Managers’ moral decision-making patterns over time: A multidimensional approach

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Authors: J. Kujala, A. Lämsä, K. Penttilä

Publication Year: 2011


Journal: Journal of Business Ethics

Volume: 100

Issue: 2

Categories: Decision Making, Organizational Change, Decision Making


Taking multidimensional ethics scale approach, this article describes an empirical survey of top managers’ moral decision-making patterns and their change from 1994 to 2004 during morally problematic situations in the Finnish context. The survey questionnaire consisted of four moral dilemmas and a multidimensional scale with six ethical dimensions: justice, deontology, relativism, utilitarianism, egoism and female ethics. The managers evaluated their decision-making in the problems using the multidimensional ethics scale. Altogether 880 questionnaires were analysed statistically. It is concluded that relying on the utilitarian principles is a core ethical evaluation criterion amongst top business managers in Finland. This study proves that managers’ moral decision-making patterns change over time. According to the results of this research, managers’ moral decision-making became more multidimensional during the study period. The change is explained by (1) the inclusion of female ethics items in the scale which allows managers to show more diversity in their decisionmaking, (2) the change in the Finnish economic context from depression to economic prosperity and growth during the study period, which is conducive to the spread of post materialist values, such as the importance of social relations and (3) the increasing public discussion of the importance ethical issues in business