Business Ethics: Volume 3

Cover of Business Ethics
Subject:

Table of contents

(15 chapters)

Prelims

Pages i-xvii
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Part 1 Foundations

Abstract

The field of behavioral business ethics has come a long way since its inception nearly five decades ago. Pioneered in part in response to a number of high-profile corporate scandals, the early field of business ethics was thought by many to be a fad that would recede along with the salience of the scandals of the day. Yet, this could not have been further from the truth. The need for behavioral business ethics research remains ever-present, as evidenced by the sustained number of scandals and unethical behavior within and by organizations. Moreover, research in this area has burgeoned. In the 1980s, only 54 articles had been published on this topic (Tenbrunsel & Smith-Crowe, 2008); today, a similar search yields over 3,000 “hits.” In light of the area’s growth, we suggest the need to take a look back at the seminal work that sparked social scientific work in the field. In particular, this chapter has two main objectives. First, we provide a review of select foundational work. In so doing, we identify some of the key trends that characterized early knowledge development in the field. Second, we draw on this historical context to consider how past trends relate to current work and speak to future research opportunities.

Abstract

Businesses are rapidly automating workplaces with new technologies (e.g., driverless cargo trucks, artificially intelligent mortgage approvals, machine-learning-based paralegals, algorithmic managers). Such technological advancement raises a host of questions for business and society. As Thomas Donaldson recently remarked, “It’s instance of a problem that more sophisticated engineering cannot solve, and that requires a more sophisticated approach to values” (Ufberg, 2017). In this chapter, we explore the value questions as follows: What is the purpose of business in the machine age? What model for business will best serve society in coming decades: profit maximization, stakeholder theory, or another conception entirely? Is it time for a new social contract between business and society? Do firms have a natural duty to offer employment? Are existing concepts of responsibility/liability adequate for an age in which companies use autonomous robots as scapegoats? How can we protect our humanity and dignity in an algorithm-based society? Do we need to teach ethics to robots?

Part 2 Influences on Individual Decision-Making

Abstract

The following chapter is aimed to explain what virtue ethics (VE) in business is, its philosophical background, its original themes, and new research opportunities. To this end, we will establish the distinctive elements of VE and its main sources and epistemological approaches. In particular, we will first describe VE in business based on Alasdair MacIntyre’s ethics and Modern VE in Business. Then, we will briefly show the Thomistic approach to VE in business and its main application to business theory. We will also consider a new epistemological proposal for VE in business in Positive Organizational Scholarship. Next, this chapter will explain briefly the original contributions VE in business makes to a theory of work and a common good theory of the firm. Finally, we will suggest new areas in which VE in business theory has not shown a significant outcome yet. Here, we will discuss new opportunities that VE authors might consider for research projects in new epistemological approaches, VE philosophers not yet studied in business ethics theory, spirituality-based theory (Jewish and Protestant mainly) and its connection with VE, and contemporary problems that firms are facing that can be enlighten from neo-Aristotelian philosophy.

Abstract

To date, the vast majority of existing research on unethical leadership has focused on top leaders’ actions and behaviors as the primary catalyst for the permeation of unethical behaviors in organizations. In this chapter, we shift the focus to middle and junior managers and argue that they too have an active role in contributing to the permeation of top-level unethical leadership. More specifically, we adopt a meaning-making lens to investigate how junior and middle-level managers perceive and interpret top-level unethical leadership and how such meaning-making affects their (un)ethical legitimacy. Understanding the role played by lower-level managers becomes vitally important to develop a more holistic picture of the permeation of unethical leadership. Findings from 30 in-depth interviews with top, middle, and junior managers reveal variables such as survival, group membership, and strain as buttressing meaning-making by lower-level managers. Findings also revealed two contrasting aspects, that is, “interactions” within organizational members as well as “silence” by top-level managers playing into individuals’ information processing and attribution capacities during ethical dilemmas. Real cases experienced by participants pertaining to the flow of unethical leadership illustrate how the central bearings play out in managerial practice.

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Abstract

This chapter focuses on the normative importance of what attitudes our actions express to others. Business is not conducted in a vacuum – rather, it is conducted against a background schema of social meaning. This chapter argues that the public meaning of our actions, what our actions express, is normatively important. The piece imports familiar norms regarding expressions from interpersonal morality to business ethics, such as those surrounding insult, blame, and gratitude. It argues that many of ethicists’ gripes across a range of business ethics topics – from disproportionate compensation to immoral investing – can fruitfully be analyzed from an expressive perspective.

Abstract

Cognitive moral development, often referred to as moral reasoning, stems from the field of cognitive developmental psychology and moral psychology. Early work done by Jean Piaget studying the cognitive abilities of children to make moral judgments as they grow and mature created the foundation for the later work of Lawrence Kohlberg and James Rest in studying the moral reasoning abilities of adults. Thus, moral reasoning refers to the cognitive process of how a person reasons about ethical situations. This chapter will present the evolution of the use and validity of cognitive moral development/moral reasoning in determining how individuals resolve ethical or moral dilemmas. Further, more recent models and potential measurement of moral reasoning and ethical decision-making including our intuition and emotions will be discussed and suggestions regarding directions for developing methods to measure such cognitive and emotional (or intuitive) means by which individuals make difficult moral choices will be discussed.

Part 3 Organizational Level Ethics

Morality in Groups

Pages 181-209
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Abstract

In this chapter, we explore the importance of morality in groups. We draw from decades of research from multiple perspectives, including psychology, neuroscience, philosophy, and organizational science, to illustrate the range of ways that morality influences social attitudes and group behavior. After synthesizing the literature, we identify promising directions for business ethics scholars to pursue. We specifically call for greater research on morality at the meso, or group, level of analysis and encourage studies examining the complex relationship between moral emotions and the social environment. We ultimately hope that this work will provide new insights for managing moral behavior in groups and society.

Abstract

This chapter considers how observers can effectively and safely engage with unethical organizational behaviors. Engagement methods need to be aligned with the situational contexts of specific cases. Micro-level individual, meso-level organizational, and macro-level environmental contextual obstacles to effective and safe engagement are considered. Five types of observer ethics engagement methods are considered in the context of specific cases and contextual obstacles. Engagement methods considered are as follows: (1) evocation and framing of dialogic engagement as consistent with the identity, vision, and values of the organization; (2) win–win incentive and ethics networking methods; (3) internal and external whistle-blowing methods; (4) if the observer is in a position of organizational power, top-down forcing methods; and (5) linking of observed unethical behaviors with strong external social movements.

Abstract

A cursory review of behavioral ethics research reveals a growing interest in what scholars regularly refer to as the “dark side,” a genre of studies in which concepts that are generally regarded as positive and good are shown to be associated with some sort of negative or bad outcomes. We employ philosophical and institutional lenses to explain why any concept would have a dark side and why researchers would be drawn to it. We then take a social scientific point of view to consider how the dark side of various constructs is typically revealed. Finally, we discuss the implications of dark side research, paying particular attention to the negative implications (no irony intended) focusing on the dark side has for the practice of research and the practice of management.

Part 4 New Frontiers

Abstract

The chapter examines to what extent research from social cognitive neuroscience can inform ethical leadership. We evaluate the contribution of brain research to the understanding of ethical leaders as moral persons as well the understanding of their role as moral managers. The areas of social cognitive neuroscience that mirror these two aspects of ethical leadership comprise research relating to understanding oneself, understanding others, and the relationship between the self and others. Within these, we deem it relevant for ethical leadership to incorporate research findings about self-reflection, self-regulation, theory of mind, empathy, trust, and fairness. The chapter highlights social cognitive neuroscience research in these areas and discusses its actual and potential contributions to ethical leadership. The chapter thereby engages also with the broader discussion on the neuroscience of leadership. We suggest new avenues for future research in the field of leadership ethics and responsibility.

Abstract

Why has responsible management been so difficult and why is the chorus of stakeholders demanding responsibility getting louder? We argue that management has been framed within the structural confines of corporate governance. Corporate governance in turn has been developed within the frame of agency theory (Blair, 1995; Eisenhardt, 1989). Agency theory in turn is based on ontological assumptions that do not provide for responsible actions on behalf of management (Jensen, 2001; Jensen & Meckling, 1976; Jensen & Meckling, 1994). As such, we argue that managers need to be aware of the paradigmatic frame of the dominant economistic ontology and learn to transcend it in order to become truly response-able.

Abstract

Drawing on Bandwidth Fidelity Theory (Cronbach, 1970; Cronbach & Gleser, 1965), this chapter argues for more specificity with regard to conceptualizing and measuring variables in the field of behavioral ethics. We provide an example of how this might be accomplished, by building on recent work on organizational support that emphasizes more specific facets of perceived organizational support (POS). We introduce the concept of perceived organizational support for ethics (POS-E) and test its predictive power on a sample of 4,315 employees from manufacturing and technology firms. We find support for our assertions that ethics-specific support is a better predictor of ethics-related outcomes (e.g., pressure to violate ethical standards, preparedness to handle ethical violations) and general support (POS) is a better predictor of more general organizational outcomes (i.e., job satisfaction). Theoretical and practical implications of these results and the importance of moving toward more specific versus general constructs in the field of behavioral ethics are discussed.

About the Authors

Pages 351-357
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Index

Pages 359-370
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Cover of Business Ethics
DOI
10.1108/S2514-175920193
Publication date
2019-06-07
Book series
Business and Society 360
Editors
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-78973-684-7
eISBN
978-1-78973-683-0
Book series ISSN
2514-1759