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A Multi-Method Approach to Identifying Norms and Normative Expectations within a Corporate Hierarchy: Evidence from the Financial Services Industry

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  • Burks, Stephen V.

    ()
    (University of Minnesota, Morris)

  • Krupka, Erin L.

    ()
    (University of Michigan)

Abstract

This paper presents the results of a field study at a large financial services firm that combines multiple methods, including two economic experiments, to measure ethical norms and their behavioral correlates. Standard survey questions eliciting ethical evaluations of actions in on-the-job ethical dilemmas are transformed into a series of incentivized coordination games in the first experiment. We use the results of this experiment to identify the actual ethical norms for financial adviser behavior held by key personnel – financial advisers and their corporate leaders – in three settings: a clash of incentives between serving the client and earning commissions, a dilemma about fiduciary responsibility to a client, and a dilemma about whistle-blowing on a peer. We also measure the beliefs of financial advisers about the ethical expectations of their corporate leaders and the beliefs of corporate leaders about financial adviser norms. In addition, we ask financial advisers about their personal normative opinions, matching a common methodology in the literature. We find, first, systematic agreements in the normative evaluations across the corporate hierarchy that are consistent with ex ante expectations, but second, we also find some measurable differences between the normative expectations of corporate leaders about on-the-job behavior and the actual norms shared among financial advisers. When there is a normative mismatch across the hierarchy we are able to distinguish miscommunication from ethical disagreement between leaders and employees. Our subjects also report their job satisfaction and take part in a second incentivized experiment in which it is costly to report private information honestly. A last finding is that a mismatch between advisers’ personal ethical opinions and corporate norms – especially those of peers – strongly correlates with job dissatisfaction, and less strongly but significantly with the willingness to be dishonest.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 5818.

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Length: 53 pages
Date of creation: Jun 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp5818

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Keywords: norms; field experiment; corporate leader; coordination game; financial services; financial adviser; ethics;

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References

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Cited by:
  1. Nikiforakis, Nikos & Noussair, Charles N. & Wilkening, Tom, 2012. "Normative conflict and feuds: The limits of self-enforcement," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 96(9-10), pages 797-807.
  2. Simon Gächter & Daniele Nosenzo & Martin Sefton, 2013. "Peer Effects In Pro-Social Behavior: Social Norms Or Social Preferences?," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 11(3), pages 548-573, 06.
  3. Danilov, Anastasia & Sliwka, Dirk, 2013. "Can Contracts Signal Social Norms? Experimental Evidence," IZA Discussion Papers 7477, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. Charness, Gary & Schram, Arthur, 2012. "Social and Moral Norms in the Laboratory," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt6rv7x0tf, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.

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