Tuesday, October 15, 2019
Ethical Decision Making by Individuals Essay Example for Free
Ethical Decision Making by Individuals Essay Existing theoretical models of individual ethical decision making in organizations place little or no emphasis on characteristics of the ethical issue itself. This article (a) proposes an issue-contingent model containing a new set of variables called moral intensity: (b) using concepts, theory, and evidence derived largely from social psychology, argues that moral intensity influences every component of moral decision making and behavior: (c) offers four research propositions, and (d) discusses implications of the theory. Conclusions and Implications Existing theoretical models have ignored the effect of characteristics of the moral issue itself on ethical decision making and behavior in organizations. Taken at face value, these models suggest that individuals will decide and behave in the same manner regardless of the nature of the moral issue involved. An employee of a drug manufacturer would view the release of a dangerous drug by his or her firm with the same alarm (or lack of alarm) that he or she viewed the theft of a few diskettes from the company supply cabinet by a fellow employee. The issue-contingent model proposed here explicitly rejects this view and suggests that the moral intensity of the issue itself has a significant effect on moral decision making and behavior at all stages of the process. If this model is found to have empirical support, the testing of other models would be significantly affected. Controlling for issue traits would become an integral part of a meaningful test of Trevinos (1986) person-situation interactionist model, for example; the relative importance of personal factors and situational factors might vary considerably, from issue to issue. Similarly, issue charucteristics could alter the balance of teleological and deontological considerations in the moral evaluation stage of Hunt and Vitells (1986) general theory model of marketing ethics. Perhaps the most important potential impact of an empirical finding that ethical decision making and behavior are issue contingent involves the applicability of the models themselves. Moral intensity is expected to play a major role in the recognition of moral issues and, hence, in the actual engagement of moral decision-making processes instead of, or in addition to, other decision-making schemata. Simply stated, the details of moral decision-making and behavior processes become irrelevant if the person does not recognize that he or she is dealing with a moral issue. Future models of ethical decision making should include some consideration of the effect of the moral agents failure to recognize the moral issue. Moral intensity is also relevant to the general applicability of Kohlbergs (1976) theory of cognitive moral development. If moral development is issue contingent, as this article and some emerging empirical evidence suggest, then Kohlbergs theory would have to be substantially revised, and much of the research based on it would have to be reappraised. Future research based on his developmental theory would have to control for traits of the moral issues involved. From a practical point of view, issue contingency is important to normative judgments of moral decisions and of the people who make them. Many of the elements of moral intensity (magnitude of consequences, probability of effect, temporal immediacy, and concentration of effect) are directly related to judgments of the importance of moral issues. If these elements of moral intensity are found to be positively linked to moral behavior, it can be concluded that people generally behave better when the moral issue is important than they do when it is unimportant. Regardless of a persons views regarding the overall moral tenor of society or its alleged decline in recent years, he or she could easily be encouraged by the finding that peoples best moral behavior is inspired by issues of substantial importance.