Towards an ethical dimension of decision making in organizations

Journal of Business Ethics 15 (12):1275 - 1285 (1996)
Abstract
There is a growing need to increase our understanding of ethical decision making in U.S. based organizations. The authors examine the complexity of creating uniform ethical standards even when the meaning of ethical behavior is being debated. The nature of these controversies are considered, and three important dimensions for ethical decision making are discussed: leaders with integrity and a strong sense of social responsibility, organization cultures that foster dialogue and dissent, and organizations that are willing to reflect on and learn from their actions. Leaders with integrity demonstrate consistency between vision and action that promotes trust, regularly concern themselves with developing moral standards, and are proactive agents of change in an increasingly complex world. Organizational cultures that support dialogue suspend judgments and increase their capacity to think together towards new levels of understanding. Ethical concepts evolve in these organizational cultures, and actions are informed and responsible. Organizations that reflect on their actions engage in double loop learning so that the time taken to reflect on the past and present leads to a more judicious and ethical future. In essence, the authors point to organizational guidelines for ethical decision making that lead to an increase in members' capacity to think and act ethically.
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