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Models of ethical decision-

making

2 H i g h e r E d u c a t i o n
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Stages in ethical decision-
making
Ethical decision-making process

Recognise Make moral Establish Engage in


moral issue judgement moral intent moral
behaviour

Source: Derived from Rest (1986), as depicted in Jones (1991).

2 H i g h e r E d u c a t i o n
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Relationship with normative
theory
• The role of normative theory in the
stages of ethical decision-making is
primarily in relation to moral
judgement.
– Moral judgements can be made
according to considerations of
rights, duty, consequences, etc.
• However, the issue of whether and how
normative theory is used by an
individual decision-maker depends on
a range of different factors that
influence the decision-making
2 H i g h e r Eprocess
d u c a t i o n
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Influences on ethical
decision-making
• Two broad categories: individual and situational
(Ford and Richardson 1994)
– Individual factors.The unique
characteristics of the individual actually
making the relevant decision.
• birth factors
• acquired by experience and
socialisation
– Situational factors. The particular
features of the context that influence
whether the individual will make an ethical
or unethical decision.
• the issue itself (such as the intensity of
the moral issue)2 H i g h e r E d u c a t i o n
• the
© Oxford University Press, ethical
2005. All rightsframing
reserved. of the issue.
Framework for understanding
ethical decision-making
Individual factors

Recognise Make moral Establish Engage in


moral issue judgement moral intent moral
behaviour

Situational factors

2 H i g h e r E d u c a t i o n
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Limitations of ethical
decision-making models
• Useful for structuring our discussion and
seeing the different elements that come
into play but…
– Not always particularly straightforward
(or sensible) to break down various
elements into discrete units
– Various stages related or interdependent
– National or cultural bias

• Must be aware that the model is intended


not as a definitive representation of
ethical decision-making, but as a
relatively simple way to 2 present a
H i g h e r E d u c a t i o n
© Oxfordcomplex process
University Press, 2005. All rights reserved.
Individual influences on
ethical decision-making

2 H i g h e r E d u c a t i o n
© Oxford University Press, 2005. All rights reserved.
Individual influences on
ethical decision-making

Factor

Age and gender


2 H i g h e r E d u c a t i o n
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National and cultural
characteristics
• People from different cultural backgrounds
likely to have different beliefs about right
and wrong, different values, etc. and this
will inevitably lead to variations in ethical
decision-making across nations, religions
and cultures

• Hofstede (1980; 1994) influential in
shaping our understanding of these
differences – our ‘mental programming’
– Individualism/collectivism
– Power distance
– Uncertainty avoidance
– Masculinity/femininity
2 H i g h e r E d u c a t i o n
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Psychological factors
• Cognitive moral development (CMD)
refers to the different levels of reasoning
that an individual can apply to ethical
issues and problems
– Criticisms of CMD
• Gender bias
• Implicit value judgements
• Invariance of stages

• An individual’s locus of control


determines the extent to which they
believe that they have control over the
events in their life 2 Higher Education
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Psychological factors
Stages of cognitive moral development
Level Stage Explanation Illustration
I Pre- 1 Obedience and Individuals define right and wrong Whilst this type of moral reasoning is
conventional punishment according to expected rewards and usually
punishments from authority figures associated with small children, we can also
see that businesspeople frequently make
unethical
decisions because they think their company
would
2 Instrumental Individuals are concerned with An employee
either rewardmight
it orcover
let for
it gotheunpunished
absence of(see
a
purpose and their co
Gellerman 1986).
Exchange own immediate interests and define worker so that their own absences might
right according to whether there subsequently be covered for in return – a
is “you
fairness in the exchanges or deals scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours”
they make to achieve those reciprocity
II Conventional 3 Interpersonal Individuals
interests. live up to what is An employee
(Treviño and might
Nelsondecide
1999). that using company
accord, expected of them by their resources such as the telephone, the internet
conformity and immediate peers and those close to and
Mutual them email for personal use whilst at work is
Expectations acceptable
because everyone else in their office does
it.

4 Social accord Individuals’ consideration of the A factory manager may decide to provide
and system expectations of others broadens to employee benefits and salaries above the
maintenance social accord more generally, industry
rather minimum in order to ensure that employees
than just the specific people receive wages and conditions deemed
around acceptable by consumers, pressure groups and
them. other social
groups.

2 H i g h e r E d u c a t i o n
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Psychological factors
Stages of cognitive moral development
(cont…) Illustration
Level Stage Explanation
III Post- 5 Social Individuals go beyond The public affairs manager of a food
Conventional contract and identifying with others’ manufacturer may decide to reveal
6 Individual
Universal expectations , and make
Individuals will which of the firm
A purchasing ’s products
manager contain
may decide that
rights
Ethical assesses
decisions autonomously genetically
it would be wrong to continue to out
modified ingredients buy
principles right and wrong according
based on self-chosen of respect for consumers ’ rights
products or ingredients that were to
to the upholding
Universal ethicalof basic know , even though they are not
tested
rights , values
principles , and obliged
on animalsto by law, and
because have not this
he believes been
contracts pressurised into by consumers
such as justice, equality, doesn’t respect animal rights to be or
of
andsociety
rights., which they anyone
free else.
believe everyone should from suffering.
follow.

Source: Adapted from Ferrell et al. (2002); Kohlberg (1969); Trevino and Nelson
(1999) 2 Higher Education
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Personal integrity & moral
imagination
• Personal • Moral
integrity imagination
– Integrity is – Concerned with
defined as an whether one
adherence to has “a sense of
moral the variety of
principles or possibilities
values and moral
consequences
of their
decisions, the
ability to
imagine a wide
2 H i g h e r E d u c a t i o n
range of
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Situational influences on
decision-making

2 H i g h e r E d u c a t i o n
© Oxford University Press, 2005. All rights reserved.
Situational influences on
ethical decision-making

Type of Facto
factor

Mora
Issue-related 2
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H i g h e r E d u c a t i o n
Moral Intensity
• Jones (1991:374-8) proposes that the
intensity of an issue will vary
according to six factors:
– Magnitude of consequences
– Social consensus
– Probability of effect
– Temporal immediacy
– Proximity
– Concentration of effect
2 H i g h e r E d u c a t i o n
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Moral framing
• The same problem or dilemma can
be perceived very differently
according to the way that the issue
is framed
– Language important aspect of moral
framing
• Moral muteness (Bird & Walters
1989) because of:
– Harmony
– Efficiency 2 Higher Education
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– Image of power and effectiveness
Systems of reward
• Adherence to ethical principles and
standards stands less chance of
being repeated and spread
throughout a company when it goes
unnoticed and unrewarded
– “What is right in the corporation is not
what is right in a man’s home or in
his church. What is right in the
corporation is what the guy above
you wants from you. That’s what
morality is in the corporation”
(Jackall, 1988:6) 2 Higher Education
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A u th o rity a n d B u re a u cra cy

Authority
•Bureaucracy
• Bauman (1989,
• People do what they
1993) and ten Bos
are told to do – or
(1997) argue
what they think
bureaucracy has a
they’re being told
number of effects
to do
on ethical
• decision-making
– Suppression of
moral
autonomy
– Instrumental
morality
– Distancing
2 H i g h e r E d u c a t i o n
© Oxford University Press, 2005. All rights reserved. – Denial of moral
Work roles and
organisational norms &
culture
• Work roles Organisational
• Work roles can norms and culture
encapsulate a • the group norms
whole set of which delineate
expectations acceptable
about what to standards of
value, how to behaviour
relate to others, within the work
and how to community
behave 2 Higher Education
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National and cultural
context
• This differs from individual’s national
and cultural characteristics
• Instead of looking at the nationality of
the individual making the decision;
now we are considering the nation in
which the decision is actually taking
place, regardless of the decision-
maker’s nationality
• Different cultures still to some extent
maintain different views of what is
right and wrong 2 Higher Education
© Oxford University Press, 2005. All rights reserved.