Investigating the Process of Ethical Decision-Making: How Moral Agency and Moral Identity Influence Moral Imagination.
AuthorRoberts, Victoria Louise
AffiliationMelbourne Business School
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2015 Dr. Victoria Louise Roberts
In four experiments, I investigate how moral imagination is enhanced or inhibited by the personal attributes of the decision maker and the characteristics of the environment within which the ethical decision is made. Specifically, I examine how moral identity and four kinds of moral agency that are derived from external sources (role autonomy, ethical organizational culture) and internal sources (power, moral efficacy) affect the degree of moral imagination in response to an ethical dilemma. Moral imagination is a creative form of ethical decision-making that requires decision makers to generate multiple alternative and novel courses of action, to apply multiple moral reasoning strategies, and to consider the consequences for multiple stakeholders. Results show that people in an unethical organizational culture are more likely to generate a greater number of novel courses of actions than people in an ethical organizational culture; high power people are more likely to use a greater number of moral reasoning strategies to determine the least likely course of action, and to consider the consequences for a greater number of stakeholders than low power people; and high moral efficacy people are more likely to generate a greater number of initial actions, and to consider the consequences for a greater number of stakeholders than low moral efficacy people. Moral identity (symbolization) moderates the relationship between role autonomy and the number of moral reasoning strategies used to determine the most likely course of action; moral identity (internalization) moderates the relationship between an organizational culture and the number of novel actions generated and the number of stakeholders considered; and moral identity (internalization) moderates the relationship between moral efficacy and the number of initial actions generated in response to an ethical dilemma. The moderating effect of moral identity internalization and symbolization on the relationship between moral agency (role autonomy, organizational culture, moral efficacy) and some dimensions of moral imagination are stronger for low moral identity people than high moral identity people. I gained three overall insights into the individual and situational factors that shape the process of ethical decision-making. The first insight is that some, but not all sources of moral agency directly affect, or interact with moral identity to affect, the degree of moral imagination in response to an ethical dilemma. A potential boundary condition for the effect of moral agency on moral imagination is the extent to which moral agency provides information about moral standards (i.e., contains moral content), and provides information about the agent‘s behavior in relation to those moral standards (i.e., contains a feedback mechanism). The second insight is that the moderating effect of moral identity on the relationship between moral identity and moral imagination is stronger for people with low rather than high moral identity. In other words, the experience of moral agency (e.g., organizational culture and moral efficacy) is more effective at increasing the level of moral imagination for people who do not define themselves as moral (i.e., low moral identity) than people who already define themselves as moral (i.e., high moral identity). The third insight is that moral agency (e.g., organizational culture and moral efficacy) and moral identity have a greatest impact on the dimensions of moral imagination that require a person to generate multiple alternative and novel courses of action, and to consider the consequences for multiple stakeholders.
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