Organizational socialization and ethical fit: A conceptual development by serendipity

Danielle Talbot, David Coldwell, Mervywn Williamson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: A significant and increasing number of graduate recruits take up employment for specific companies by virtue of their ethical reputation and profiles. As such, ethical fit has become an important dimension of the attraction and retention of graduates. However, preconceived notions of a company’s ethical orientation obtained through the media and initial recruitment exercises may be challenged during the induction and socialization phases of organizational entry, such that people may find that the reputation is just an external façade leading to disappointment and a reassessment of the employer. The paper aims to discuss these issues. Design/methodology/approach: The study’s essential focus is on building a conceptual ethical fit model and to underline the need for further conceptual development in the area. The analysis of extant secondary data and the methodology of serendipity were used. Findings: The model’s conceptual cogency and practical utility for human resource management are analyzed in the light of specific secondary data and specific propositions described. Research limitations/implications: A major concern with conceptual models is empirical validity and practical utility which requires empirical testing. However, this limitation has been mitigated by the use of a serendipitous approach from a qualitative empirical study with a generalized person–organization (P–O) focus. Practical implications: Various practical implications of the model described in the paper for HR management are evident from empirical studies in the area which have dealt with particular aspects of the model. For example, Bauer et al. (1998) found that socialization effects employee turnover. And, Cable and Parsons (2001) indicate that organizational socialization is critical in generating committed employees whose values are congruent with those of the organization. Since committed employees are critical for the success of the organization, they suggest training programs for hiring managers and criteria in performance appraisals that include the development of employee value congruence through specific formal socialization tactics. Originality/value: The paper contributes to the extant literature by building a dynamic conceptual model with attendant testable propositions that explore the implications of employee misalignment in pre-socialization anticipatory organizational ethical fit and post-socialization organizational ethical fit. More specifically, the study contributes to the extant literature by considering the socialization process in relation to ethical fit dynamics. It also considers from the point of view of specific moral development theory and changing perceptions of ethical climate that occur during organizational socialization. Serendipitous material obtained from a qualitative study of P–O fit puts flesh on the bones of the effects of the socialization process on ethical fit described by the paper’s conceptual model while providing circumstantial evidence for the propositions and their practical utility for HR management.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)511-527
Number of pages17
JournalPersonnel Review
Issue number2
Early online dateJan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 4 Mar 2019


  • Ethical fit
  • Organizational socialization
  • Qualitative
  • Serendipity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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