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    Lorentz Center Highlights

Groups as Moral Anchors

Naomi Ellemers

Utrecht University

The past years have witnessed increasing concern about the occurrence of morally questionable behavior in the workplace. Examples of people lying, cheating, and stealing that were first seen to characterize the financial service sector have also been exposed in other businesses, government institutions, sports, and even science. Calls for action have led to stricter legislation, increased controls and more severe sanctions, aiming to communicate more clearly which forms of behavior are (not) acceptable, and motivating workers to do what is moral. Psychological analyses have largely focused on individual level characteristics playing a role in this process. Selfish tendencies and lack of empathy are considered as a source of vulnerability; individual moral values and altruism supposedly prevent moral lapses. However, when at work, individuals are embedded in teams and organizations. These represent groups that are more (ingroups) or less (outgroups) relevant to the self, which communicate their own moral values and endorse particular ethical climates. In this talk I will give an overview of research examining the impact of group-based identities on the behavioral choices individuals make. Experimental and applied results reveal conditions that can facilitate or undermine the emergence of moral behavior at work, and elucidate the central role of groups as moral anchors.