Moral identity and the Quaker tradition: moral dissonance negotiation in the workplace

Nicholas Burton*, Mai Vu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
46 Downloads (Pure)


Moral identity and moral dissonance in business ethics have explored tensions relating to moral self-identity and the pressures for identity compartmentalization in the workplace. Yet, the connection between these streams of scholarship, spirituality at work, and business ethics is under-theorized. In this paper, we examine the Quaker tradition to explore how Quakers’ interpret moral identity and negotiate the moral dissonance associated with a divided self in work organizations. Specifically, our study illuminates that while Quakers’ share a tradition-specific conception of “Quaker morality” grounded in Quaker theology and the Quaker testimonies to truth, integrity, peace, equality, and simplicity, they often foreground the pursuit of an undivided self through seeking work that enables an expression of Quaker moral identity, or by resigning from work organizations that do not. In most cases, however, Quakers’ face moral dissonance at work and engage in either identity compartmentalization and draw upon the metaphor of a ‘spiritual journey’ as a form of self-justification, or reframe, compartmentalize and engage in work tasks that are both subjectively moral and meaningful. We present a model that elaborates these negotiation processes and invite further research that examines how the spiritual traditions influence moral identity construction at work.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127–141
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Issue number1
Early online date18 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2021


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