Bad Apples In Bad Barrels Revisited: Cognitive Moral Development, Just World Beliefs, Rewards, and Ethical Decision-Making

Business Ethics Quarterly 16 (4):449-473 (2006)
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Abstract

In this study, we test the interactive effect on ethical decision-making of personal characteristics, and personal expectanciesbased on perceptions of organizational rewards and punishments. Personal characteristics studied were cognitive moral developmentand belief in a just world. Using an in-basket simulation, we found that exposure to reward system information influenced managers’ outcome expectancies. Further, outcome expectancies and belief in a just world interacted with managers’ cognitive moral development to influence managers’ ethical decision-making. In particular, low-cognitive moral development managers who expected that their organization condoned unethical behavior made less ethical decisions while high cognitive moral development managers became more ethical in this environment. Low cognitive moral development managers also behaved less ethically when their belief in a just world was high.

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