The Next Phase of Business Ethics: Integrating Psychology and Ethics: Volume 3


Table of contents

(29 chapters)

This article examines how normative theories of enterprise can be strengthened by incorporating the empirical study of motivation into the theory-development process. The link between moral conduct and motivation in the literature is reviewed, the framework for Motivational Appeal Analysis introduced and applied, and implications for theory and research are discussed.

Psychological forces in play across individual, group, and organizational levels of analysis increase the likelihood that people in business organizations will engage in misconduct. Therefore, it is argued, we must turn our attention from dominant normative and empirical trends in business ethics, which revolve around boundaries and constraints, and instead concentrate on methods for promoting ethical behavior in practice, exploiting psychological forces conducive to ethical conduct. This calls for a better understanding of how organizations and their inhabitants function, and, in turn, it points to pragmatic solutions. Ethical conduct can be promoted by: (1) normatively justifying vivid aims worthy of pursuit alongside economic objectives, and (2) empirically identifying the conditions and practices that advance those aims in firms. This approach challenges us to bring empirical and normative inquiry together — in ways unsettling to both. It pushes us to move beyond an empirical preoccupation with decision making and judgment, and it requires us to cope with political liberalism's legitimate qualms about discussions of the good.

There can be ethical understanding of organizational policy issues and that is important. However, there can be policy understanding about what the organization should do without understanding of individual level responsibility. There can be cognitive understanding of both policy and individual level ethics responsibilities and that is important. However, there can be cognitive understanding without affective, emotive concern. Intellectual understanding without affective concern can lead to understanding without motivation. There can be cognitive understanding and affective concern and that is important, but not enough. There can be cognitive understanding and affective concern without effective political method. An action-learning approach to organizational ethics can join cognitive understanding of policy and individual level issues with both affective concern and effective political method. Joining of cognitive understanding, affective concern, and effective political method can stimulate and enable ethical character.

We examine the moral and managerial significance of some empirical studies in cognitive psychology. We suggest that these results may plausibly be interpreted as expressing deontological commitments of experimental subjects, even though psychologists who discuss the results seem to suppose that they show that people are irrational consequentialists. We argue that the plausibility of our interpretation suggests how managers who wish to take seriously entrenched social views on morality might best craft corporate policy on corporate responsibility, and we suggest that the form of argument we employ may be regarded as a kind of appeal to reflective equilibrium.

In this paper, we argue that the use of the term “rationality” in Bazerman's book Judgment in Managerial Decision Making (JMDM) is extremely useful, and creates a useful dialogue between philosophical and psychological perspectives of ethics and morality. We conclude that while behavioral decision research can gain important insights by more fully including philosophical discussions of rationality, both intellectual communities should be clear in their definitions, provide falsifiable predictions, and offer insights that can be tested empirically. We believe that these are important contributions of behavioral decision research not currently incorporated in philosophical critiques.

Four experiments were performed to test a proposal that hierarchically restrictive and partially restrictive trait dimensions (Reeder & Brewer, 1979) pertaining to morality can be understood in terms of Immanuel Kant's distinction between perfect and imperfect duties. In Experiment 1, subjects simply rated the number of contrary behaviors they would have to observe in order to change a prior expectancy that a target person had particular morality traits. Their responses indicated that positive partially restrictive traits were more difficult to disconfirm than positive hierarchically restrictive traits. In Experiment 2, subjects were presented with scenarios where the type of person, the type of situation, the type of behavior, and the trait of concern were manipulated. Behavior had a greater, and the situation had a lesser, effect on trait attributions for hierarchically than partially restrictive morality dimensions. Experiment 3 demonstrated that differences in trait attributions for the two types of trait dimensions were not due to the implications of contrary behaviors for the frequency with which these behaviors could be expected to be repeated in the future. Finally, Experiment 4 further supported the prediction that situational factors affect trait attributions less for hierarchically than partially restrictive trait dimensions pertaining to morality.

The present paper focuses on the linkage between two academic paradigms in the enquiry into business ethics: normative philosophy and empirical social sciences. The paper first reviews existing research pertaining to a normative-empirical dialogue. Further empirical data on the relationship between various standards of morality are discussed in relation to the normative frameworks of ethics. Lastly, future directions for such a dialogue in business ethics are suggested.

Most economists are committed to some version of egoism. After distinguishing among the various sorts of egoistic claims, I cite the empirical literature against psychological egoism and show that attempts to account for this data make these economists' previous empirical claims tautological. Moreover, the assumption of egoism has undesirable consequences, especially for students; if people believe that others behave egoistically, they are more likely to behave egoistically themselves. As an alternative to egoism I recommend the commitment model of Robert Frank.The equivalent of egoism at the organizational level is that business firms seek (should seek) to maximize profits. I present arguments to show that a conscious attempt by managers to maximize profits is likely to fail. A committed altruism is more likely to raise profits. I suggest that a firm should take as its primary purpose providing meaningful work for employees.

In each of two experiments, some participants chose between allocation of resources to the group as a whole or to themselves alone (egoism condition); some chose between allocation to a group or to a group member for whom they were induced to feel empathy (altruism condition); and some chose between allocation to a group or to a member for whom empathy was not induced (baseline condition). When the decision was private, allocation to the group was significantly - and similarly - lower in the egoism and altruism conditions compared to the baseline. When the decision was public, allocation to the group was significantly lower only in the altruism condition. These results indicated, first, that both egoism and altruism can be potent threats to the common good and, second, that anticipated social evaluation is a powerful inhibitor of the egoistic but not the altruistic threat.

The self-interest motive is singularly powerful according to many of the most influential theories of human behavior and the layperson alike. In the present article the author examines the role the assumption of self-interest plays in its own confirmation. It is proposed that a norm exists in Western cultures that specifies self-interest both is and ought to be a powerful determinant of behavior. This norm influences people's actions and opinions as well as the accounts they give for their actions and opinions. ionparticular, it leads people to act and speak as though they care more about their material self-interest than they do. Consequences of misinterpreting the “fact” of self-interest are discussed.

Executives today face many difficult, potentially explosive situations in which they must make decisions that can help or harm their firms, themselves, and others. How can they improve the ethical quality of their decisions? How can they ensure that their decisions will not backfire? The authors discuss three types of theories - theories about the world, theories about other people, and theories about ourselves - that will help executives understand how they make the judgments on which they base their decisions. By understanding those theories, they can learn how to make better, more ethical decisions.

The hypothesis that unethical behavior is promoted when people are able to develop and maintain a biased characterization of an unethical action as being morally acceptable was tested in an experiment in which 120 participants were overpaid for taking part in a study. The variable of interest — whether the participants pointed out the overpayment — was examined in a between-participants design under three sets of contrasting manipulations designed to affect differentially participants' abilities to convince themselves that keeping the overpayment was acceptable. Logistic regressions revealed a decrease in unethical behavior when participants' abilities to construct neutralizations for keeping the overpayment were impeded. A follow-up study indicated that these results were unlikely to have been a consequence of changes in the ethicality of keeping the money as a function of the specific experimental manipulations used. The influence of moral attitudes and gender on moral behavior was also examined. Moral attitude measures were not predictive, but males were more likely to act unethically.

Using the Ajzen's Theory of Planned Behavior and Kohlberg's Theory of Moral Development, we look at individual beliefs (What should I do?), intention (What would I do?), and actual behaviors (What did I do?) and the rationale used in each instance. Ten of twelve hypotheses are strongly supported and two are moderately supported. This data set shows that significant differences exist between belief and action, belief and intention, and intention and action and the rationales used to support belief, intention, and action differ from one another. Implications for academic research and managerial practice are discussed and research limitations are examined.

To date, our understanding of ethical decision making and behavior in organizations has been concentrated in the area of moral judgment, largely because of the hundreds of studies done involving cognitive moral development. This paper addresses the problem of our relative lack of understanding in other areas of human morality by applying a recently developed construct - moral approbation - to illuminate the link between moral judgment and moral action. This recent work is extended here by exploring the effect that organizations have on ethical behavior in terms of the moral approbation construct.

This field survey focused on two constructs that have been developed to represent the ethical context in organizations: ethical climate and ethical culture. We first examined issues of convergence and divergence between these constructs through factor analysis and correlational analysis. Results suggested that the two constructs are measuring somewhat different, but strongly related dimensions of the ethical context. We then investigated the relationships between the emergent ethical context factors and an ethics-related attitude (organizational commitment) and behavior (observed unethical conduct) for respondents who work in organizations with and without ethics codes. Regression results indicated that an ethical culture-based dimension was more strongly associated with observed unethical conduct in code organizations while climate-based dimensions were more strongly associated with observed unethical conduct in non-code organizations. Ethical culture and ethical climate-based factors influenced organizational commitment similarly in both types of organizations. Normative implications of the study are discussed, as are implications for future theorizing, research and management practice.

There is good reason to take a virtue-based approach to business ethics. Moral principles are fairly useful in assessing actions, but understanding how moral people behave and how they become moral requires reference to virtues, some of which are important in business. We must go beyond virtues and refer to character, of which virtues are components, to grasp the relationship between moral assessment and psychological explanation. Virtues and other character traits are closely related to (in technical terms, they supervene on) personality traits postulated by personality psychologists. They may therefore be featured in respectable psychological explanations. But good character fits no familiar psychological pattern. A person of good character is sufficiently self-aware and rational that his or her virtues are not accompanied by the vices that psychologists find usually associated with them. A course in business ethics can help develop this self-awareness, which a good life in business requires.

Wisdom is a concept with no consensual definition. Nevertheless, it has been the subject of significant work in both philosophy and psychology. This work is summarized, and implications to the development of a concept of managerial wisdom are provided. At the very least, these notions provide guidance to managers in need of direction in how they can best express their managerial virtues.

The virtue of moral psychology is that it emphasizes what is most human in business, as opposed to the more bloodless concepts of “obligation”, “duty”, “responsibility” and rights”. The heart of moral psychology is to be found in such concrete phenomena as fear, love, affection, antipathy, loyalty, jealousy, anger, resentment, avarice, ambition, pride, and cowardice. In this essay, 1 want to explore two of the core virtues of the corporation, conceived of as a community, the “sentiments” of care and compassion. These were taken to be the very core of ethics by Adam Smith. I want to distinguish care and compassion from each other and both from the more principled and rule-bound conceptions of ethics that still dominate philosophy.

To learn more about successful business/religion relationships today, it is helpful to learn from past examples. The ministry of Norman Vincent Peale offers an in-depth look at a historically successful church/business message that seemed to resonate particularly well with American business leaders. Aspects of Peale's approach are compared to contemporary business/religion approaches in order to identify foundational elements that contribute to a successful partnering of religious and business ethics.It is found that business leaders are best reached with straightforward messages that speak to their experiences. Entertainment may be a component of those messages, but the most effective ethical reinforcements come from one's faith community. This suggests that the qualities of proximity, familiarity and reliability (infallibility) are key aspects of a productiveand meaningful business/faith relationship.

Organizational leadership sets the standard for ethical conduct in the workplace. Christianity's “Golden Rule” was used by William H. (Bill) Carris, owner of the Carris Financial Corporation (CFC), as the central ethical principle in his Long Term Plan (UP), describing the transition to 100% employee-ownership and governance. This paper examines how the courageously open and unequivocal intent to ground the Carris Companies culture change, to full employee ownership in the “Golden Rule” as base principle, lays a foundation toward a more ethical environment between individuals within its workplace and broader corporate community. The twofold strategic direction within the plan is designed to “teach employees the business” and to create a new style of corporate governance, one characterized by community, trust and inclusiveness as a means of achieving the corporate mission, “to improve the quality of life for our growing corporate community.” This effort toward ‘Employee Empowerment’ was recognized in the prestigious 14th Annual Corporate Conscience Award presented in June 2000 by the Council on Economic Priorities.

Publication date
Book series
Research in Ethical Issues in Organizations
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
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