Using the PET assessment instrument to help students identify factors that could impede moral behavior

Journal of Business Ethics 77 (2):129 - 145 (2008)
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Abstract

We present an instrument developed to explain to students the concept of the personal ethical threshold (PET). The PET represents an individual’s susceptibility to situational pressure in his or her organization that makes moral behavior more personally difficult. Further, the PET varies according to the moral intensity of the issue at hand, such that individuals are less vulnerable to situational pressure for issues of high moral intensity, i.e., those with greater consequences for others. A higher PET reflects an individual’s greater likelihood of adhering to the morally correct path, even in the face of high situational pressures (personal costs) and low moral intensity (collective importance). PET questionnaires were completed by 506 students representing eight business schools throughout the United States. Relationships between respondents’ PET and their gender, age, and major field of study, as well as the geographical location of their school, are explored. Results indicate that older students have higher PETs and that students attending schools in the northeastern part of the United States have lower PETs. These findings are discussed. It is argued that the PET instrument can be used to help students identify organizational pressures and intrapersonal processes that can impede their moral behavior in organizations.

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