IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

In Bounds but Out of the Box: A Meta-Analysis Clarifying the Effect of Ethicality on Creativity


  • Christopher Winchester

    (University of Minnesota)

  • Kelsey E. Medeiros

    (The University of Nebraska at Omaha)


The pervasiveness of unethical actions paired with the rising demand for creativity in organizations has contributed to an increased interest in how ethicality and creativity relate. However, there are mixed findings on whether these two fundamental pillars of the workplace relate positively, negatively, or not at all. To provide an empirical consensus to this debate, we study the directional effects of ethicality on creativity by employing meta-analytic techniques. Specifically, a series of meta-regressions, moderated meta-regressions, and individual subgroup analyses of moderators investigated the nuances of the ethicality-creativity relationship. Using a random-effects model, a quantitative review of 278 effects across 23 articles revealed that ethicality positively related to creativity. We further probed how each domain of ethicality (i.e., ethical decision-making, ethical leadership, ethical culture, ethical thought) related to creativity; the effect of ethicality on creativity remained positive, but was no longer significant. Additionally, to expand our understanding of this relationship, we offer theoretical and empirical accounts of five factors that moderate the positive association between ethicality and creativity: ethicality and creativity domains and measurement, sample culture, study characteristics, and sample characteristics. Theoretical and practical insights regarding these relationships are discussed.

Suggested Citation

  • Christopher Winchester & Kelsey E. Medeiros, 2023. "In Bounds but Out of the Box: A Meta-Analysis Clarifying the Effect of Ethicality on Creativity," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 183(3), pages 713-743, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:jbuset:v:183:y:2023:i:3:d:10.1007_s10551-021-04990-2
    DOI: 10.1007/s10551-021-04990-2

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: Abstract
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    File URL:
    LibKey link: if access is restricted and if your library uses this service, LibKey will redirect you to where you can use your library subscription to access this item

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jie Feng & Yucheng Zhang & Xinmei Liu & Long Zhang & Xiao Han, 2018. "Just the Right Amount of Ethics Inspires Creativity: A Cross-Level Investigation of Ethical Leadership, Intrinsic Motivation, and Employee Creativity," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 153(3), pages 645-658, December.
    2. Sue Duval & Richard Tweedie, 2000. "Trim and Fill: A Simple Funnel-Plot–Based Method of Testing and Adjusting for Publication Bias in Meta-Analysis," Biometrics, The International Biometric Society, vol. 56(2), pages 455-463, June.
    3. Paul Bierly & Robert Kolodinsky & Brian Charette, 2009. "Understanding the Complex Relationship Between Creativity and Ethical Ideologies," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 86(1), pages 101-112, April.
    4. David Moher & Alessandro Liberati & Jennifer Tetzlaff & Douglas G Altman & The PRISMA Group, 2009. "Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses: The PRISMA Statement," PLOS Medicine, Public Library of Science, vol. 6(7), pages 1-6, July.
    5. Viechtbauer, Wolfgang, 2010. "Conducting Meta-Analyses in R with the metafor Package," Journal of Statistical Software, Foundation for Open Access Statistics, vol. 36(i03).
    6. Javed, Basharat & Rawwas, Mohammed Y A & Khandai, Sujata & Shahid, Kamran & Tayyeb, Hafiz Habib, 2018. "Ethical leadership, trust in leader and creativity: The mediated mechanism and an interacting effect," Journal of Management & Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 24(3), pages 388-405, May.
    7. Daniel Palmer, 2009. "Business Leadership: Three Levels of Ethical Analysis," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 88(3), pages 525-536, September.
    8. Treviño, Linda Klebe & Butterfield, Kenneth D. & McCabe, Donald L., 1998. "The Ethical Context in Organizations: Influences on Employee Attitudes and Behaviors," Business Ethics Quarterly, Cambridge University Press, vol. 8(3), pages 447-476, July.
    9. Michael Lubatkin & Zeki Simsek & Yan Ling & John F. Veiga, 2006. "Ambidexterity and Performance in Small-to Medium-Sized Firms : The Pivotal Role of Top Management Team Behavioral Integration," Post-Print hal-02311781, HAL.
    10. Ian MacGregor-Fors & Mark E Payton, 2013. "Contrasting Diversity Values: Statistical Inferences Based on Overlapping Confidence Intervals," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 8(2), pages 1-4, February.
    11. Muhammad Asif & Miao Qing & Jinsoo Hwang & Hao Shi, 2019. "Ethical Leadership, Affective Commitment, Work Engagement, and Creativity: Testing a Multiple Mediation Approach," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 11(16), pages 1-16, August.
    12. He Peng & Feng Wei, 2018. "Trickle-Down Effects of Perceived Leader Integrity on Employee Creativity: A Moderated Mediation Model," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 150(3), pages 837-851, July.
    13. Yidong Tu & Xinxin Lu & Jin Nam Choi & Wei Guo, 2019. "Ethical Leadership and Team-Level Creativity: Mediation of Psychological Safety Climate and Moderation of Supervisor Support for Creativity," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 159(2), pages 551-565, October.
    14. Markus Hang & Jerome Geyer‐Klingeberg & Andreas W. Rathgeber, 2019. "It is merely a matter of time: A meta‐analysis of the causality between environmental performance and financial performance," Business Strategy and the Environment, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 28(2), pages 257-273, February.
    15. Qinxuan Gu & Thomas Tang & Wan Jiang, 2015. "Does Moral Leadership Enhance Employee Creativity? Employee Identification with Leader and Leader–Member Exchange (LMX) in the Chinese Context," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 126(3), pages 513-529, February.
    16. Won-Moo Hur & Tae-Won Moon & Sung-Hoon Ko, 2018. "How Employees’ Perceptions of CSR Increase Employee Creativity: Mediating Mechanisms of Compassion at Work and Intrinsic Motivation," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 153(3), pages 629-644, December.
    17. Logan L Watts & Logan M Steele & Deanne N Den Hartog, 2020. "Uncertainty avoidance moderates the relationship between transformational leadership and innovation: A meta-analysis," Journal of International Business Studies, Palgrave Macmillan;Academy of International Business, vol. 51(1), pages 138-145, February.
    18. Shenjiang Mo & Chu-Ding Ling & Xiao-Yun Xie, 2019. "The Curvilinear Relationship Between Ethical Leadership and Team Creativity: The Moderating Role of Team Faultlines," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 154(1), pages 229-242, January.
    19. Elina Riivari & Anna-Maija Lämsä, 2014. "Does it Pay to Be Ethical? Examining the Relationship Between Organisations’ Ethical Culture and Innovativeness," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 124(1), pages 1-17, September.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Jue Wang & Hae-Ryong Kim & Byung-Jik Kim, 2021. "From Ethical Leadership to Team Creativity: The Mediating Role of Shared Leadership and the Moderating Effect of Leader–Member Exchange Differentiation," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 13(20), pages 1-19, October.
    2. Woodley of Menie, Michael A. & Peñaherrera-Aguirre, Mateo & Sarraf, Matthew A., 2022. "Signs of a Flynn effect in rodents? Secular differentiation of the manifold of general cognitive ability in laboratory mice (Mus musculus) and Norwegian rats (Rattus norvegicus) over a century—Results," Intelligence, Elsevier, vol. 95(C).
    3. Sergio Nolazco & Kaspar Delhey & Shinichi Nakagawa & Anne Peters, 2022. "Ornaments are equally informative in male and female birds," Nature Communications, Nature, vol. 13(1), pages 1-10, December.
    4. Gustavo A. Esguerra, 2022. "Efecto del liderazgo ético sobre la creatividad de los empleados: una revisión del estado de la investigación," Estudios Gerenciales, Universidad Icesi, vol. 38(162), pages 109-119, March.
    5. Steur, Gijs & Verburg, René W. & Wassen, Martin J. & Verweij, Pita A., 2020. "Shedding light on relationships between plant diversity and tropical forest ecosystem services across spatial scales and plot sizes," Ecosystem Services, Elsevier, vol. 43(C).
    6. Xin Liu & Yan Huang & Jaehyoung Kim & Sanggyun Na, 2023. "How Ethical Leadership Cultivates Innovative Work Behaviors in Employees? Psychological Safety, Work Engagement and Openness to Experience," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 15(4), pages 1-22, February.
    7. Wenke, Kathrin & Zapkau, Florian B. & Schwens, Christian, 2021. "Too small to do it all? A meta-analysis on the relative relationships of exploration, exploitation, and ambidexterity with SME performance," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 132(C), pages 653-665.
    8. Sala, Giovanni & Aksayli, N. Deniz & Tatlidil, K. Semir & Gondo, Yasuyuki & Gobet, Fernand, 2019. "Working memory training does not enhance older adults' cognitive skills: A comprehensive meta-analysis," Intelligence, Elsevier, vol. 77(C).
    9. Barbara Wilhelm & Lisa Waddell & Judy Greig & Ian Young, 2019. "Systematic review and meta-analysis of the seroprevalence of hepatitis E virus in the general population across non-endemic countries," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 14(6), pages 1-27, June.
    10. Eleonore Batteux & Eamonn Ferguson & Richard J Tunney, 2019. "Do our risk preferences change when we make decisions for others? A meta-analysis of self-other differences in decisions involving risk," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 14(5), pages 1-19, May.
    11. Thomas Rockstuhl & Dongyuan Wu & James H. Dulebohn & Chenwei Liao & Julia E. Hoch, 2023. "Cultural congruence or compensation? A meta-analytic test of transformational and transactional leadership effects across cultures," Journal of International Business Studies, Palgrave Macmillan;Academy of International Business, vol. 54(3), pages 476-504, April.
    12. Alba Carrillo & María Rubio-Aparicio & Guadalupe Molinari & Ángel Enrique & Julio Sánchez-Meca & Rosa M Baños, 2019. "Effects of the Best Possible Self intervention: A systematic review and meta-analysis," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 14(9), pages 1-23, September.
    13. Bart Verkuil & Serpil Atasayi & Marc L Molendijk, 2015. "Workplace Bullying and Mental Health: A Meta-Analysis on Cross-Sectional and Longitudinal Data," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 10(8), pages 1-16, August.
    14. Viktoria Maria Baumeister & Leonie Petra Kuen & Maike Bruckes & Gerhard Schewe, 2021. "The Relationship of Work-Related ICT Use With Well-being, Incorporating the Role of Resources and Demands: A Meta-Analysis," SAGE Open, , vol. 11(4), pages 21582440211, November.
    15. Piers Steel & Sjoerd Beugelsdijk & Herman Aguinis, 2021. "The anatomy of an award-winning meta-analysis: Recommendations for authors, reviewers, and readers of meta-analytic reviews," Journal of International Business Studies, Palgrave Macmillan;Academy of International Business, vol. 52(1), pages 23-44, February.
    16. Augusteijn, Hilde Elisabeth Maria & van Aert, Robbie Cornelis Maria & van Assen, Marcel A. L. M., 2021. "Posterior Probabilities of Effect Sizes and Heterogeneity in Meta-Analysis: An Intuitive Approach of Dealing with Publication Bias," OSF Preprints avkgj, Center for Open Science.
    17. Georgiou, George K. & Guo, Kan & Naveenkumar, Nithya & Vieira, Ana Paula Alves & Das, J.P., 2020. "PASS theory of intelligence and academic achievement: A meta-analytic review," Intelligence, Elsevier, vol. 79(C).
    18. Kelly R Moran & Sara Y Del Valle, 2016. "A Meta-Analysis of the Association between Gender and Protective Behaviors in Response to Respiratory Epidemics and Pandemics," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 11(10), pages 1-25, October.
    19. Shilong Wei & Muhammad Safdar Sial & Ubaldo Comite & Phung Anh Thu & Daniel Badulescu & József Popp, 2021. "An Examination to Explain the Mechanism of Employees’ Environment-Specific Behavior through CSR and Work Engagement from the Perspective of Stewardship Theory," IJERPH, MDPI, vol. 18(17), pages 1-20, September.
    20. Lianjie Liu & Zhuo Shao & Hang Yu & Wei Zhang & Hao Wang & Zubing Mei, 2020. "Is the platelet to lymphocyte ratio a promising biomarker to distinguish acute appendicitis? Evidence from a systematic review with meta-analysis," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 15(5), pages 1-15, May.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:kap:jbuset:v:183:y:2023:i:3:d:10.1007_s10551-021-04990-2. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Sonal Shukla or Springer Nature Abstracting and Indexing (email available below). General contact details of provider: .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service. RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.