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The Moral Organisation

This interactive course on (im)moral behaviour in organizations will help students understand why (people in) organizations often have good intentions to act in a societally responsible way but are frequently unable to act upon them.

Course description

Scandals in public and private organizations are an everyday occurrence. Money laundering by banks, sexual abuse by employees of NGOs, and the marketing of unsafe products, are just a few of the reoccurring events that harm society. At the same time, many organizations are undertaking corporate social responsibility activities, with the clear intention to contribute positively to society. It is important for both scientists and the general public to better understand why organizations often want to act morally, yet fail to do so, and why others could be regarded as exemplary organizations.

We will discuss insights from moral psychology, grounded in Social Identity Theory (SIT), to explain (im)moral behaviour in and by organizations. SIT argues that individuals derive their identity from (ideally positive) group memberships and that their behaviour usually follows from their self-definition as group members. For most people, the organization they work for is a very important 'group', with which they can identify, and which contributes to their self-image.

Our students will learn that many issues regarding (im)moral behaviour in and 'by' organizations stem from high levels of identification with the organization, leading to a disregard for societal outcomes, sometimes even leading to negative outcomes for their own organization. They will also learn to understand how organizations may change - or can be helped to change - to avoid such detrimental outcomes and become a moral organization

Our interactive course teaches students the latest insights into moral behaviour in and by organizations, through interactive lectures, video clips, short cases, discussion sessions and in-class team assignments. Guest lectures by experts from organizations that have a special interest in moral behaviour or visits to an organization may also be part of the program.

Continue reading below for course topics and more.

About this course

Course level

  • Master / PhD

Course coordinator

  • Dr. Dick de Gilder


  • 2 ECTS

Contact hours

  • 20


  • English

Tuition fee

  • €525 - €995

Additional course information

  • Learning objectives

    By the end of the course, students will be able to

    • Understand the intricacies of moral behaviour in organisations;
    • Understand the moral dilemma's in organisations and contribute to ways of dealing with them;
    • Present their analysis of a moral organisational issue in a short essay and video.
  • Forms of tuition and assessment

    Students will be taught through interactive lectures (usually in the morning), work groups, and discussion sessions.

    Assessment will be based on a short individual essay (75% of the course grade) and a short video presentation based on their essay (25% of their course grade). Attendance is mandatory.

  • About the course coordinator

    Dr. Dick de Gilder is an associate professor in organization sciences. He loves to teach about the topics that are addressed in this course, and has been teaching a related course in the master's program in his department for some years. He has also published about several social identity topics, error management, corporate philanthropy and employee volunteering. Together with Naomi Ellemers, he has co-authored both a book for academics and a book for the general public about moral behaviour in organizations.

  • Course topics

    A selection of course topics will be discussed, some extensively, others more briefly

    • Morality and social identity
    • Moral leadership
    • Motivating moral choices
    • Diversity and inclusion
    • whistleblowing
    • The human factor in organizational change
    • Relating to stakeholders
    • Power of ethical climates
  • Preliminary Syllabus

    Here you can download the preliminary syllabus for the summer course 2024. 

    *Please note that it is a preliminary syllabus and that it still might be subject to change.  

Team VU Amsterdam Summer School

We are here to help!

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  • Yota
  • Programme Coordinator
  • Celia
  • Summer and Winter School Officer
Celia VU Amsterdam Summer & Winter School
  • Esther
  • Summer and Winter School Officer