Exploring Antecedents Of Unethical Business Decisions

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Genevieve O'Connor
Mohammad Nejad
Hooman Estelami

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Abstract

Adhering to recent arguments that unethical decision making is driven by the underlying psychological processes, the purpose of this study is to investigate the role of individual psychographics (i.e., cognitive style, decision confidence, emotional intelligence, and attitude toward risk) in ethical decision making within a business context. Using a novel approach, the researchers capture ethical decision making using a computer-simulated market context and couple the results with survey data. The results of the regression analysis reveal that an individual’s cognitive style, decision confidence, emotional intelligence, and attitude toward risk play a significant role in ethical decision making. Participants with an analytical cognitive style were less likely to engage in unethical means to accomplish business objectives compared to those with intuitive or adaptive cognitive styles. Similarly, greater confidence in decision making, higher emotional intelligence, and a greater preference for risk were also found to increase the chances that an individual avoids engaging in unethical decision making. Finally, the effect of cognitive style was found to be stronger than the other factors examined in this research. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.

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