• October 17th, 2011
  • Posted by athanne

Understanding Ethical Decision Making

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It is assumed that people make difficult decisions in Understanding Ethical Decision Making within an organization in the same way they resolve difficult issues in their personal lives. Within the context of organizations, few managers or employees have the freedom to decide ethical issues independent of workplace pressures. Scholars have attempted to explain the Ethical Decision Making process in organizations by examining pressures such as the influence of co-workers and organizational culture and individual; level factors such as personal moral philosophy. Business Training in Kenya has more articles.

Understanding Ethical Decision Making1 Understanding Ethical Decision Making

Understanding Ethical Decision Making

Framework for Understanding Ethical Decision Making

  • Ethical issue intensity

One of the first factors to influence the Ethical Decision Making process is how important or relevant a decision maker perceives an issue to be i.e. the intensity of the issue.  Intensity of an issue is influenced by the values, beliefs, needs and perceptions of the decision maker, the special characteristics of the situation and the personal pressures weighing on the decision.

The management can influence ethical issue intensity through rewards and punishments, codes of conduct and organizational values. Managers can affect the perceived importance of ethical issues through positive and negative incentives. Identifying ethical issues that employees might encounter in Ethical Decision Making and educating them is significant in developing employee’s ability to make decisions that enhance organizational ethics.

  • Individual factors

One of the greatest challenges facing the study of organizational ethics involves the role of individuals and their values.  Individual’s personal moral philosophy and stage of moral development in Ethical Decision Making  are Two significant factors in workplace integrity.

  • Personal moral philosophy

Ethical conflict occurs when people encounter situations that they cannot easily control or resolve.  In such situations, people tend to base their Ethical Decision Making on their own principles of right or wrong and act accordingly in their daily lives. Moral principles are defined as the principles or rules that individuals use to decide what is right or wrong and are often cited to justify decisions or explain behavior.

People learn these principles and rules through socialization by family members, social groups, religion and formal education.  There is no universal agreement on the correct moral philosophy to use in resolving ethical and legal issues in the workplace. Employees may apply different moral philosophies in different decision situations. Depending on the situation, people may even change their value structure or moral philosophy when making decisions in Ethical Decision Making.

Stages of Moral Development in Understanding Ethical Decision Making

Kohlberg contended that different people make different decisions in Ethical Decision Making when confronted with ethical situations because they are at different stages of cognitive moral development. He believed that people progress in Ethical Decision Making through the following three stages;

  1. The pre-conventional stage of moral development in which individuals focus on their own needs and desires
  2. The conventional stage of moral development in which individuals focus on group-centered values and conforming to expectations
  3. The principled stage of moral development in which individuals are concerned with upholding the basic rights, values and rules of society


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  • Organizational factors

Decisions in Ethical Decision Making in the workplace are guided by an organization’s culture, the influence of co-workers and supervisors and opportunity.

  • Organizational culture

Culture refers to a shared set of values, beliefs, norms, goals and ways to solve problems. Although most organizational cultures reinforce ethics and Ethical Decision Making, some create a culture that supports unethical decisions e.g. police force. If a company derives most of its profits from unethical or illegal activities, individuals who join such an organization will have a difficult time surviving unless they too participate in these activities.

  • Influence of co-workers and supervisors

Managers and co-workers help people with unfamiliar tasks and provide advice and information daily in both formal and informal contexts. In a work group environment employees may be subject to the phenomenon of group think, going along with group Ethical Decision Making even when those decisions counter their own values.  Supervisors can also have a negative effect on conduct by setting a bad example or by failing to supervise subordinates.

Conclusion on Understanding Ethical Decision Making

When conditions in an organization provide rewards or simply the good feeling from a job well done, the opportunity for unethical conduct may be encouraged or discouraged e.g. a company without a policy to punish employees who violate rules provides an opportunity for unethical behavior in Ethical Decision Making.

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