
on values associated with past and present orientation.

The typology of cultural dimensions proposed by
Individualism vs. collectivism: “It describes
Geert Hofstede is used for this study since it has been
the relationship between the individual and
repeatedly validated over time in dozens of countries
the collectivity that prevails in a given
(Sondergaard, 1995). Hofstede focused on national
society” (Hofstede, 1980: 148).

culture. Despite the regional differences within a
“Individualism pertains to societies in
particular nation, he asserts, “we can still distinguish
which the ties between individuals are
some ways of thinking that most inhabitants share and
loose: everyone is expected to look after
that we can consider part of their national culture or
himself or herself and his or her immediate
national character” (Hofstede, 1983: 77).
family” (Hofstede, 1997: 51). In
The following hypotheses will be tested based on
collectivist societies the interests of the
the literature review:
group prevails over the interests of the

individual; harmony with the social
H-2: There is a relationship between Hofstede’s
environment is a key virtue.
cultural dimensions and one’s ethical
ii. Large or small power distance: Power
attitude. More specifically,
distance explains the way a society handles

inequality among its members. It is defined
2-A. The business managers in countries with a
“as the extent to which the members of
high individualism score tend to look at
institutions” (family, school and
business practices such as gift-giving,
community) “and organizations” (places of
nepotism, software piracy, sharing insider
work) “within a country expect and accept
information as more unethical than the
that power is distributed unequally”
business managers in countries with a high
(Hofstede, 1997: 28).
collectivism score.
iii. Strong or weak uncertainty avoidance:

Uncertainty avoidance is defined as “the
2-B. The business managers in countries with a
extent to which the members of a culture
high power distances score take superiors’
feel threatened by uncertain and unknown
orders, whether ethical or unethical, more
situations” (ibid. 113). Societies in general
seriously (that is, they are less likely to
try to alleviate this uncertainty by resorting
challenge directives) than the business
to the domains of technology, rules
managers in countries with a low power
(adopting stricter codes of conduct) and
distance score.

iv. Masculinity vs. femininity: Masculinity
2-C. The business managers in countries with a
stands for a society in which social gender
high score in uncertainty avoidance focus
roles are sharply differentiated. That is,
more on legality than ethicality of actions.
men are supposed to be assertive, tough,
They tend to perceive business practices
focused on material success, etc., while
which are done’ legally’, such as the export
women are supposed to be tender,
of harmful products, marketing of products
concerned with quality of life, etc.
that are injurious to health, and firing of

older employees, as less unethical than the
Later, a new dimension, "long-term or short-term
business managers from countries with a
orientation", also known as Confucian dynamism,
low score in uncertainty avoidance.
discovered by Michael Bond in 1980s (1984, 1988) in

his analysis of data from students in 23 countries
2-D. The business managers in countries with a
using a questionnaire called ‘Chinese Value Survey’,
high masculinity score are less likely to
was added to this typology to increase the number of
perceive ethical problems in practices such

P. Maria Joseph Christie et al.
as firing older employees, dishonesty in
Age. Age seems to have an influence on one’s ethical
advertising, damage to the environment,
attitudes (Dawson, 1997; Fritzsche, 1997). Serwinek
and marketing products that are injurious
(1992) found age to be the most significant predictor
to health than the business managers in
of ethical attitudes. Longenecker, McKinney and
countries with high femininity scores.
Moore (1989) found younger people to be more

ethically permissive.
2-E. The business managers in short-term

oriented countries may perceive practices
Religion. Religion and culture are interrelated
such as profiting at the expense of damage
constructs. Like culture, religion also affects the
to the environment as less unethical than the
value system of its adherents (Huismans & Schwartz,
business managers in long-term oriented
1992). Religion provides the reason for being ethical
countries. Gift-giving may be perceived as
and the points of reference for evaluating conduct.
less unethical by long-term oriented
Since all religious traditions and denominations have
countries than by short-term oriented
some perspective on business practices, one can
hypothesize that religious affiliation may play a

significant role in an individual’s business-ethical
C. Other factors influencing the ethical attitudes
attitudes (Clark, 1966).

There are many other factors besides culture which
Employment. Managers from certain functional areas
may influence one’s ethical attitudes. Researchers
such as marketing may have more chances to face
have investigated the influence of personal
ethical problems and dilemmas than managers
characteristics (age, gender, education, nationality,
involved in manufacturing operations and may
religion, employment, personal beliefs and values),
experience more pressure to act unethically (e.g.,
situational factors (referent groups, codes of conduct
Sears, 1993). Consequently, one may expect
and type of ethical decisions), organizational factors
differences in the ethical attitudes of managers across
(organization size) and industry factors (industry type
functional areas. Dubinsky and Gwin (1981) reported
and business competitiveness) on one’s ethical
a difference in the ethical perspectives of purchasing
perceptions, attitudes and conduct (Ford &
managers and sales persons.
Richardson, 1994; Fritzsche, 1997).

In this research, besides the influence of culture,
Organizational factors
the effects of some of the personal characteristics

(age, gender, religion, employment), organizational
Organization Size. According to Murphy (1992)
factors (organization size), and industry factors
organizational size is one of the best predictors of
(industry type, level of competition) will be
ethical conduct. Vitell and Festervand (1987) opine
that small firms might be under greater pressure to

engage in unethical behaviors to remain competitive.
Personal characteristics
It was confirmed by their study, where the

respondents from smaller firms believed unethical
Gender. Gender has been the most widely studied
practices were more common in their industries.
demographic independent variable in empirical ethics
According to the study by Veit and Michael (1996),
research (Ford & Richardson, 1994). The results were
investment analysts employed by smaller firms are
mixed and complex. Researchers such as Dubinksy
less likely than those at larger firms to think senior
and Levy (1985) and Serwinek (1992) found that
management genuinely seeks high ethical standards.
gender does not have any impact on one’s ethical
On the other hand, Dalton and Kesner (1988) showed
attitudes. Some other researches have concluded that
that large organizations were more likely to engage in
there were gender differences, but not all results were
unethical behavior than were small firms.
uniform. While some researchers found that females

act more ethically than males at least in some, if not in
Industry factors
all, situations (e.g., Arlow, 1991; Akaah, 1989;

Whipple and Swords, 1992), other research found
Level of competition and iIndustry type. Level of
males to be more ethical than females (e.g., Fritzsche,
competition and industry type are closely related
variables. Sethi and Sama (1998) opine that

opportunity and propensity to engage in ethical or

A Cross-Cultural Comparison of Ethical Attitudes of Business Managers
unethical behavior is determined, to a large extent, by
‘culture’, and study samples from nations to make
market-competitive factors (p. 85). Hegarty and Sims
cross-cultural comparisons (Tayeb, 1994). Hofstede
(1978b) found that competitiveness tends to decrease
(1980) used nations as units of analysis for his
ethical-decision behavior. However, Dubinsky and
monumental study. (In this study, when the authors
Ingram (1984) did not find any such relationship in
use ‘culture’, it is used in reference to ‘national
their study.
The following hypothesis can be tested based on

the above literature review:
Choice of nations

H-3: There is a relationship between
Three nations (India, Korea and the United States)
respondents’ ethical attitudes and their
were selected for this cross-cultural research using a
personal characteristics (culture, gender,
systematic sampling procedure. Systematic sampling,
age, religion, and functional areas of work)
a procedure “in which cultures are selected in a
and organizational and industry factors
systematic, theory-guided fashion” (Vijver & Leung,
(organizational size and level of
1997: 27), is recommended for the selection of
cultures in cross-cultural comparative studies where

cultural variation is deliberately sought for
Research methodology
meaningful comparisons. Cultures are chosen in such

a way that they represent different values and cultural
Research design
dimensions. Since we are comparing Hofstede’s

cultural dimensions with ethical attitudes, it would be
The cross-cultural survey research method is used to
relevant to use systematic sampling in the selection of
study the relationship between culture and the ethical
cultures which exhibit significant differences in
attitudes of business managers in India, Korea and the
Hofstede’s cultural dimensions. The United States,
United States. Primary data were collected from
India and South Korea have been chosen based on the
business managers participating in executive
results of earlier studies which have confirmed
programs in selected business schools in India, Korea
significant cultural differences among these countries
and the United States, using a questionnaire designed
in practically all of Hofstede’s cultural dimensions
specifically for cross-cultural research.
(Hofstede, 1980; Hofstede & Bond, 1984 & 1988;

Trompenaars, 1992). For example, in Hofstede’s
Unit of analysis: culture or nation. An important issue
(1980) study, the United States is ranked the most
in cross-cultural comparative studies is whether to
individualistic country, while India and South Korea
take the nation or a particular culture within a nation
are judged to be more collectivist oriented. The
as the unit of analysis. Culture in general refers to a
United States and India are found to be more
group of people (societies). ‘Nation’, however, is a
masculine, whereas South Korea is more feminine.
political concept. A nation is a created entity, with
Korea and India are long-term oriented cultures, while
political boundaries arbitrarily drawn. Consequently,
the United States is a short-term oriented culture.
the same culture may be found in more than one
Korea exhibits more power distance than India and
nation. For example, in both Rwanda and Burundi the
the United States. In addition, each of the countries
Hutu constitute the vast majority, and the Tutsi form
chosen for this research has its own tradition and
the traditional aristocratic minority. A nation may also
history. Economically, they are far apart from each
contain many cultures. For example, India, with a
other. They also represent different stages of human
population of 950 million, has hundreds of cultures
development (The Human Development Report,
with 267 distinct languages and dialects.
The choice of the unit of analysis (culture or

nation) depends essentially on the focus and purpose
India. India is predominantly a Hindu country, with
of the research. In this research ‘nation’ is taken as the
82.4% of its one billion population adhering to
unit of analysis, because ‘nation’ provides a common
Hinduism. Hindi is the official language of the
political, legal environment within which business
country, spoken by about 30% of the population. The
managers operate. The dominant approach in
Indian Constitution also recognizes 17 regional
management today is also to equate ‘nation’ with
languages. English is an associate language for many

P. Maria Joseph Christie et al.
official purposes. India ranks 12th among the world’s
number of years of experience in the business field,
largest economies, with a per capita income of $ 460
pursuing their master’s degree in business. In all
(for 2001).
selected business schools, the ratio of male to female

managers is fairly similar. Besides religion, there may
South Korea. Korean is the official language of the
be differences in other demographic variables such as
country. Mahayana Buddhism and Chundo Kyo are
the type of industry in which respondents are
the traditional religions of Korea, and none of them is
employed and functional area of work, since these
predominant now. At present 37.9% of the population
variables are conditioned by the business environment
(17.4 millions) are Christians. Korea ranks 13th
of the particular country. Generally, the level of
among the world’s largest economies, with a per
competition differs from industry to industry; and
capita income of $9400.
obviously, one can expect the type of industry and the

level of competition to be highly correlated.
United States of America. The U.S. has the largest

economy in the world with per capita income of
Instrument for the study
$34,870 and it is the home for 153 of the 500 world’s

largest corporations. Christianity is the predominant
An instrument which measures uniformly across
religion, with 85.3% of its population embracing it.
cultures, without cultural bias, is imperative for the
Other major religions are Judaism (2.1%) and Islam
validity of any cross-cultural study. The most highly
(1.9%). English is the official language.
regarded solution to avoid cultural bias suggested by

researchers is de-centering - a process in which

researchers from different cultures are involved in
Sampling procedures
developing research questions (Brislin, 1976;

Choudhry, 1986; Hofstede, 1997). In the present
Samples are drawn from India, Korea and the United
research, experts with bi-lingual skills from all three
States using matched samples technique, a method
cultures were involved in the design and the forward
advocated by cross-cultural research methodologists
and backward translation of the questionnaire to avoid
(Vijver & Leung, 1997), where “the samples of
any cultural bias.
cultural groups to be compared are made as similar as
The instrument consists of three sections. The
possible in their demographic characteristics (p.30).
first section is composed of 20 content questions from
Hofstede (1997) also stresses the need for replicating
the Value Survey Module 1994 (VSM 94) developed
his studies on matched samples, for otherwise it may
by Geert Hofstede to compare culturally determined
be difficult to conclude whether differences in the
values between people of two or more countries.
results are due to cultural differences or other
These 20 content questions allow us to compute
demographic differences. Business students from
scores on five dimensions of national value systems.
different cultures are often sampled (e.g., Grunbaum,
There are four content questions for each of the
1997; Lysonski & Gaidis, 1991, Wafa, 1989) since
cultural dimensions studied and all content questions
they easily meet the requirements of matched
are scored on a five-point scale.
samples. But business ethics researchers (e.g.,
The second section measures the ethical attitudes
Cavanaugh & Fritzsche, 1985) prefer business
of respondents. Researchers believe that it is difficult
managers to business students to arrive at valid
to get accurate empirical data on ethical attitudes and
conclusions since students tend to address business
behavior of respondents, since business ethical
ethics questions on an ad hoc basis (Fritzsche &
decisions involve complex, multidimensional issues
Becker, 1982).
(personal as well as business) and it is impossible to
Therefore, business managers participating in
address and control all the variables in a
Executive Master of Business Administration
questionnaire. In the past, vignettes have been found
(EMBA) programs at two universities in each of the
to be one of the effective data collection techniques
countries selected were chosen for the study.
for ethics research, since they help to standardize a
Questionnaires were administered to all the
series of independent variables (Cavanagh &
participants. Obviously, it is not possible to arrive at
Fritzsche, 1985). In this research, vignettes were used
absolutely perfect matched samples on all
mainly to obtain data on business-ethical attitudes of
demographic factors, but care needs to be taken to
choose cultural groups as similar as possible. All of
There are three parts to the second section. The
the samples are business managers, with a certain
first part lists eight statements and asks for the opinion

A Cross-Cultural Comparison of Ethical Attitudes of Business Managers
of respondents on a five-point scale. Most of these
results of the pilot study showed that in general the
statements were culled either from the reports of
ethical attitudes of respondents differed in accordance
interviews that Baumhart had with business
with theoretical expectations basically ensuring
executives or from the questionnaire that he had used
construct validity (Carmines & Zeller, 1979). On the
for his study (Baumhart, 1968). The second part of
basis of the results of the pilot study
this section consists of twelve vignettes - one each on
and the feedback received from the respondents, the
twelve questionable business practices that are
instrument was modified.
commonly faced by individuals in business. Several

of these vignettes were adapted from those used in the
Reliability. The following alpha values were obtained,
past by other business ethics researchers: gift giving,
which are well above the threshold for acceptability;
padding expense accounts (Baumhart, 1968: Clark,
0.77 for section 1 (VSM 94), 0.76 for section 2
1966); sharing of insider information (Baumhart,
(vignettes alone), and 0.72 for the entire section 2.
1968); complying with a superior’s order which is

perceived to be unethical, discharging older

employees (Clark, 1966); bribery, export of lawful but
Administration of the questionnaire
harmful goods (Lee & Yoshihara, 1997). The third

part comprises questions on respondents’
The questionnaire was administered to all participants
understanding of the concept ‘ethical’; their
of executive business programs in the selected schools
perception of the degree of importance given by their
in the United States, India and Korea. The
respective companies to different stakeholder groups;
questionnaire was administered in English both in the
and their opinion regarding the influence of different
United States and India. However, a few minor
factors (personal, organizational, national) on
changes were made in the questionnaire administered
business managers to make unethical decisions.
in India to make it conceptually equivalent. For
The third section of the questionnaire contains
example, in India, the CEO is known as the Managing
demographic questions (respondents’ gender, age,
Director. So, wherever the word ‘CEO’ appeared in
present nationality, nationality at birth, level of
the questionnaire, it was changed to ‘Managing
education, religious affiliation, occupation, functional
Director’. In the United States there is a custom of
area of work, and salary) and a few questions about
exchanging gifts during the Christmas season; on the
the company where they are employed (company size,
other hand, in India they have a similar practice
types of business, and level of competition faced by
during a Hindu festival, ‘Deepavali’. Hence, in the
the company in the industry). A pilot study was
place of Christmas, ‘Deepavali’ was used in the
conducted among the participants of the Executive
questionnaire administered in India. For the sample in
Master of International Business Program at Saint
Korea, the questionnaire was administered in Korean.
Louis University to improve the contents of the
Researchers underscore the need for careful
instrument. The results from the pilot study are
translation and back translation by excellent bilingual
available upon request.
translators for the reliability and the validity of a study

(Brislin, 1970). Careful attention was given to this
Validity and reliability of the instrument
matter by the researchers of this study.

Since we were using an existing instrument which
already had been tested for its validity and reliability,

the questionnaire used was not tested for the first
I. Independent variables in this study include the
section; i.e., VSM 94. The focus of this section
measures primarily the ethical attitudes of business

(a). Personal characteristics and organizational

factors, which include gender (Arlow, 1991; Ford &
Validity. The second section of the instrument
Richardson, 1994; Whipple & Swords, 1992), age
(vignettes) was reviewed by a panel of experts in
(Dawson, 1997; Fritzsche, 1997; Serwinek, 1992),
linguistics from all three cultures (India, Korea and
religion (Huismans & Schwartz, 1992), functional
the United States) for its clarity and domain
area of work (Sears, 1993), nationality ( Fritzsche,
appropriateness, to ensure its content validity. The
1995; Park, 1997), organization size (Veit & Murphy,

P. Maria Joseph Christie et al.
1996), and industry type (Sethi, & Sama, 1998).
go together, (4) in dealing with ethical problems, it is
Since industry type and the level of competition are
easier to know what is right than it is to do it, (5) a
closely related variables, industry type will function
business executive acts ethically as long as he or she
as the surrogate variable for the level of competition
adheres to the laws and regulations of the country, (6)
that a particular industry faces today.
the average business executive has two ethical

standards: one for their personal life, and another for
(b) Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions. The indices for
their professional life, and (7) business executives’
each cultural dimension at the national level will be
main concern is to make a profit and ethics is
our independent variables using VSM94. These
indices cannot be used together or with the variable

‘current nationality’ in multiple regression analysis
(c) Factors influencing business managers to make
because of the perfect inter-correlation between these
unethical decisions. There are very many factors,
variables. Only one of these variables will be used at
which may influence business managers to make
a time in regression models to avoid the
unethical decisions. Nine important factors that were
multicollinearity effect, to measure their relationship
expressed by managers in earlier studies were given to
with the response variables, viz., the respondents’
the respondents, and their opinion regarding the
attitudes toward various questionable business
degree of influence of each of these factors was
solicited, making use of a five-point scale: 1(very
The index will range from 0 to 100 on the various
little) to 5 (very much). They are: (1) industry ethical
indexes (individualism, power distance, masculinity,
climate, (2) behavior of one’s peers in the company,
uncertainty avoidance, long-term orientation).
(3) lack of personal integrity, (d) political climate of

the country, (4) behavior of one’s superiors in the
II. Dependent variables in this study are the ethical
company, (5) greed and desire for personal gain, (6)
attitudes of business managers.
functioning of legal/justice system in the country, (7)

lack of formal company policy and code of conduct,
(a) Respondents’ attitudes toward twelve questionable
and (8) society’s moral climate.
business practices. Respondents were asked to

indicate their opinion about each of the 12
Statistical Analysis
questionable business practices (gift giving,

marketing products hazardous to health in the
Simple descriptive statistics of variables will be
domestic market, padding expense accounts, export of
obtained to achieve a general understanding of the
unsafe products threatening people’s health and the
characteristics of respondents. Multivariate analysis
environment, software piracy, injury to the
of variance (MANOVA) will be used to study the
environment, bribery, nepotism, complying with a
differences in respondents’ ethical attitudes across
superior’s order which is unethical, dishonesty in
cultures. If MANOVA test results show significant
advertising, sharing of insider information, and age
differences in scores by culture, then analysis of
discrimination) described in vignettes on a scale of 1
variance (ANOVA) will be used to investigate the
(approve) to 5 (disapprove). Approval would indicate
sources of such differences to test Hypothesis 1 and
that the respondents consider that particular business
Hypothesis 3. An independent-samples t-test
practice to be unethical and disapproval would
procedure will be used to test Hypothesis 2; namely
indicate that the respondents consider the business
differences in ethical attitudes of business managers
practice to be ethical.
across Hofstede’s 5 cultural dimensions.

(b) Respondents’ attitudes toward business ethics in

general. Respondents’ attitudes toward ethics in
business were elicited by asking their opinion on 7

statements that have been made by observers of the
Data Collection
business scene, using a 5-point scale: 1 (strongly

agree) to 5(strongly disagree). They are: (1) sound
The data for the present study were collected from
ethics is good business in the long run, (2) in the
business managers participating in Executive Master
business world it is difficult to make ethically sound
of Business Administration programs at Loyola
decisions because of the high degree of competitive
Institute of Business Administration, Madras, and
pressure, (3) being ethical and being profitable do not
Goa Institute of Management, India; Seoul National