An investigation of ethical climate in a Singaporean accounting firm

William E. SHAFER, Margaret C. C. POON, Dean TJOSVOLD

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose – The primary objective of this study is to examine the moderating influence of professional commitment (PC) on the associations among ethical climate, organizational-professional conflict (OPC) and organizational commitment (OC) among public accountants. It aims to replicate recent findings on the relationships among ethical climate, OPC and OC. It also aims to extend prior research by investigating the association between ethical climate and both functional specialization and organizational rank in an accounting firm.

Design/methodology/approach – The authors surveyed all professional employees in the Singapore office of an international accounting firm.

Findings – Significant associations were found between ethical climate, OPC and OC. Participants' degree of affective commitment to their profession moderated the relationship between the public interest (benevolent/cosmopolitan) climate and perceived conflict and OC. Specifically, professionally committed employees reported less conflict and greater commitment when they felt the firm placed more emphasis on the public interest. These relationships were not present for employees with lower levels of professional commitment. It was also found that taxation specialists perceived the least emphasis in the firm on serving the public interest.

Originality/value – No prior study has documented the moderating influence of affective professional commitment on the association between ethical climate and accountants' OPC or OC. This finding has important implications, suggesting that accounting firms' ability to retain professionally committed employees will depend in part on the degree to which the firm upholds professional ideals such as serving the public interest. The fact that tax specialists perceived less emphasis on serving the public interest than other functional areas implies that tax practices may be overemphasizing client advocacy at the expense of public service.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)312-343
Number of pages32
JournalAccounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Continuing professional development
  • Ethical climate
  • Job commitment
  • Organizational commitment
  • Organizational-professional conflict
  • Professional commitment
  • Professional ethics
  • Singapore


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