Managers and Moral Dissonance: Self Justification as a Big Threat to Ethical Management?
- First Online:
- 1.2k Downloads
This article discusses the implications of moral dissonance for managers, and how dissonance induced self justification can create an amplifying feedback loop and downward spiral of immoral behaviour. After addressing the nature of moral dissonance, including the difference between moral and hedonistic dissonance, the writer then focuses on dissonance reduction strategies available to managers such as rationalization, self affirmation, self justification, etc. It is noted that there is a considerable literature which views the organization as a potentially corrupting institution and a source of acute levels of moral dissonance. A simplified process model linking immoral behaviour, dissonance and rationalization is mooted, and some recent theories which question traditional dissonance models, including the free choice paradigm (FCP), are considered. The writer concludes that in the light of the above mentioned critical theories, it may be assumed that the levels of moral dissonance, and the extent of rationalization/self justification amongst managers, are more a function of personality and situational factors than previously assumed.
KeywordsManagement Morality Cognitive dissonance Moral dissonance Self justification Free choice paradigm
- Aronson, E. (1995). The social animal. New York: Freeman.Google Scholar
- Aronson, E. (2004). The social animal. New York: Worth.Google Scholar
- Bakan, J. (2004). The corporation: The pathological pursuit of power. London: Constable.Google Scholar
- Bloom, P. (2005). Descartes’ baby: How child development explains what makes US human. London: Arrow.Google Scholar
- Bratton, J., & Gold, J. (2003). Human resource practice: Theory and practice. Basingstoke: Palgrave.Google Scholar
- Chen, M. K. (2008). Rationalization and cognitive dissonance: Do choices affect or reflect preferences? Cowles Foundation Discussion Paper No.1669. http://cowles.econ.yale.edu/. Accessed 7 June 2010.
- Cialdini, R. B. (1996). Social influence and the triple tumor structure of organizational dishonesty. In D. M. Messick & A. E. Brunsel (Eds.), Codes of conduct: Behavioral research into business ethics. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
- Cooper, J. (2007). Cognitive dissonance: Fifty years of a classic theory. London: Sage.Google Scholar
- Cruver, B. (2003). Enron: Anatomy of greed. London: Arrow.Google Scholar
- Darley, J. M. (1996). How organizations socialize individuals into evildoing. In D. M. Messick & A. E. Brunsel (Eds.), Codes of Conduct: Behavioral research into business ethics. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
- Festinger, L. (1962). Cognitive dissonance. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
- Hauser, M. D. (2007). Moral minds: How nature designed our universal sense of right and wrong. London: Little Brown.Google Scholar
- Messick, D. M., & Tenbrunsel, A. E. (Eds.). (1996). Codes of Conduct: Behavioral Research into Business Ethics. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
- Persaud, R.: 2007, Raj Persaud on how cognitive dissonance affects managers. Health Service Journal, 19th November 2007. Accessed 4 April, 2010, from http://www.hsj.co.uk.
- Ramachandran, V. S. (1999). Phantoms in the brain. London: Fourth Estate.Google Scholar
- Sears, D., et al. (1991). Social psychology. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
- Slater, L. (2005). Opening Skinner’s box: Great psychological experiments of the twentieth century. London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
- Tavris, C., & Aronson, E. (2008). Mistakes were made (but not by me). London: Pinter & Martin.Google Scholar
- Tierney, J. (2008). And behind door no. 1, a fatal flaw. New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/08science//08tier.html?ref=science. Accessed 7 June 2010.
- Tierney, J. (2010). Monkeys, candy and cognitive dissonance, TierneyLab/New York Times. http://tierneylab.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/27monkeys-candy-and-cognitive-dissonance/. Accessed 7 June 2010.
- Tompkins, P & J. Lawley. (2009). Cognitive dissonance and creative tension—the same or different? The Clean Collection. http://www.cleanlanguage.co.uk/articles/262/1/Cogntive-Dissonance-and-Creative-Tension/. Accessed 27 May 2010.
- Wright, R. (1996). The moral animal: Why we are the way we are. London: Arrow.Google Scholar