Matthew Moen and Dr. Brad Agle, Public Management
This project was created to help assist a doctoral candidate research for their dissertation. The following come from the dissertation proposal and working paper that I am helping to write as a research assistant.
Integrity matters. If a person says one thing and then does something else, then that person is being ethically inconsistent. If that same person is ethically inconsistent over time, then her/his moral performance will eventually suffer. If an organization is filled with ethically inconsistent employees, then that organization’s moral performance will also suffer over time. Sadly, examples of this fact are replete in the business world (e.g. Bear Stearns, Enron, Tyco, WorldCom). Thus, it’s important for business firms of all sizes to assess the ethical consistency of their current and future employees. Currently, there is no good measure of ethical consistency on the market. That’s what we’re working on creating and validating here at BYU. And once we have that prepared, then talent managers in human resources of all organizations will be able to use it to identify the level of integrity in current and prospective employees. Then the study and practice of business ethics can be something more than just a nifty phrase.
The first phase of this project was the creation of a measure of Ethical Consistency. In the construction of the Ethical Consistency Scale (ECS), we have followed the method developed by Pedersen, Williams, and Kristensen (2000). An initial list of approximately 100 phrases describing ethical thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, as well as phrases describing ethical courage was generated and subsequently presented to graduate and undergraduate participants chosen randomly from college student populations. Factor analysis was applied to their responses in order to select items for the final questionnaire based on factor loadings.
The second phase of the project is to use the measure of ethical consistency described above along with the scale of ethical courage to predict behavior of participants in a series of increasingly complex negotiation exercises. Other independent variables that will be employed are psychological resilience and moral identity. We are interested in the nature and strength of correlations among these variables as well as main effects and interaction effects in influencing ethical behavior in these negotiation interactions. The study will also employ several different negotiation exercises from Northwestern and Harvard. The main hypothesis of the study will be ethically relevant differences found in the negotiation behaviors of participants who score high vs. participants who score low on ethical consistency, ethical courage, psychological resilience, and moral identity.
The data analysis models for Experiment 1 and Experiment 2 that will come from the negotiation exercises will essentially be the same. The main independent variable is power, consisting of two levels of power (high and low) produced by differential instructions and various primes to the participants. Power will then be analyzed in relationship to resilience and moral identity, as measured by the instruments described above. A series of ANOVA’s and multiple regressions will be performed to evaluate main effects and interaction effects of the situational variable (power) and the two dispositional variables (resilience and moral identity) on disclosure scores. Also, appropriate main effects will also be examined by post hoc tests. Lastly, a simple t-test will be conducted on scores from the two- item manipulation check administered to a small sample of participants.
Results and Discussion
As described earlier the final questionnaire was created after factor analysis was applied to the responses from a graduate and undergraduate college student population. The second phase of the study is ongoing and data collection is underway. The findings will be evaluated in terms of the relevance for teaching ethics from a perspective of integrity in professional settings, especially in psychology and management. Currently, there is no good measure of ethical consistency and courage in either discipline.
The purpose of this project was to help in the study of the “moral judgment-moral action gap.” That is the phenomenon in which people demonstrate the ability to reason about an ethical dilemma, yet do not act in ways that are consistent with the ethical conclusions they may reach and even endorse. (See, e.g., Bergman, 2002; Blasi, 1980; Thoma, 1994). This research proposes that moral behavior is a more holistic enterprise than models emphasizing rational moral judgment have assumed. Ethical action is a symptom of not only cognitive factors, but affective and conative (purposeful) factors as well. We take the position that ethical action arises from the combination of cognitive, conative, and affective factors as the moral agent confronts a moral situation in which action is called for. The meaning of how these components are deployed in a moral situation is the fundamental question. Borrowing from early research on attitudes (See e.g., Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975; Insko & Schopler, 1967; Kothandopani, 1970; Ostrom, 1969) a first hypothesis is that people for whom ethical thinking (cognitions), feelings (affect), and behavioral intentions (conation) are consistent (in alignment), will be more likely to behave in ethical ways in morally relevant situations.