The International Journal of Human Resource Management
Most experts agree that human resource management plays a critical role in furthering ethics. The human resource management function can play an instrumental role in creating an ethical culture. However, a literature review shows that researchers have mostly ignored ethics in the African context. Given the growing importance of Africa in terms of global trade, it is critical to study ethics on the continent. This paper documents an exploratory study of ethical climates in sub-Saharan Africa. We develop propositions linking key social institutional factors, i.e. ethnic diversity and corruption, with three types of ethical climate, i.e. self-interest, benevolence and principle. The propositions are empirically investigated using a qualitative case study approach in five companies in Nigeria and South Africa. The results provide varying support for these propositions and highlight the critical role that both the national context and the organizational context play in shaping ethical climates in companies. Furthermore, given the role of human resource management in managing both ethnic diversity and ethics, we discuss the implications of our results for this critical management function.