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Making Ethical Decisions


Making Ethical Decisions David Long Canterbury Christ Church University IPW Helsinki Metropolia Business School, Finland May 13 17 2013 * * * So, how can we ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Making Ethical Decisions

  • Making Ethical Decisions

David Long Canterbury Christ Church
University IPW Helsinki Metropolia Business
School, Finland May 13 17 2013
Aims of this Lecture
  • To explore
  • Why both ethical and unethical decisions get made
    in the workplace
  • Individual differences shaping ethical
  • The effect of situational influences on ethical

  • For practical purposes of making effective
    decisions in business
  • There is no one theory or approach which is the
    best or true view of a moral dilemma
  • A variety of theoretical approaches throw light
    from different angles on any particular problem
  • Theories and views about ethics should be
    regarded as complementary rather than mutually
  • Pluralism is a middle ground between moral
    absolutism and relativism

Crane Matten, 2010
Stages in Ethical Decision Making
The Ethical Decision Making Process
Source Crane Matten 2010
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
  • 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 ethical framing of the issue.
  • the issue itself (such as the intensity of the
    moral issue) .

Significant Others are the Most Influential
Factor in Ethical, Organisational Decision Making
Source Ferrell, Fraedrich Ferrell 2002
Individual Influences on Ethical Decision-Making
Age and Gender
Personal Values and Integrity
Individual Ethical Decisions
National and Cultural Characteristics
Moral Imagination
Locus of Control
Education Employment
Psychological Factors
(source Crane Matten 2007 p137)
Kohlbergs Cognitive Moral Development different
levels of ethical reasoning
Moral Development
Pre-Conventional Usually associated with children
Conventional Most people think This way
Post-Conventional Virtuous people with a strong
internal moral compass
Stage 2 Follow rules only if in own interests
Stage 1 Obey rules And avoid punishment
Stage 3 Conform To meet expectations of others
Stage 4 Broader Consideration of social accord
Stage 5 Understand rights and values are relative
Stage 6 Autonomous decisions act with integrity
e.g unofficial covering for a colleague
e.g personal use of company resources
e.g not purchasing products tested on animals
(source Crane Matten 2007 p142)
So, Why do Good People Make Unethical Choices?
  • Challenge of how to hold on to your integrity and
    values, despite organisational pressures that
    create moral dilemmas!
  • Reality is often making the least worst choice
  • Factors contributing to organisational
  • Bad examples
  • Alien cultural environment
  • Blaming the victim
  • Failure of individual moral responsibility
  • (Green R The Ethical Manager).

Pressures in the Workplace
  • Pressure to perform
  • From superiors
  • Bottom line management
  • Rewards and punishment
  • Do people get promoted for ethical behaviour?
  • People generally do what is rewarded
  • Less likely to do what is punished
  • Peer pressure
  • To go with the crowd
  • Group norms
  • Need to be accepted and fear of being ostracized.

Explaining Unethical Behaviour
  • Ethical distance
  • Moral conscience diluted by psychological
  • Diffused Responsibility
  • No single individual responsible in a group/team
  • Group think shared decisions
  • Obscured by hierarchies
  • Rationalisation of unethical behaviour
  • Everyones doing it
  • People are more likely to recognise acts as
    unethical if there is a social consensus.

Abstraction to Escape Moral Responsibility
  • Gabriel Marcel (1962) Man Against Society
  • Abstraction a way of distancing ourselves
    from ethical problems
  • Power of abstraction at the root of war
  • Use of abstract terms the enemy, terrorists etc
  • The more we remove ourselves from regarding
    others as human beings, the more we will be
    willing to do outrageous things to them.

The Concept of Neutralisation
  • A term used to explain behaviour that is at odds
    with an individuals preferred option or is
    incongruent with accepted social norms.
  • Typical examples might be
  • Delinquent behaviour
  • The moral injunction of killing does not apply
    in war
  • Consumer choices at the supermarket

(Source Chatzidakis et al Journal of Business
Ethics (2007) 74 89-100)
Five Categories of Neutralisation
  1. Denial of responsibility its not my fault
  2. Denial of injury or benefit whats the big
  3. Denial of victim its their fault
  4. Condemning the condemners its a joke after
    what theyve done
  5. Appeal to higher authorities I did it for you

(Source Chatzidakis et al Journal of Business
Ethics (2007) 74 89-100)
Managing Ethical Behaviour
  • Loyalty to the group
  • Can be powerful and difficult to counteract
  • Roles
  • Role models and setting of standards
  • Professionalism (ethical behaviour more likely)
  • Use of power
  • Conflicting roles (can lead to unethical

Institute of Business Ethics Decision Making
  • Transparency Do I mind others knowing what I
    have intended?
  • Effect - Who does my decision affect or hurt?
  • Fairness Would my decision be considered fair
    by those affected?
  • (Institute of Business Ethics 2011)

All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for
good men and women to do nothing.
Edmund Burke
Making Ethical Decisions -Summary
  • In this lecture we have
  • Discussed the stages of ethical decision-making
    in business
  • Outlined individual and situational influences on
    ethical decision-making
  • Evaluated why good people often make unethical
    decisions in business.