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IACM 2023

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Moral Character Development At Work: The “Catalytic Moral Moments” (cmm) Model

Despite the burgeoning literature on morality and ethics at work, a useful model of how adults develop moral character over time has remained elusive. We propose that the workplace is full of catalytic moral moments (CMM) that can trigger moral character development, and we present a three-layer theoretical model that explicates the “what,” “why,” “when,” and “how” of this process. Layer 1 (the “what”) introduces the basic building blocks of a dynamic moral character change cycle composed of moral standards, behavioral intentions, behaviors, and behavioral evaluations. A change in any element of the cycle can influence all the other elements as well. Layer 2 (the “why”) builds on Layer 1 by presenting two distinct motivating mechanisms—ethical dissonance and ethical resonance—that explain why catalytic moral moments influence people to avoid the “bad” and pursue the “good.” Layer 3 (the “when”) further enhances Layers 1 and 2 by outlining important moderating factors that influence when elements of the change cycle will be more likely to affect each other. Finally, we discuss “how” insights from our model can be leveraged to design organizational interventions that better facilitate the process of moral character development at work.

Isaac Smith
The Marriott School of Business, Brigham Young University
United States


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