Thus far, we have discussed business ethics primarily in terms of how individual employees think and respond. But anyone who has ever worked knows that employees are not “just” individuals. They become part of something larger; they're members of an organizational culture that affects how they think and behave. Here, we apply this culture concept to organizational ethics. You can think about the ethical culture of an organization as a “slice” of the larger organizational culture that represents the aspects of organizational culture that affect the way employees think and act in ethics-related situations.
In terms of how we've been thinking about ethical decision making, you can consider ethical culture to be a significant organizational influence on individuals' ethical awareness, judgment, and action, along with the individual differences and other influences already discussed in Chapter 3. Recall that most employees are at the conventional level of cognitive moral development, meaning that they are looking outside themselves for guidance about how to think and act. Ethical culture is a source of a good bit of that guidance and can influence employees to be aware of ethical issues (or not), to make good or bad judgments, and to do either the right thing or the wrong thing.