Managerial Decision-Making on Moral Issues and the Effects of Teaching Ethics

Journal of Business Ethics 78 (1-2):207-223 (2008)
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This study uses judgment and decision-making (JDM) perspective with the help of framing and schema literature from cognitive psychology to evaluate how managers behave when problems with unethical overtones are presented to them in a managerial frame rather than an ethical frame. In the proposed managerial model, moral judgment of the situation is one of the inputs to managerial judgment, among several other inputs regarding costs and benefits of various alternatives. Managerial judgment results in managerial intent leading to managerial action. The model and the effects of taking an ethics course on ethical and managerial judgment and managerial intent were then indirectly tested in this study, wherein subjects judged the ethical wrongness, managerial badness, and the managerial intent regarding decisions made in a case. Forty-nine MBA students analyzed a case involving budget-based bonuses and production, in which the ethical issue evolved over three stages. It appears from the Path-analysis results that managerial judgment mediated between moral judgment and the judgment of managerial intent as suggested by the proposed model, and that taking an ethics course directly affected managerial judgment but did not affect the moral judgment. Additionally, in the first stage of decision-making (early stage of a developing “ethical slippery slope”), moral judgment did not significantly influence managerial judgment. However, students with ethics course still were more inclined to judge the decision as managerially bad as compared to others, indicating that they were more aware or sensitive to the moral issues involved.



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