Three Levels of Ethical Influences on Selling Behavior and Performance: Synergies and Tensions

Selma Kadic-Maglajlic*, Milena Micevski, Nick Lee, Nathaniel Boso, Irena Vida

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


In general, the business ethics literature has treated the conceptual domains and outcomes of macro-level (industrial), meso-level (organizational), and micro-level (individual) ethical influence separately. However, this singular treatment ignores the synergies and tensions that can arise across these different types of ethical influence. Using sales as a research context, the current study argues that all three ethical frames of references are important in shaping employee behavior and performance and, as such, should be examined simultaneously. The findings show that industrial ethical climate and salesperson moral equity are positively associated with salesperson customer orientation. In addition, industrial and organizational ethical norms have a stronger joint effect on customer orientation than either ethical climate alone. More specifically, a more ethical organizational climate enhances the positive effects of the industrial ethical climate on customer orientation. Furthermore, whereas salesperson moral equity is significantly associated with salesperson customer orientation, strong moral equity beliefs in situations requiring adaptive selling result in weaker sales outcomes. This study concludes with a set of theoretical and actionable implications, as well as a discussion of future research avenues.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)377-397
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Adaptive selling
  • Customer orientation
  • Industrial ethical climate
  • Moral equity belief
  • Organizational ethical climate
  • Salespeople

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