Obedience to Authority and Ethical Dilemmas in Hong Kong Companies

Business Ethics Quarterly 9 (3):507-526 (1999)
This paper reports a phenomenological sub-study of a larger project investigating the way Hong Kong Chinese staff tackled their own ethical dilemmas at work. A special analysis was conducted of eight dilemma cases arising from a request by a boss or superiorauthority to do something regarded as ethically wrong. In reports of most such cases, staff expressed feelings of contractual orinterpersonally based obligation to obey. They sought to save face and preserve harmony in their relationship with authority by choosingbetween “little potato” obedience, token obedience, and undercover disobedience. Only where no such obligation existed was face inrelation to authority unimportant, and open disobedience chosen. In Kohlbergian terms, ethical reasoning at the conventional stages (three and four) predominated in dilemmas of obedience. Findings imply that if corruption were to originate at the top, codes of conduct recently introduced into Hong Kong may be of limited effect in stalling it
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