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Saturday, August 7, 2021

Character-Infused Ethical Decision Making

Nguyen, B., Crossan, M. 
J Bus Ethics (2021). 


Despite a growing body of research by management scholars to understand and explain failures in ethical decision making (EDM), misconduct prevails. Scholars have identified character, founded in virtue ethics, as an important perspective that can help to address the gap in organizational misconduct. While character has been offered as a valid perspective in EDM, current theorizing on how it applies to EDM has not been well developed. We thus integrate character, founded in virtue ethics, into Rest’s (1986) EDM model to reveal how shifting attention to the nature of the moral agent provides critical insights into decision making more broadly and EDM specifically. Virtue ethics provides a perspective on EDM that acknowledges and anticipates uncertainties, considers its contextual constraints, and contemplates the development of the moral agent. We thus answer the call by many scholars to integrate character in EDM in order to advance the understanding of the field and suggest propositions for how to move forward. We conclude with implications of a character-infused approach to EDM for future research.

From the Conclusion

As described at the outset, misconduct occurs in every facet of organizational life from the individual to the collective, at a localized and global scale, and covers inappropriate action in the private (2008 financial crisis), public/government (Panama Papers), academic institutions (Varsity Blues Scandal), and even touches not-for-profit organizations (IOC doping scandal). Character highlights the fact that misconduct often arises from “too much of a good thing” (Antonakis et al., 2017); when one or a set of character dimensions are privileged over the others, leading to deficiencies in those undervalued dimensions. For example, those who contributed to the financial crisis and the Panama Paper scandal were likely high on drive but deficient in justice and humanity. Thus, future research could insert character into the equation to better understand the nature of misconduct.