Academy of Management Learning & Education. June 2014, Vol. 13 Issue 2, p154-170. 17p. 1 Diagram, 2 Charts.
This study explores how positive (PRMs) and negative role models (NRMs) of business affect students' attitudes, expectations, and behavioural intentions relating to their future business behaviour. A thematic analysis of student reflections (N = 96) based on their experience of material presented in their Business Ethics/Corporate Social Responsibility modules, interpreted through the framework of Ajzen's Theory of Planned Behaviour, revealed that while NRMs led to intentions to avoid unethical behaviour and engage in ethical practices such as ethical purchasing, they also increased cynicism and undermined students' self-efficacy in the ethical business domain. Exposure to PRMs offset the negative consequences arising from NRMs, protecting against reduced self-efficacy by showing that unethical behaviour is neither necessary nor inevitable in business, thus undermining the common justification for unethical behaviour that 'everybody does it'. PRMs increased awareness that business can be both ethical and profitable and provided inspirational role models which led to increased intentions to engage in ethical business practices. With reference to social psychological literature, these results suggest that PRMs are necessary to counter the impression created by NRMs that ethical business is unachievable or unlikely as such beliefs can become self-fulfilling.