Building a Moral Culture From the Ground Up – Why Fairness, Justice and Reciprocity Are Key


Rationalist models of ethical decision making (Jones, 1991) assume that higher order conscious reasoning dominates the ethical decision-making process and that bad people do bad things due to either greed, bad character or poor values. Interventions following unethical crisis commonly follow on from this assumption and include; new deterrents; efforts to weed out the ‘bad apples’; and retraining in Values. However, research shows that people with ‘a good will’ create bad outcomes in business on a seemingly regular basis and that efforts at ethics education make little or no difference (Desplaces et al., 2007; Jewe, 2008). This paper builds on Ping’s (2017) inter-disciplinary causal factor model on ‘Why Good People Do Bad Things’ which indicated that individual perceptions of justice regarding the subjective assessment of unfolding reality have a cumulative effect on the behaviour of individuals. When subjects perceived reality to be unfair or unjust they were more inclined to use moral neutralisations to justify acts that would objectively be considered to be in violation of their aspirational moral values. This perception and the invoked justifications then blinded them to the moral aspect of the issue at hand and allowed them to create unethical outcomes that they perceived to be just. Moral Intention Theory proposes that the key to creating a moral culture is to teach people how to set moral intention based on fairness, justice and reciprocity - and then to protect it from the flawed justifications that neutralise the very morals that good people aspire to live by.

Author Information
Alistair Ping, Queensland University of Technology, Australia

Paper Information
Conference: ACERP2022
Stream: Business and Management Ethics

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Posted by James Alexander Gordon