Does ethical membership matter? Moral identification and its organizational implications

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

44 Scopus Citations
View graph of relations


Related Research Unit(s)


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)681-694
Journal / PublicationJournal of Applied Psychology
Issue number3
Online published17 Nov 2014
Publication statusPublished - May 2015


This research meaningfully connects the literatures on identification and business ethics by proposing the new construct of moral identification. Moral identification is defined here as the perception of oneness or belongingness associated with an organization that exhibits ethical traits (e.g., care, kindness, and compassion), which also involves a deliberate concern of the membership with an ethical organization. Integrating social identity theory with theory on the moral self, this research examines an overall theoretical model where moral identification plays a significant role in explaining employee attraction, motivation, and retention (i.e., 3 components of the overall theoretical framework). These components were examined separately in 3 empirical studies and findings from these studies first revealed that moral identification explained why job seekers with strong (vs. weak) moral identities were more attracted to a socially responsible organization (Study 1). Second, moral identification was associated with lower employee unethical proorganizational behavior (Study 2). Finally, moral identification was negatively related to employees' turnover intentions. Organizations' legal compliance moderated this relation such that it was stronger when organizations have higher (vs. lower) levels of legal compliance (Study 3). Taken together, these studies suggest that moral identification offers new insights in explaining both potential and current employees' behaviors when morality is contextually relevant and subjectively meaningful. Theoretical contributions and practical implications are discussed.

Research Area(s)

  • Moral identification, Moral identity