Sensemaking in Military Critical Incidents: The Impact of Moral Intensity

Business and Society 58 (4):749-778 (2019)

Abstract

This study explores the relationship between moral intensity and the use of different sensemaking strategies in military critical incidents. First, narratives of military personnel were used to select prototypical high/low moral intensity critical incidents. In a follow-up, a scenario study was conducted with active duty military personnel to examine the relationship between moral intensity and the use of sensemaking tactics. This study offers three main conclusions. First, the use of sensemaking tactics is strongly tied to the level of moral intensity in the situation. In high-intense situations, the servicemen draw on previous experiences, prediction of consequences, and help of others to recognize and interpret the situation. Less attention goes out to higher level critical thinking. Thus, it seems that in these critical incidents, the servicemen react without giving room for thorough consideration and deliberation. Second, the number of deployments a serviceman experienced influences the perceived seriousness and harmfulness of the situation negatively in low-intense situations. Finally, and in line with earlier studies, the results indicate that the concept of moral intensity is formed out of three rather than the six dimensions originally proposed by Jones. The implications of these findings are discussed.

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