Constructs and Measures
Edited by Bradley R. Agle, David W. Hart, Jeffery A. Thompson and Hilary M. Hendricks
Chapter 3: Ethical decision making
Social scientists have long been interested in finding the causal connections between cognitions and behaviors. More recently, and largely due to the major scandals in business and industry, management scholars and practitioners have developed a particular interest in finding out what cognitive and emotional factors lead to (un)ethical behaviors in organizations (see, e.g., Ford and Richardson, 1994; Jones, 1991; O’Fallon and Butterfield, 2005; Tenbrunsel and Smith-Crowe, 2008; Trevi-o, 1986; Trevi-o, Weaver, and Reynolds, 2006). The research undertaken in this vein has been labeled as either ethical decision making or behavioral business ethics (see O’Fallon and Butterfield, 2005; Tenbrunsel and Smith-Crowe, 2008; Trevi-o et al., 2006, among others for a review of the literature). Ethical decision making, in the context of this book, is defined as the mental processes resulting in the selection of a course of action from among several alternative scenarios when the issue at hand involves an ethical component. Ethical decision making is ethical “not because the resulting decision is necessarily consistent with ethical principles or norms …, but because moral considerations are present during the decision-making process” (Tenbrunsel and Smith-Crowe, 2008, p._565). Ethical decision making connects all processes, from encountering an ethical issue to reflecting on one’s judgment or action. This chapter, therefore, includes the constructs that deal with those processes. For conceptual ease, we have organized the chapter around the three traditional components of the ethical-decision-making process: awareness, decision making, and behavioral action.
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