Decreasing Unethical Decisions: The Role of Morality-Based Individual Differences
- 747 Downloads
Given the potential dangers of unethical decisions in the workplace, it has become increasingly important for managers to hire, and promote into leadership positions, those who are morally inclined. Behavioral ethics research has contributed to this effort by examining an array of individual difference variables (e.g., locus of control) that play a role in morality. However, past research has focused mostly on direct causal effects and not so much on the processes (including mediation) through which different factors, especially those that are morality based, decrease unethical choices. The purpose of the current research is to examine the process, which includes both subconscious and conscious decision pathways, through which moral attentiveness curbs unethical decision making at the individual level. The findings of a study employing about 200 participants and a cheating task reveal that both accurate ethical prototypes and moral awareness of the situation decreased unethical decisions, and moral attentiveness was found to be positively related to both of these constructs. In addition, having accurate ethical prototypes was found to be a partial mediator between perceptual moral attentiveness and less cheating, while moral awareness was found to be a partial mediator between reflective moral attentiveness and less cheating. The theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed.
KeywordsEthical decision making Moral attentiveness Ethical prototypes Moral awareness Subconscious decisions Individual-level unit of analysis
I would like to acknowledge the support I received from my dissertation committee members—Leanne Atwater, Steve Werner, Jim Phillips, and Lisa Penney—while working on this paper at the University of Houston. I also gratefully acknowledge the financial support I received from the Jesse H. Jones Dissertation Completion Grant at the University of Houston in order to complete my empirical study. In addition, I would like to thank David Bright and Scott Taylor for helpful comments received on previous versions of this manuscript. I am also very grateful to the two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments throughout the review process.
- Antonakis, J., Bendahan, S., Jacquart, P., & Lalive, R. (2010). On making causal claims: A review and recommendations. The Leadership Quarterly, 21, 108–1120.Google Scholar
- Antonakis, J., Bendahan, S., Jacquart, P., & Lalive, R. (2014). Causality and endogeneity: Problems and solutions. In D. V. Day (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of leadership and organizations (pp. 93–117). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
- Bargh, J. A. (1989). Conditional automaticity: Varieties of automatic influence in social perception and cognition. In J. S. Uleman & J. A. Bargh (Eds.), Unintended thought (pp. 3–51). New York, NY: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
- Bargh, J. A., & Chartrand, T. L. (2000). The mind in the middle: A practical guide to priming and automaticity research. In H. T. Reis & C. M. Judd (Eds.), Handbook of research methods in social and personality psychology (pp. 253–285). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Cameron, J. S., & Miller, D. T. (2009). Different ethical standards in gain versus loss frames. In D. de Cremer (Ed.), Psychological perspectives on ethical behavior and decision making (pp. 91–106). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.Google Scholar
- Fiske, S. T., & Taylor, S. E. (1991). Social cognition (2nd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
- Haugtvedt, C. P., Herr, P. M., & Kardes, F. R. (2008). Handbook of consumer psychology. New York: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
- Hayes, A. F. (2012). PROCESS: A versatile computational tool for observed variable mediation, moderation, and conditional process modeling [White paper]. Retrieved from http://www.afhayes.com/public/process2012.pdf.
- Jones, T. M. (1991). Ethical decision making by individuals in organizations: An issue-contingent model. Academy of Management Review, 16, 366–395.Google Scholar
- Kohlberg, L. (1981). The philosophy of moral development. San Francisco: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
- Lord, R. G., Foti, R. J., & Phillips, J. S. (1982). A theory of leadership categorization. In J. G. Hunt, U. Sekaran, & C. Schriesheim (Eds.), Leadership: Beyond establishment views (pp. 104–121). Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.Google Scholar
- Moors, A., & de Houwer, J. (2007). What is automaticity? An analysis of its component features and their interrelations. In J. A. Bargh (Ed.), Social psychology and the unconscious: The automaticity of higher mental processes (pp. 11–50). New York, NY: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
- Prinz, J. J. (2002). Furnishing the mind: Concepts and their perceptual basis. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
- Rest, J. R. (1986). Moral development: Advances in research and theory. New York: Praeger.Google Scholar
- Taylor, S. E. (1981). A categorization approach to stereotyping. In D. L. Hamilton (Ed.), Cognitive processes in stereotyping and intergroup behavior (pp. 88–114). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
- Tenbrunsel, A. E., & Messick, D. M. (2001). Power asymmetries and the ethical atmosphere in negotiations. In J. M. Darley, D. M. Messick, & T. R. Tyler (Eds.), Social Influences on Ethical Behavior in Organizations (pp. 201–216). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar