Our research reading this week looks at moral emotions and ethical decision-making.
Moral emotions and corporate psychopathy: A review
While psychopathy research has been growing for decades, a relatively new area of research is corporate psychopathy. Corporate psychopaths are simply psychopaths working in organisational settings. They may be attracted to the financial, power, and status gains available in senior positions and can cause considerable damage within these roles from a manipulative interpersonal style to large-scale fraud.
Based upon prior studies, authors Walker and Jackson analyse psychopathy research pertaining to 23 moral emotions classified according to functional quality (positive vs. negative signal) and target (self vs. other). Based upon this review, the authors suggest that psychopaths are high in moral emotions associated with other-directed negative signals, low in self-directed negative signals, and low in other-directed positive signals. The writers found no empirical articles related to self-directed positive signals.
This understanding of the specific moral emotion deficits of corporate psychopaths provides greater theoretical understanding and practical implications of knowing which individuals not to promote, though more research is needed on moral emotions that are faked for manipulative reasons.
Walker, B.R. & Jackson, C.J. 2017. Moral Emotions and Corporate Psychopathy: A Review.
Journal of Business Ethics, 141(4), 797–810.
Ethical leaders and their followers: The transmission of moral identity and moral attentiveness
In the expanding field of ethical leadership research, little attention has been paid to the association between ethical leaders’ ethical characteristics (beyond personality) and perceived ethical leadership, and, more importantly, the potential influence of ethical leadership on followers’ ethical characteristics.
In this study, authors Zhu et al. tested a theoretical model based upon social cognitive theory (Bandura, 1986) to examine leaders’ moral identity and moral attentiveness as antecedents of perceived ethical leadership, and follower moral identity and moral attentiveness as outcomes of ethical leadership. Based upon data from 89 leaders and 460 followers in China, collected at two points in time, the authors found that leaders’ moral identity and moral attentiveness are associated with follower’s perceptions of ethical leadership. Ethical leadership is, in turn, associated with their followers’ moral identity and moral attentiveness.
Zhu et al. found furthermore that ethical leadership mediates the effect of leaders’ moral identity on followers’ moral identity, but not the effect of leaders’ moral attentiveness on followers’ moral attentiveness. The authors discuss the findings, theoretical contributions, practical implications, and future research.
Zhu, W., Treviño, L., & Zheng, X. (2016). Ethical Leaders and Their Followers: The Transmission of Moral Identity and Moral Attentiveness.
Business Ethics Quarterly, 26(1), 95-115.
Emotional intelligence and consumer ethics: The mediating role of personal moral philosophies
Research on the antecedents of consumers’ ethical beliefs has mainly examined cognitive variables and has (with a few exceptions) neglected the relationships among affective variables and consumer ethics. However, research in moral psychology indicates that moral emotions have a significant role in ethical decision-making (Haidt, Handbook of affective sciences, 2003). Thus, the ability to experience, perceive and regulate emotions should influence consumers’ ethical decision-making.
These abilities, which are components of emotional intelligence (Davies et al., J Person Soc Psychol, 1998), are examined as antecedents to consumers’ ethical beliefs in this study. Five hundred Australian consumers participated in this study by completing an online questionnaire that included measures of emotional intelligence, consumers’ ethical beliefs and personal moral philosophies (idealism and relativism, Forsyth, J Person Soc Psychol, 1980). Results demonstrate that the ability to appraise and express emotions in oneself is directly negatively related to beliefs regarding actively benefiting from illegal actions as a consumer, passively benefiting at the expense of the seller and actively benefiting from questionable but legal actions as a consumer. The ability to appraise and express emotions in oneself is directly positively related to beliefs regarding ‘doing-good’ (pro-social) actions.
The ability to appraise and recognise emotions in others is also directly positively related to beliefs regarding ‘doing-good’ actions as well as pro-environmental buying actions. The effects of the different components of emotional intelligence on consumers’ ethical beliefs are (in most cases) mediated by personal moral philosophies. This study demonstrates the relationship between emotional intelligence and consumer ethics and highlights the interplay of affect and cognition in consumers’ ethical decision-making.
Chowdhury, R.M.M.I. 2017. Emotional Intelligence and Consumer Ethics: The Mediating Role of Personal Moral Philosophies.
Journal of Business Ethics, 142(3), 527–548.
Accounting for proscriptive and prescriptive morality in the workplace: The double-edged sword effect of mood on managerial ethical decision making
This article provides a conceptual framework for studying the influence of mood on managerial ethical decision making. Authors Noval and Stahl draw on mood-congruency theory and the affect infusion model to propose that mood influences managerial ethical decision making through deliberate and conscious assessments of the moral intensity of an ethical issue.
By accounting for proscriptive and prescriptive morality—i.e., harmful and prosocial behaviour, respectively—the authors demonstrate that positive and negative mood may have asymmetrical and paradoxical effects on ethical decision making. Specifically, the analysis suggests that individuals in a positive mood will be more likely to engage in prosocial behaviour but less likely to refrain from activities that have harmful consequences for others, whereas individuals in a negative mood will be more likely to avoid activities that put others at risk or harm but at the same time less prone to engaging in activities that have positive consequences for others.
Importantly, the writers account for the context within which managers make their decisions by examining how situational strength may moderate the influence of mood on managerial ethical decision making. Finally, Noval and Stahl discuss how organisations can leverage the double-edged sword effect of mood on ethical decision making and prevent, control and manage the risk of unethical decision making on the part of managers.
Noval, L.J. & Stahl, G.K. 2017. Accounting for Proscriptive and Prescriptive Morality in the Workplace: The Double-Edged Sword Effect of Mood on Managerial Ethical Decision Making.
Journal of Business Ethics, 142(3), 589–602.
Intuition, analysis and reflection in business ethics
The paper aims to draw together two ideas that have figured in different strands of discussion in business ethics: the ideas of intuition and of reflection. They are considered in company with the third, complementary, idea of analysis. It is argued that the interplay amongst these is very important in business ethics. The relationship amongst the three ideas can be understood by reference to parts of modern cognitive psychology, including dual-process theory and the Social Intuitionist Model. Intuition can be misleading when based on fast and frugal heuristics, and reasoning needs social exchange if it is to support moral judgment effectively, but in the complex institutional environment of business, reflection and analysis can underpin social communication and feedback to develop sound intuition.
Reflection and analysis are both more deliberate, systematic judgment processes than intuition, but are distinguished by the fact that reflection embraces hypothetical thinking and imagination, while analysis is careful, step-by-step reasoning. Examples of business ethics problems illustrate the need for both processes, and also suggest how they themselves can be enhanced in the same social exchange process that underpins the development of good intuition.
Provis, C. 2017. Intuition, analysis and reflection in business ethics.
Journal of Business Ethics, 140(1), 5–15.
Sāttvika leadership: An Indian model of positive leadership
The author proposes a leadership theory with moral concerns at its core. Sāttvika leadership (SL) is defined as a set of purposive leader actions comprising knowledge-driven cooperation that are initiated on the basis of positive and reasonably accurate assumptions and executed through morally responsible and sustainably fruitful means to secure the flourishing of followers and the collective. SL enhances psychological capital, psychological empowerment, and work engagement of followers while developing them into morally better persons. It enhances their trust on the leader and fellow followers. Further, it develops ethical climate of the organisation.
Alok, K. 2017. Sāttvika Leadership: An Indian Model of Positive Leadership.
Journal of Business Ethics, 142(1), 117–138.
Contemplative leadership: The possibilities for the ethics of leadership theory and practice
In this paper, authors Grandy and Sliw offer a conceptualisation of leadership as contemplative. Drawing on MacIntyre’s perspective on virtue ethics and Levinas’ and Gilligan’s work on the ethics of responsibility and care, they propose contemplative leadership as virtuous activity; reflexive, engaged, relational, and embodied practice that requires knowledge from within context and practical wisdom.
More than simply offering another way to conceptualise the ethics of leadership (e.g., what leaders ought to do), this research contributes to understanding the ethics of leadership in practice. Empirically, Grandy and Sliw analyse the narratives of those in positions of formal authority and other organisational members in churches.
The authors illustrate contemplative leadership as driven by a good purpose, derived from the unique organisational and broader societal context in which leadership occurs, and grounded in an ethical concern for the other. Contemplative leadership accounts for the complexity of experience and is discerned in mundane and everyday practices. They conclude with the implications for leadership theory, practice, and education.
Grandy, G. & Sliwa, M. 2017. Contemplative Leadership: The Possibilities for the Ethics of Leadership Theory and Practice.
Journal of Business Ethics, 143(3), 423–440.