Personal Motives, Moral Disengagement, and Unethical Decisions by Entrepreneurs: Cognitive Mechanisms on the “Slippery Slope”

Abstract

Entrepreneurs sometimes make unethical decisions that have devastating effects on their companies, stakeholders, and themselves. We suggest that insights into the origins of such actions can be acquired through attention to personal motives and their impact on moral disengagement—a cognitive process that deactivates moral self-regulation, thus enabling individuals to behave in ways inconsistent with their own values. We hypothesize that entrepreneurs’ motivation for financial gains is positively related to moral disengagement, while their motivation for self-realization is negatively related to this process. Results obtained with a sample of founding entrepreneurs offered support for the first prediction, as well as support for the prediction that moral disengagement is positively related to the tendency to make unethical decisions.

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Correspondence to Hao Zhao.

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Baron, R.A., Zhao, H. & Miao, Q. Personal Motives, Moral Disengagement, and Unethical Decisions by Entrepreneurs: Cognitive Mechanisms on the “Slippery Slope”. J Bus Ethics 128, 107–118 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-014-2078-y

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Keywords

  • Entrepreneurs
  • Moral disengagement
  • Ethics
  • Career motivation