Do complex moral reasoners experience greater ethical work conflict?

Journal of Business Ethics 16 (12-13):1311-1318 (1997)
Abstract
Individuals who disagree that organizational interests legitimately supersede those of the wider society may experience conflict between their personal standards of ethics and those demanded by an employing organization, a conflict that is well documented. An additional question is whether or not individuals capable of complex moral reasoning experience greater conflict than those reasoning at a less developed level. This question was first positioned in a theoretical framework and then investigated using 115 survey responses from a student sample. Correlational analysis and hierarchical regression indicated that individuals scoring high on the Defining Issues Test measure of Kohlberg's stages of moral development experienced significantly greater workplace ethical conflict than low scorers. The finding that complex moral reasoners perceive greater conflict between their personal standards and typical organizational demands raises the issue of what reasoning orientation is rewarded in organizations. Individuals capable of complex moral reasoning may be likely to leave traditional organizations due to high conflict but more ethically friendly organizations for complex reasoners seem unlikely unless these people occupy influential positions.
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