From an online survey of 114 participating accountants at staff, senior staff, and supervisor levels from a top-100 U.S. accounting firm, we investigate the effects of the Big Five personality traits (Conscientiousness, Agreeableness, Extraversion, Neuroticism, and Openness) on the ethical decision-making process of accountants. Within the framework of Rest’s (1986) Four-Component Model of Ethical Behavior, we focus on Component III, the formation of an intention to act upon one’s best ethical judgment. Based on the limited extant literature on the connection between personality and ethical behavior, we expect that accountants high in Conscientiousness and Openness will tend to form an intention to act ethically despite pressure in an ethical dilemma. We develop more tentative hypotheses about the remaining three factors. Controlling for age, gender, education, sole earning status, and experience, we find clear positive statistical effects of only Conscientiousness and Openness. These findings have implications for the human resource departments of accounting firms, as well as contributing to a basic understanding of the relationships between Big Five personality factors and ethical intention.
The authors wish to thank the following for comments and suggestions on earlier drafts of this paper: David Allen, Richard Baker, John Malloy, Dawn Massey, Zabihollah Rezaee, Joan Van Hise, Ling Yang, Kimberly Zahller, participants at the 16th Annual Ethics Research Symposium, the 2011 Annual Meeting of the American Accounting Association, the 2011 ABO Research Conference, the 2012 American Accounting Association Southeast Regional Conference and research colloquia at the University of Memphis, Fairfield University, St. Joseph’s University, and Western Kentucky University.
This paper is a part of the PhD dissertation of Shahriar Saadullah. He would like to thank his dissertation chair Charles Bailey (the co-author of this paper) for his guidance, compassion, and care throughout the PhD program and beyond.
Saadullah, S. and Bailey, C. (2014), "The “Big Five Personality Traits” and Accountants’ Ethical Intention Formation", Research on Professional Responsibility and Ethics in Accounting (Research on Professional Responsibility and Ethics in Accounting, Vol. 18), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp. 167-191. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1574-076520140000018006Download as .RIS
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