An exploration of moral judgment and ethical decision-making of business professionals in small businesses

by Jones, Elzilia Wilkerson, Ph.D., CAPELLA UNIVERSITY, 2008, 111 pages; 3296729


Maintaining moral and ethical standards is a high priority for many executives. Research on the development of moral judgment has focused on a wide range of factors of change including moral education and social interactions. This study examined the impact of educational level, age, company position (management/non-management), gender, and ethics training on the moral maturity levels of Small Business professionals utilizing Lawrence Kohlberg's theory of Cognitive Moral Development. The measuring tool utilized was the Defining Issues Test-2. The analysis found no difference in the moral maturity level of Small Business professionals based on age, educational level, ethics training, gender, and company position. Although not significant, the results showed that 33% of the participants with no ethics training scored the second highest Postconventional score suggesting another influence for their ethical response besides ethics training. Also, scores between management and non-management were negligible suggesting their moral development levels were similar. Weber (1990) found that smaller business environments seemed to in some way encourage and influence ethical thinking and actions. The findings of this study may indicate similarly that in small businesses ethical learning may occur more due to role modeling and informal conversations than it does from formal training exclusively. It is recommended that Small Business professionals incorporate informal networks, mentoring, and team collaboration as tools to encourage and strengthen ethical decision-making within their corporations. Implications of this study and suggestions for future research are offered.

AdviserDeborah Vogele-Welch
Source TypeDissertation
SubjectsManagement; Occupational psychology
Publication Number3296729

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