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The Legacy Motive: A Catalyst for Sustainable Decision Making in Organizations

  • Matthew Fox, Leigh Plunkett Tost and Kimberly A. Wade-Benzoni

In this article, we review and build on intergenerational and behavioral ethics research to consider how the motive to build a lasting legacy can impact ethical behavior in intergenerational decision making. We discuss how people can utilize their relationships to organizations to craft their legacies. Further, we elucidate how the legacy motive can enhance business ethics, incorporating theory and empirical findings from research on intergenerational decision making, generativity, and terror management theory to develop the legacy construct and to outline the psychological underpinnings of motivations to leave a positive legacy. We discuss the ways in which legacies can provide a link between life-meaning and pro-social motivation, and we consider the ways in which individuals’ social environments can moderate the intensity of the legacy motive and can impact legacy-building behavior by determining the types of legacies that are valued. Finally, we highlight the implications of these ideas for ethical behavior and sustainable decision making in business contexts.

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