Management without morals: Construct development and initial testing of amoral management

Matthew J. Quade, Julena M. Bonner, Rebecca L. Greenbaum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


What happens when leaders do not respond to the ethical components of business situations? We study this question by examining amoral management, which entails a lack of response from leaders during ethical situations. Our work helps establish amoral management, a leadership style that is thought to be quite common in practice, in the behavioral ethics literature by first validating an empirical measure. Then, we examine an initial nomological network of amoral management and by demonstrating that it negatively affects employees. Drawing on moral conation theory (Hannah et al., 2011a), we argue that amoral management leads to lower levels of moral courage among employees. Unfortunately, with lower levels of moral courage, employees become more susceptible to engaging in unethical behavior. Interestingly, we find that the negative relationship between amoral management and moral courage is exacerbated under the condition of an ethical environment, which therefore also exacerbates employees’ unethical conduct (i.e., a first-stage moderated-mediation model). We provide theoretical contributions and practical implications regarding amoral management as an important yet understudied ethics-based leadership style, as well as make suggestions for future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)273-303
Number of pages31
JournalHuman Relations
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


  • amoral management
  • behavioral ethics
  • moral courage
  • unethical behavior


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