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Ethical Coping: Deep and Shallow Approaches to Ethical Choice

This dissertation investigates the cognitive processes businesspeople use to resolve ethical dilemmas. I assert that to accurately represent the ethical decision making process, it is necessary to move beyond ethical decision making models that rely solely on rational choice and utility theory. I develop a behavioral model of ethical decision making that extends and improves upon existing models in two ways. First, I apply dual-process cognition theories to account for the fact that not all decisions are made in a deliberative and effortful manner (which I call deep choice). At times decisions are made based on intuition, heuristics, stereotypes, and other non-deliberative processes (which I call shallow choice). Second, I include the influence of emotions on the ethical decision process. Many managers attempt to remove emotions from the workplace, but emotions influence the decision process and must be acknowledged in a descriptive ethical decision making model. A key observation stemming from this revised model is that the ethical considerations of an action may not be actively evaluated in a decision, but may instead be bundled with a shallow choice. This makes it critical to understand how organizations can influence the creation, content, and use of shallow choice.
A discussion of ethical choice necessarily involves a dialog regarding the methods used to evaluate the quality of the ethical decision. I critique the current measurement instruments and suggest five guideposts to help overcome the duality of the need to apply universal principles and the necessity to respond to the particular situation when resolving an ethical dilemma.
I clarify and explain dual-process cognition and the proposed model by using them to explain trust formation in organizations. I also apply the model to describe how managers cope with the time pressure that is so prevalent in business today. I suggest workers engage in ethical satisficing, that is, they accept solutions that surpass some minimal ethical threshold, but which do not represent the most ethical response available. I also establish a foundation upon which a theory of ethical satisficing can be built.
Lastly, I discuss implications of the proposed model and future research opportunities.
Date10 May 2006
CreatorsRoman, Ronald M.
ContributorsDr. Bradley Agle, Dr. Barry Mitnick, Dr. Donna Wood, Dr. James Craft, Dr. John Steiner
PublisherUniversity of Pittsburgh
Source SetsUniversity of Pittsburgh
Detected LanguageEnglish
Rightsunrestricted, I hereby certify that, if appropriate, I have obtained and attached hereto a written permission statement from the owner(s) of each third party copyrighted matter to be included in my thesis, dissertation, or project report, allowing distribution as specified below. I certify that the version I submitted is the same as that approved by my advisory committee. I hereby grant to University of Pittsburgh or its agents the non-exclusive license to archive and make accessible, under the conditions specified below, my thesis, dissertation, or project report in whole or in part in all forms of media, now or hereafter known. I retain all other ownership rights to the copyright of the thesis, dissertation or project report. I also retain the right to use in future works (such as articles or books) all or part of this thesis, dissertation, or project report.

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