Facing ethical challenges in the workplace: Conceptualizing and measuring professional moral courage

Leslie E. Sekerka, Richard P. Bagozzi, Richard Charnigo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

184 Scopus citations


Scholars have shown renewed interest in the construct of courage. Recent studies have explored its theoretical underpinnings and measurement. Yet courage is generally discussed in its broad form to include physical, psychological, and moral features. To understand a more practical form of moral courage, research is needed to uncover how ethical challenges are effectively managed in organizational settings. We argue that professional moral courage (PMC) is a managerial competency. To describe it and derive items for scale development, we studied managers in the U.S. military and examined prior work on moral courage. Two methods were used to measure PMC producing a five dimensional scale that organized under a single second-order factor, which we termed overall PMC. The five dimensions are moral agency, multiple values, endurance of threats, going beyond compliance, and moral goals. Convergent and discriminant validity are analyzed by use of confirmatory factor analysis procedures. We conclude by presenting a framework for proactive organizational ethics, which reflects how to support PMC as a management practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)565-579
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Mar 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We wish to thank the U.S. Naval Supply Corps for their support of this research. The findings and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the United States Navy. Special appreciation is extended to the participants in this study, their openness and candor made this research possible.


  • Moral decision-making
  • Positive ethics
  • Positive organizational scholarship
  • Proactive organizational ethics
  • Professional moral courage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • General Business, Management and Accounting
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Law


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