British Journal of Management, Vol. 14, 223-235 (2003)
Management and Business Ethics: A
Critique and Integration of Ethic...
224 D. Bartlett
ethics as being 'full of controversy' (Werhane and
Freeman, 1999, p, 1), containing 'diverse and
Management and Business Ethics 225
concern for the management of organizational
ethics (as well as the ecological validity...
226 D. Bartlett
to the problem he identifies, arguing simply that
either extreme is unrealistic and that we are only
just ...
Management and Business Ethics 111
Stage of
cognitive moral
Individual Moderators
228 D. Bartlett
While Liedtka's qualitative interview-based
research looked at individual infiuences on the
ethical decisi...
Management and Business Ethics 229
action to the expectations of the individual in
terms of the perceived attractiveness o...
230 D. Bartlett
with economical than ethical or political issues
were found to become more ethical as the level of
Management and Business Ethics 231
with pressures arising from harshly competitive
climates and the need for bottom-line p...
232 D. Bartlett
matter, that is concerning personal value systems
and ethical reasoning, which is inherently sub-
jective ...
Management and Business Ethics 233
the development of the type of decision-making
framework described above with its abili...
234 D. Bartlett
Castro, B, (1995), 'Business Ethics - Some Observations on the
Relationship Between Training, Affiliation ...
Management and Business Ethics
Rosenthal, S. B. and R. A. Bucholz (2000). 'The Empirical-
Normative Split in Business Ethi...
Desarrollo Moral VII
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Desarrollo Moral VII


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Value4Chain comparte un artículo en el que critica acerca de la gestión y ética y los modelos que se plantean a la hora de tomar decisiones frente a una situación que involucre temas éticos en una empresa.

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Desarrollo Moral VII

  1. 1. British Journal of Management, Vol. 14, 223-235 (2003) Management and Business Ethics: A Critique and Integration of Ethical Decision-making Models Dean Bartlett Management Research Centre, Department of Management and Professional Development, London Metropolitan University, Stapleton House, 277-281 HoUoway Road, London N7 8HN, UK email: This paper critically reviews the literature relating to the management of ethics within organizations and identifies, in line with other authors, a gap hetween theory and practice in the area. It highlights the role of management (hoth as an academic discipline and from a practitioner perspective) in hridging this gap and views managers, with their sense of individual ethical agency, as a key locus of ethics within organizations. The paper aims to address the theory-practice gap by surveying the business ethics literature in order to identify, draw together and integrate existing theory and research, with a particular emphasis upon models of ethical decision-making and their relationship to work values. Such an endeavour is necessary, not only because of the relative neglect of management practice by husiness ethics researchers, hut also hecause of the current lack of integration in the field of business ethics itself. The paper outlines some of the main methodological challenges in the area and suggests how some of these may be overcome. Finally, it concludes with a number of suggestions as to how the theory-practice gap can be addressed through the development of a research agenda, hased upon the previous work reviewed. Introduction Back in the mid-to-late 1990s, Shipley argued that 'we are, in the West, experiencing a turn back to ethics' in organizations (Shipley, 1998, p. 1). iiowever scandals such as that involving the American company Enron continue to occur. It has been argued that this is because business is inherently unethical because of its emphasis upon profit-seeking (Sudhir and Murthy, 2001). In- deed, the enterprise of business ethics is some- times seen as a contradiction in terms - Werhane and Freeman (1999) describe what they call 'the joke about business ethics' (p. 1); 'It must be an oxymoron', or 'I didn't know business had any ethics'. While such ideas have been convincingly rejected on both academic and pragmatic grounds (e.g. Kaler, 2000), the limited impact of the ethical turn in organizations remains to be explained. In this paper, I argue that the main reason for such a failure is the gap that exists between theory and practice in the field of business ethics. I suggest that this gap can be addressed by the development of an integrated and theoretically coherent account of ethical decision-making and make an initial contribution towards this objective by critically reviewing the ethical decision-making literature and integrating it with the Uterature on work values and moral reasoning. The business ethics literature The business ethics literature contains a number of relatively distinct areas of inquiry. Indeed, some commentators have gone as far as descri- bing the fragmented literature on organizational 2003 British Academy of Management
  2. 2. 224 D. Bartlett ethics as being 'full of controversy' (Werhane and Freeman, 1999, p, 1), containing 'diverse and independent research streams' (Dose, 1997, p, 219), as being in 'considerable disarray' (Castro, 1995, p, 781) and 'theoretically formless and empirically weak' (Nicholson, 1994, p, 581), Furthermore, it has been argued that the field of business ethics as an academic discipline has failed to recognize the complexity and disorder of real-life management practice and has adopted insufficient methods of investigation and inade- quate theoretical and conceptual frameworks (e,g, Bowie, 2000; Maclagan, 1995), Two domi- nant approaches are those of moral philosophy and the psychology of moral development, however these approaches are of only iimited value when it comes to attempting to apply ethical theory to real-life situations (e,g, Cornelius and Gagnon, 1999), The negative impact of such deficiencies is made worse by the relative neglect of ethics within the business school curriculum (e,g. Warren and Tweedale, 2002), giving rise to a situation where large corporations such as Enron continue to behave in unethical ways. The following review divides the existing literature into three main areas: 1) philosophical theories of ethics; 2) cognitive moral development and; 3) work values, moral reasoning and ethical decision-making. In an attempt to ensure suffi- cient breadth of coverage, whilst at the same time maintaining a focus upon managerial aspects, the following three subsections consider each of these in respectively increasing depth of coverage. While the review describes the main theoretical ideas, it attempts also to draw heavily upon the empirical literature as, in line with other re- searchers (e,g, Hosmer, 2000), the current author believes that rigorous empirical evidence provides one of the strongest validations of theory in this complex and contentious field. The philosophy of ethics: ethical theory Ethical theory is generally based upon moral philosophy and may be classified on many different dimensions, however, there are several basic 'types' of moral philosophy which are used in business ethics, such as egoism, utilitarianism, deontology, rights and relativism. Most of the different approaches may be considered as revolving around a focus on either the outcome of a situation (a consequentialist view) or upon the process or means to that outcome (non- consequentialist). Two examples of consequenti- alist or teleological philosophies are egoism and utilitarianism, while non-consequentialist philo- sophies include deontological approaches such as that of Immanuel Kant, While some of Kant's writings are rather esoteric, his theory is often associated with the moral rights and duties of an individual; each person has both the right to expect to be treated according to universal moral laws and the corresponding duty to behave according to that law. The particular moral law according to which people should behave is known as the 'categorical imperative' and Kant proposed several versions of this law which, he claimed, were equivalent although their similarity is sometimes rather difficult to apprehend. In its first form, the categorical imperative states that one should 'act as if the maxim of thy action were to become by thy will a universal law of nature' (Kant, translated 1964), As Velasquez (1988) points out, the categorical imperative may be understood in a far less cumbersome and more readily accessible way by reference to the 'Golden Rule': 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you'. As well as such general theories of ethics, many theories of ethics in particular situations or in relation to particular problems have been pro- posed. The field of applied ethics is, however, too specialist and voluminous to consider in any depth here. Furthermore, the ever-widening theory-practice gap has resulted in what Bowie (1991) calls a 'crisis of legitimacy' in business ethics. Kaler (1999) went even further in his call to dispense entirely with ethical theory. Even if one accepts the importance and achievements of ethical philosophy, the types of universal laws which are proposed as a guide to human behaviour are often difficult to apply in a practical way during the everyday life of organi- zational actors or, indeed, during the academic research process. Of course, depending upon one's view of the 'project' of business ethics, or what it aims to achieve, it could be argued that ethical theory need not concern itself with application to issues or problems, but could simply be about identifying what are good or bad reasons for particular courses of action. Such a view, however, fails to address the pragmatic
  3. 3. Management and Business Ethics 225 concern for the management of organizational ethics (as well as the ecological validity of research into business ethics) because it ignores the actual acting out of ethical incidents within organizations. In any case, many authors (e.g. Bowie, 2000) have concurred with earlier sugges- tions (e.g. Brady and Logsdon, 1988; Randall, 1989) that much of the business ethics Uterature has a misplaced emphasis upon underlying philo- sophical theory and that researchers should focus instead upon the more psychological aspects of business ethics, such as behavioural intentions and the beliefs that shape those intentions. The psychology of ethics: moral development As well as universal moral philosophies, business ethics has made recourse to individual psycholog- ical theories of the development of moral reasoning and, in particular, the work of Lawrence Kohlberg (e.g. 1969). He devised a methodologi- cal approach which persists in the empirical studies of moral and ethical issues and which is based around the responses given by subjects to a series of moral dilemmas, such as that involving a person who stole a drug to save his dying wife because he could not afford to buy it and the inventor of the drug would not give it away because he wanted to make money from his invention. Based upon the responses to dilemmas such as these, Kohlberg developed a six-stage model of cognitive moral development (CMD) which describes an individual's general orienta- tion towards solving moral problems, known as their socio-moral perspective. The theory has been operationalized and research tools that are used to measure Kohlberg's level of socio-moral reasoning, such as the defining issues test (DIT) or the moral judgement interview (MJI), have been adapted specifically for research into busi- ness ethics (e.g. Elm and Weber, 1994). Kohlberg's work has been criticized in relation to its application to business ethics generally (e.g. Marnburg, 2001) and to specific problems in particular, such as its claims of sequential invari- ance and cultural universalism (e.g. Blasi, 1980). The notion of stages has also been disputed and the theory is thought to be biased towards urban Western democratic cultures and gender-biased (e.g. Gilligan, 1982). Furthermore, studies on CMD show generally weak, if statistically significant, links to both ethical decision-making and sub- sequent behaviour. The theory does, at least, provide a teleological account of how an in- dividual may develop morally and a rudimentary understanding of moral reasoning processes. The weaknesses of this approach, however, necessi- tate the drawing together of other strands in the diverse Hterature on organizational ethics if we are to move towards more integrated and practically useful theoretical frameworks. Work values, moral reasoning and ethical decision-making Conrad (1993) problematizes the organizational ethics literature by describing two dominant views. The first of these focuses upon individuals' ethical systems and represents what he calls an 'undersocialised' view of ethics (i.e. one which virtually ignores the social context within which ethical behaviour occurs), while the second focuses upon organizational cultures and repre- sents what he terms an 'oversocialised' concep- tion (i.e. one which attributes ethical behaviour to the social context of the organizational culture, to the neglect of individual psychological factors). From the former point of view, Conrad suggests, ethics lie in the realm of the personal value systems of individual organizational actors and are therefore the unique product of that indivi- dual's life history. From the latter point of view, ethics are considered a component of organiza- tional culture (sometimes referred to in the literature as the ethical or moral climate) and are a product of the socialization process which individuals undergo when being socialized into accepting those particular value-sets. The distinc- tion offered by Conrad is useful in helping categorize and make sense of the business ethics literature as it describes the two main streams of empirical research and theoretical schools of thought in the area. The true locus of organiza- tional ethics occurs, inevitably, somewhere in between these two extremes. However, the lack of a coherent theoretical framework which is able to embrace the complexities of organizational rea- lity at these multiple levels of analysis constitutes a problem for the field in terms of the ecological validity of ethical research and theorising. Un- fortunately, Conrad does not offer any solution
  4. 4. 226 D. Bartlett to the problem he identifies, arguing simply that either extreme is unrealistic and that we are only just beginning to examine the ways in which value-laden problems arise and are dealt with at work. Studies which do examine such problems are now, however, appearing in the literature and other authors have suggested potential solutions to this problem (e.g. Goodwin, 2000). Some writers (e.g. Weber, 1996) have argued that the problem is best overcome by changing the unit of analysis, through focusing upon the 'ethical issue' as the primary phenomenon of interest. Organizational ethics is best understood, argues Weber, not by recourse to individual characteristics on the one hand, or organizational characteristics on the other, but rather by looking at characteristics of the situation itself. Moral reasoning, Weber concludes, is issue-dependent, not deontological (relying upon the individualis- tic application of abstract philosophical theories) or utilitarian (focusing upon the pragmatic organi- zational concern for outcomes). Another potential way of addressing the problem of deciding upon an appropriate level of analysis in the study of organizational ethics presents itself in the form of role-theory. Boatright (1988), for example, has suggested that the type of analysis engendered by the consideration of the roles possessed by organizational actors helps to address the theory-practice gap by intervening between individual and organizational levels of analysis. He presents an overview of the main models of managerial roles that are to be found in the management literature and outlines the relevance of each of them to ethical conduct in organizations, arguing that none of them presents a wholly adequate theoretical account, but that each offers particular insights into the relevance of ethics in a business context. By far the most common approach to address- ing the problem of under- or oversocialized models in the organizational ethics literature is, however, the adoption of an ethical decision- making framework which examines the influence of both individual characteristics (such as personal value-systems) and organizational forces (such as cultural and structural characteristics) upon ethical decision-making (e.g. Beyer and Lutze, 1993; Ferrell and Fraedrich, 1997; Giacolone, Fricher and Beard, 1995; Schlegelmilch and Robertson, 1995; Weber, 1993, 1996). Unfortu- nately, the literature on ethical decision-making has not yet reached a stage of theoretical integration and coherence. The remainder of this paper is, therefore, devoted to a critical review of the available models of ethical decision-making and an integration of this literature with that surrounding work values and moral reasoning. The most widely cited model of ethical decision-making in organizations is that pro- posed by Trevino (1986, 1992) (see Figure 1). The model proposes that ethical decision-making is the result of an interaction between individual and situational components, with the individual's way of thinking about ethical dilemmas (oper- ationalized as their level of CMD) being moder- ated by three individually-based moderators (ego strength, field dependence and locus of control) and three situational moderators (immediate job context, organizational culture and characteris- tics of the work itself). Other models of ethical decision-making have been proposed by various authors (e.g. Bommer, Gratto, Gravander and Tuttle, 1987; Strong and Meyer, 1992), however many of these are too widely focused and attempt to integrate analysis at many different levels. Such 'models' of the decision-making process often fail to give a compelling account of the actual processes in which an individual engages when making decisions about ethical issues and constitute little more than a list of variables which may influence that unexplicated process. Such an interpretation is supported by a review article (Ford and Richardson, 1994) which specifically stated that its purpose was to 'assess which variables are postulated as infiuencing ethical beliefs and decision-making' (p. 205) and which went on to divide those variables into two distinct types; those unique to the individual decision-maker (nationality, religion, sex, age, education, em- ployment and personality) and those which were deemed more situational in nature (referent groups, rewards and sanctions, codes of conduct, type of ethical conflict, organizational culture, industry type and business competitiveness). Most of the empirical research reviewed by Ford and Robertson was questionnaire-based, usually cross-sectional and often attempted to assess the impact of only one or two narrowly-defined variables. Apart from the small number of studies cited in this review which do address such methodological inadequacies, it would appear that little has changed in the intervening period.
  5. 5. Management and Business Ethics 111 Ethical dilemma Cognitions Stage of cognitive moral development Individual Moderators Ego strength Field dependence Locus of control Ethical/ unethical behaviour Situational Moderators Immediate job context Reinforcement Other pressures Organizational culture Normative structure Referent others Obedience to authority Responsibility for consequences Characteristics of the work Role talking Resolution of moral conflict Figure L Trevino's (1986) model of ethical decision-making Source: Reproduced by kind permission of the publisher from Trevino, L. K. (1986). 'Ethical Decision-making in Organisations: A Person-situation Interac- tionist Model', Academy of Management Review, 11(3), pp. 601-617. Copyright Academy of Management. This is the case despite renewed calls for more sophisticated methodologies in the area (e.g. Crane, 1999) and the evident need for research which addresses the decision-making process directly as the central phenomenon of interest, rather than examining factors which may impact upon that process. While a number of other models of ethical decision-making adopt CMD as a central component (e.g. Derry, 1989; Knouse and Giacolone, 1992; Strong and Meyer, 1992), the problems associated with it as described in the previous section, plus its limitations with respect to the types of cognitions it specifies, mean that a more comprehensive description of the constitu- ent cognitions which describe the ethical decision- making process needs to be developed. With respect to the burgeoning literature which already exists on ethical decision-making, there are a host of alternative suggestions as to how best to understand the cognitions involved in moral reasoning. For example, Messick and Bazerman (1996) adopted an experiential perspective, de- scribing three different types of theories - theories about the world, theories about other people and theories about the self-impact upon ethical decision-making. Leidtka (1991), adopted a sense-making approach to ethical decision- making in her study of the diflfering ways in which organizations send conflicting signals, (in the form of contending organizational values) to their managers regarding appropriate behaviour in a given situation and how this impacts upon the ethical decision-making process of managers. She described a two-stage ethical decision- making process consisting of an initial framing of the situation, based upon patterns of sense- making which she referred to as mindsets, followed by an evaluation of alternatives. Liedt- ka's (1989) 'values congruence' framework has received some support in empirical studies, such as Posner and Schmidt's (1993) study of attitudes to work and perceptions of ethical practice.
  6. 6. 228 D. Bartlett While Liedtka's qualitative interview-based research looked at individual infiuences on the ethical decision-making process with respect to confiicting organizational signals, Falkenberg and Herremans' (1995) examined organizational infiuences in terms of formal and informal behavioural control systems (as aspects of the infiuence of organizational culture). They con- cluded that it is the informal systems, that is the 'maze of unspoken rules', which dominate individuals' attempts at resolving ethical issues at work. Harris and Sutton (1995) introduced a specifi- cally experiential factor into their attempt at unravelling the ethical decision-making process using an empirical survey of business executives and MBA students. They adopted a model of ethical decision-making (see Figure 2) originally proposed by Hunt and Vitell (1986) which supplements the usual environmental and indivi- dual attributes which are said to impact upon ethical judgements with wider experiential and cultural infiuences. Knouse and Giacalone (1992) supplement their CMD-based description of the ethical decision- making process with a motivational element, suggesting that the decision-makers' level of cognitive moral development is moderated by the motivational processes described by expec- tancy theory. Expectancy theory relates intended Cultural environment Industry environment Organizational environment Personal experiences Perceived ethical problem Deontological norms Perceived alternatives Perceived consequences Probabilities of consequences Desirability of consequences Importance of stakeholders Deontological evaluations Situational constraints Ethical judgements Intentions Teleologicai evaluation Behaviour Actual consequences Figure 2. Experiential model of ethical deeision-making (Hunt and Vitell, 1986) Source: Reproduced by kind permissioti of the publisher from Hunt, S.D. and S.A.Vitell (1986) 'A General Theory of Marketing Ethics', Journal of Macromarketing, 8(2), pp. 5-16. Copyright Sage Publications Inc.
  7. 7. Management and Business Ethics 229 action to the expectations of the individual in terms of the perceived attractiveness or aversive- ness of the outcomes of the behaviour. Such expectancies are determined by a host of indivi- dual and situational factors similar to those hypothesized to influence the ethical decision- making process. By introducing expectancy-value theory, one moves the analysis beyond a structural- descriptive enterprise and towards the develop- ment of a more wide-ranging, and therefore thorough, understanding of the types of cognitive processes involved in ethical decision-making. There is a growing literature in the area of cognitive styles with respect to ethical decision- making, Mclntyre and Capen (1993), for example, conducted an empirical study using Fleming's (1985) typology of cognitive styles (based upon a classification using the Myers-Briggs typology) and reported that cognitive style can infiuence whether or not one considers an issue to be ethical in nature, that is the initial framing of issues as ethical. Snow and Bloom (1992) also conducted some empirical work on ethical decision-making styles using an initial theoreti- cally-derived group of seven distinct styles (grouped into either ends-oriented or means- oriented styles). They factor analysed managerial responses to questionnaire items indicating which of the seven different styles participants fell into. The results factored out into three bipolar factors, indicating that individuals could hold more than one of the theoretically derived decision-making styles. The tendency of individuals to hold a number of different decision-making styles sug- gests that ethical decision-making is likely to be situation-dependent, as proposed by Weber (1996), Furthermore, this apparent 'multiplicity' of individuals' reasoning processes when engaged in ethical decision-making draws a striking parallel to work conducted in the area of values, particularly with respect to the distinction be- tween espoused and enacted values, and it is to this area that I now turn, Weber (1993) reviewed the literature relating personal value systems to moral reasoning and concluded that, while there appears to be an empirical basis for exploring the relationships between personal values and moral reasoning, the understanding of these relationships is 'signifi- cantly underdeveloped' (p, 443), He examined the relationship between Rockeach's (1973) classifi- cation of personal values and Kohlberg's stages of moral reasoning and developed a 2 x 2 matrix of four different value orientations/moral reason- ing combinations. This research did not, how- ever, extend its assessment into the cognitive reasoning processes actually used by individuals to reach a decision. Dose (1997) provides an extensive review of the work values literature and attempts to integrate this with the ethics literature with the goal of providing an organizing framework for research. Again, she proposes a 2x2 classification of values and morals and offers a definition of work values (based on logic and her extensive review of previous theory) which relates ethics and work values to one another. She defines work values as 'evaluative standards relating to work or to the work environment by which individuals discern what is "right" or assess the importance of preferences' (p, 227), Fritzsche (1991) developed a model of ethical decision-making incorporating personal values, which was based upon a review of the empirical literature. The model portrays the set of personal values of the decision-maker as the dominant individual-level input into the decision-making process, which are mediated by organizational culture. Subsequent empirical work (Fritzsche, 1995) demonstrated the association of differing personal value systems with ethical and unethical responses to ethical dilemmas. However, the cross-sectional design of that particular study did not establish causality. Furthermore, the decision-making model described by Fritzsche fails to specify fully exactly how the culture mediates individual personal values and its description of the decision-making process is limited to listing the dimensions along which alternative solutions may be evaluated, A number of other empirical studies have examined the relationship between individual or personal values and ethical decision-making, Barnett and Karson (1987) presented a series of vignettes to managers and found that, in most cases, the decision could be predicted by the personal values of the respondents, the excep- tions to this finding involving relatively minor, everyday issues. They also found that the propensity toward ethical action appears to be situationally specific and is likely to decrease in situations where one's actions would not be discovered by others. Finally, those whose personal value systems were relatively more associated
  8. 8. 230 D. Bartlett with economical than ethical or political issues were found to become more ethical as the level of responsibihty increased. Rosenberg (1987) also examined the effect of managers' value systems on ethical decision-making behaviour using a complex international management game to simulate a competitive business environment. He found that the personal value systems of managers were subordinated to the goals of the company and any confiict between the two was resolved on the basis of utility rather than on ethical or moral grounds. This would appear to disagree with the findings of Barnett and Karsen. However, the study was related particularly to the issue of questionable payments and the decision was also performed in a group (rather than an individual) context, thereby making comparison between the two studies problematic. Allen and Davis (1993) demonstrated a positive relationship between individual values and pro- fessional ethics, but not between professional ethics and actual behaviour, however the study does not allow any inferences about the direction of the personal-professional value association to be drawn. Olivette (1995) found no relationship between the personal value systems of individuals, defined as their ethical orientation, and their decisions as to whether a number of marketing scenarios were perceived as being unethical or not, however other researchers (e.g. Badaracco and Webb, 1995; Finegan, 1994) have presented results which suggest that an individual's personal values constitute one of the key resources upon which they draw during decision-making in a business context. Still other researchers have focused upon the mediating role of other personahty variables in the decision-making process. Terpstra, Rozell and Robinson (1993), for example, found that interpersonal competitiveness, locus of control and religious beliefs exert an important infiuence on an individual's level of ethicahty with respect to their responses to vignettes concerned with insider deahng, while Sparks and Hunt (1998) examined the infiuence of ethical sensitivity. A final stream of empirical research which is worthy of examination is far more descriptive in nature and seeks to identify the types of everyday moral issues that managers face and how they deal with them. Goodwin (2000), for example, conducted research in eight business and pubUc- sector organizations in the UK. She reported that respondents in her sample felt that there seemed little alternative but to go along with decisions which they felt were unethical, except in cases where they suffered a severe crisis of conscience. As Rosenthal and Bucholz (2000) argue, prag- matic research such as this provides an important contribution to our understanding of business ethics because it allows direct comparison be- tween theory and practice. The findings of Goodwin were largely congruent with those of an earlier study by Waters, Bird and Chant (1986). They conducted a series of open-ended interviews with managers and found that moral issues are a significant aspect of everyday managerial life and that such issues may be classified as relating to the relationships that exist between managers and employees, peers and superiors, customers, suppliers and other stake- holders. They found that managers tend to think about issues in moral terms either when there is a clear moral standard that they feel is relevant or else when they feel that the transaction empowers them to impact upon the well-being of others. In the second of their series of three papers. Bird and Waters (1987) outlined seven main moral standards that managers use in thinking about moral issues which they identified from the analysis of interview data. The seven standards were: 1) honesty in communication; 2) fair treatment; 3) special consideration; 4) fair competition; 5) organizational responsibility; 6) corporate social responsibility and; 7) respect for the law. As they point out, these standards have the cultural status of a social convention, but as such are invoked by individuals on an uneven basis. They completed their series of research papers with an article outlining a typology of morally questionable acts based upon the role of the manager and consisting of non-role, role-failure, role-distortion and role-assertion (Waters and Bird, 1989). Finally, Brigley (1994) conducted a survey of 712 managers for the Institute of Management and reported a wide array of descriptive findings. Perhaps not surprisingly around 90% of respondents claimed that they adopt an ethical stance and that they were prepared to speak out on ethical issues. Over 80% of managers reported that they used their own moral values in making ethical decisions, while around half reported that their organiza- tions had ethical codes in place. Where ethical tensions did arise, they were mainly concerned
  9. 9. Management and Business Ethics 231 with pressures arising from harshly competitive climates and the need for bottom-line perfor- mance. Defining a research agenda Weber (1993, p. 436) identifies a common limitation of most studies which have examined the relationship between personal values and moral reasoning: 'the recognition, but under- development, of a reasoning process which translates personal values into behavioural ac- tion'. He continues that 'personal values are often left unexplored and indirectly associated with the specific forms . . . of moral reasoning' (p. 436). Researchers often fail, therefore, to fully capture the cognitive processes which constitute ethical decision-making in the workplace by making this 'leap from values to decision without emphasiz- ing the important intermediary step of reasoning' (Weber, 1993, p. 456). Similarly, by focusing only upon the level of moral reasoning, many studies fail to provide an explanation of why such reasons were selected. By adopting a decision- making framework, it is possible to embrace both the value orientations of the individual and the reasoning process adopted during decision- making and thereby to provide a fuller explana- tion of ethical decision-making at work. In order to achieve such broadly integrative coverage, without at the same time losing theoretical richness, it is necessary to pay particular atten- tion to the development of appropriate research designs and methods. In a critical review of research methodology in business ethics, Randall and Gibson (1990) concluded that 'the methodology in business ethics research is clearly in need of improvement' (p. 468). Describing the whole research process from theory, through hypothesizing, conceptua- lizing, operationalizing and sampling to data collection and analysis, they observed that most research in business ethics is lacking in theory, is conceptually confused, shows little concern for validity or reliability, uses predominantly survey methods of data collection which often consist of ambiguous or vague questions and usually uses only one or two variables in data analytic procedures. Less than 5% of the articles reviewed used in-person interviews as the primary method of data collection. Other techniques included laboratory-based research, computer simulations and ethnographic observations. A further pro- blem concerns the use of scales and measures which, as Mudrack and Mason (1995) point out, are usually built by individual researchers to measure whatever theoretical constructs they have decided to employ and which, therefore, do not permit comparison between different studies and the accumulation of knowledge. Researchers could avoid some of these weak- nesses by steering away from the construction of scales or instruments for measuring pre-defined theoretical constructs which are, themselves, often of questionable status. Similarly, at the data analysis stage, researchers can draw from a broad range of theoretical insights derived from the literature, without at the same time becoming too closely tied to particular operationalizations of theoretical variables favoured by any one particular theorist. Given the lack of any coherent and widely accepted theoretical base, the efforts at theoretical integration which are still required and, therefore, the necessarily exploratory nature of research in the area, it is suggested that qualitative methods offer a most appropriate way in which to go about obtaining data to support or refute the existing theoretical schemes reviewed earlier. Marshall and Rossman (1989) identify the circumstances under which qualitative research is appropriate as: first, when there is a need to better understand complex interactions, tacit processes and often hidden beliefs and values; second, in exploratory investigations when the relevant variables have not yet been identified (or, I would argue in the case of organizational ethics, have been identified too early and unquestion- ingly by some researchers); third, in areas where there does not exist much of a conceptual scheme; fourth, when quality, depth and richness of data is required to reveal valuable explanations of process and, finally, in developing more accurate measures or indicators of concepts. Most of these conditions apply to research in the area of business ethics and, as a qualitative approach is also useful in exploring the cognitive processes which intervene between reasoning and action, it therefore constitutes perhaps the most fruitful method of inquiry in the area at present. A further justification for focusing upon qualitative methods of data collection and analysis concerns the nature of the subject
  10. 10. 232 D. Bartlett matter, that is concerning personal value systems and ethical reasoning, which is inherently sub- jective and experiential; as Blake and Carroll (1989) state, quite simply, 'when confronted with an ethical dilemma, no two people think in exactly the same way about the right thing to do' (p. 99). In Hne with other researchers who advocate a move towards more experiential methods in the study of business ethics (e.g. Crane, 1999), it is argued that the nature of ethical decision-making prescribes the use of such techniques which provide a valuable, but underutilized, way of closing the theory-practice gap. Furthermore, they provide a mechanism for addressing concerns about validity in ethics research as they are sensitive to how people use various accounts of their decision-making to justify or understand their own ethical position. This is significant because, as Weber (1996) suggests, the framing of ethical issues and the moral rationales used by individuals to construct an issue as 'ethical' influences the outcomes of ethical decision-making in the work place. Beyer and Lutze (1993) suggest that ethical discourse often concerns things 'that matter to people and that may be costly to them or others in various ways [and that] people will not always tell others their true values, nor act according to the values they profess' (p. 34). They compare the difference between espoused and enacted values to Argyris' (1976) distinction between espoused theories versus theories-in-use and Mintzberg's (1978) distinction between intended and realized strategy. With respect to gathering verbal information about ethical issues from managers, either during interviews or by observing communications with- in an organization. Bird, Westley and Waters (1989) point out that managers often use moral expressions for a variety of reasons, some of which are problem-solving or functional, but some of which are dysfunctional. They analysed discourse from a series of interviews and identi- fied the sub-narratives within the discourse which referred to several different 'uses' of moral talk by managers. While they offer no particular advice with respect to methodology, they do imply that the methods chosen to conduct research into business ethics should be sensitive to the different uses of moral talk by managers. In order to achieve this sensitivity, it is necessary to consider the nature of ethical discourse and attempt to build-in mechanisms into the data collection and analysis procedures which recognise the implicit nature of values and beliefs and the associated threats to validity and reliability, including that of socially desirable responding. This latter concern has been considered in relation to some of the more quantitative research approaches (e.g. Randall and Gibson, 1990), but less so with respect to qualitative inquiry (e.g. Goodwin, 2000). Beyer and Lutze (1993) have, at least, suggested a number of methodological ap- proaches which help alleviate the problem of how explicit, conscious or accessible values may be to individual subjects (such as observation, analysis of symbolic behaviours and non-directive interviewing) and such techniques may also prove useful in helping validate findings in the face of the potential threat of social desirability. The nature of ethical discourse is examined in an interesting and scholarly edited volume entitled The Ethical Nexus (Conrad, 1993). As Conrad points out in the introduction to the book, 'it is through discourse that individuals develop their own views of morality; through discourse that organizations develop and incul- cate core values and ethical codes; and through discourse that incongruities . . . are managed and contradictions . . . negotiated' (p. 2). He goes on, in the first chapter of the book, to point out that 'unfortunately, the organisational ethics literature is largely devoid of discussions of value-laden discourse' (p. 18). Notwithstanding the small number of studies reviewed in the previous section and while it is possible to find the occasional use of discourse theory in the empirical literature (e.g. de Graaf, 2001), it is hoped that the call made for such approaches in the current paper will go some small way towards rectifying this situation. A further factor to consider in developing a rationale for a future research agenda concerns the causes of the current disarray of the business ethics field which are due to forces which may be labelled 'the sociology of science', such as its relative youth as an academic discipline, its search for legitimacy and the claims of various parties as to the justification of their role as 'experts'. With respect to the role of management in this field, the preceding review would agree with other commentators in the area (e.g. Kaler, 2000), that management is well-placed to provide a rich and substantive contribution in terms of
  11. 11. Management and Business Ethics 233 the development of the type of decision-making framework described above with its ability to address issues at both the individual and the organizational level of analysis. This is what future research must aim to achieve through theory development, testing and further integra- tion of the literatures which have been drawn together here and by the adoption of methods that are sensitive to both the 'messy' nature of real-life management practice and the nature of ethical discourse. Bowie (2001) has argued that academics risk becoming redundant unless they seek out and form closer alliances with practi- tioners in the area and such an enterprise is therefore essential if management academics are to retain a role in the management of ethics within organizations and help close the theory- practice gap. Conclusion Although theoretical bases for the study of business ethics have been offered in the form of both moral philosophies and the psychology of moral development, these approaches are only of limited value when it comes to attempting to apply ethical theory to real-life situations (e.g. Bowie, 2000; Cornelius and Gagnon, 1999). In this connection, Maclagan (1995) has suggested that business ethics researchers need to recognize the complexity and disorder of real-life manage- ment practice and adopt methods of investigation and theoretical and conceptual frameworks that allow for this, rather than attempting to borrow from the abstract concepts of philosophical ethics theory. The limited description of the ethical decision-making process offered by Kohlberg's stages of CMD, coupled with the theoretical criticisms and limitations of this approach (e.g. Marnburg, 2001) also make this a less than satisfactory theoretical framework for under- standing ethical decision-making at work. 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