Effects of ethical context on conflict and commitment among Chinese accountants

William Eugene SHAFER, Zhihong WANG

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

19 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to addresses the impact of organizational ethical context (ethical climate and ethical culture) and Machiavellianism on organizational-professional conflict (OPC) and affective organizational commitment (OC) among Chinese accountants. The paper also aims to test for interactive effects of ethical context and Machiavellianism. Design/methodology/approach: The paper is based on a field survey of 89 professional accountants employed by companies operating in Mainland China. Findings: Two aspects of the organizational ethical culture, expectations of obedience to authority and strong ethical norms/incentives, emerged as the dominant influences on both OPC and affective commitment. Strong negative correlations are observed between OPC and OC, and between Machiavellianism and OC. Contrary to expectations, the organizational ethical context had the greatest impact on OC among high Machiavellians. For low Machiavellians, OPC fully mediated the relationship between ethical context and OC, but no such mediation effects are found for high Machiavellians. Originality/value: This is the first study of the relationships among ethical context, OPC and OC among industry accountants in China, and the first study of the effects of Machiavellianism on these relationships. The results generally support our contention that organizational ethical context will be a key determinant of OPC and OC. The fact that weaker ethical cultures were strongly associated with increased conflict and decreased commitment suggests that managers of accounting/auditing departments should take a proactive approach to developing and nurturing positive or supportive cultures. The differences in results for high and low Machiavellians also raise interesting questions that should be addressed in future research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)377-400
Number of pages24
JournalManagerial Auditing Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010


  • Accountants
  • China
  • Conflict
  • Ethics


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