Markkula Center of Applied Ethics

Dennis Moberg: Employee Virtue, Employee Vice

What Dennis Moberg says about his role in Santa Clara University's Executive Development Center (EDC) might be a description of his overall approach to his job: "I try to get ethics into the discussion as many times as I can."

The professor of management teaches both in the University's MBA program and at the EDC, where practicing managers try to get answers to a whole range of problems, including those dealing with ethics.

Moberg describes his major research interest as management ethics. Currently he is looking at the relationship between managers and subordinates and the "duties that individuals in those roles owe one another." Must a manager alert employees about an imminent plant closure or other strategy that may affect them? Conversely, are subordinates morally obligated to tell their bosses everything they know?

In press with Business Ethics Quarterly is an article Moberg wrote about virtues in peer relationships in the workplace. "The two virtues I derived were trustworthiness and attachment to common projects for their own sake," he says. On the flip side, Moberg also has a forthcoming article in BEQ about employee vice, which looks at lack of self-control as a cause of white-collar crime.

Moberg employs a variety of ethical models in his work, but he says that, in traditional ethics, "the voice of women hasn't been given the merit it deserves." Moberg often looks at problems from the point of view of feminist ethics, which he describes as "more relationship-driven than rule-driven."

All of these approaches resonate with Moberg's students, most of them already professionals in the business world. "Practitioners are hungry for insights about how to deal with moral dilemmas," he says.