Corporations like Enron that overemphasize outcomes such as profits might make their leaders blind to ethics and limit their abilities to recognize ethical or moral issues when they surface, according to a University of Washington study.
Scott Reynolds, an assistant professor of business ethics in the UW Business School, examined why some managers recognize a situation as involving moral issues whiles others do not. His research demonstrates it is not always obvious when an issue has moral overtones – people can and do disagree about whether an issue involves ethics.
In two separate studies, Reynolds asked 96 senior-level managers to rate five scenarios involving varying degrees of ethical violations designed to measure their moral awareness. Previous research has shown that when facing ethical dilemmas, individuals either focus on the ends (consequences such as happiness, harm and profits) or the means (such as don’t lie, don’t cheat and don’t steal) as they search for a solution. The study, published in the current issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology, found that this preference also influences an individual’s capacity to simply identify a problem as an ethical issue.
Nancy Gardner | EurekAlert!
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