It's all fair in love, war, and business: Cognitive philosophies in ethical decision making

Abstract

Exploratory research was undertaken in four locations in the Asia Pacific Rim to investigate the cognitive frameworks used by managers when considering ethical business dilemmas. In addition to culture, gender and organisational dimensions were also studied. Aggregate analysis revealed no significant differences in the cognitive frameworks used by business managers in Hong Kong, Malaysia, New Zealand, and Canada. Of the eight frameworks used in the study four cognitive frameworks appeared to feature predominantly. Utilising the results of regression analysis the most salient cognitive frameworks utilised by managers were identified as; Self Interest, Neutralisation, Justice and Categorial Imperative, with Neutralisation and Self Interest being the most significant among all managers. Religious Conviction and the Light of Day framework (which relates to fear of being exposed) did not feature prominently in the analysis. A few significant differences in the ethical frameworks used by males and females were identified. For males in all four locations Self Interest, Neutralisation and Justice appeared to be dominant frameworks, while considerable variability was seen in the frameworks used by females. Marginally significant differences were observed in the cognitive frameworks used by managers with differing functional responsibilities. Across all locations respondents with general management responsibilities relied predominately on Self Interest, while those with marketing responsibilities utilised Neutralisation. Respondents with an accounting orientation also relied predominately on Neutralisation and Categorial Imperative frameworks.

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Gael McDonald is currently completing her doctorate at the Institute of Management in the London School of Economics and Political Science. Previously she was an Associate Professor with Asia Pacific International University based in Hong Kong and teaching on their international M.B.A. programs within the Pacific Rim. Miss McDonald has published in Journal of Business Ethics, Journal of Managerial Psychology, Asia Pacific International Journal of Marketing, Management Decision,the International Review of Retail Distribution and Consumer Researchand is an Associate editor of Business Ethics — A European Review.

Patrick C. Pak is a Lecturer in Management with the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. He has a diverse interest in management research. His research interests are mainly in the areas of learning organization, organizational control, leadership, organizational change, business ethics and strategic management.

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McDonald, G., Pak, P.C. It's all fair in love, war, and business: Cognitive philosophies in ethical decision making. J Bus Ethics 15, 973–996 (1996). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00705577

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Keywords

  • Ethical Business
  • Malaysia
  • Ethical Decision
  • Ethical Framework
  • Organisational Dimension