Ethical mindsets, aesthetics and spirituality: a mixed-methods approach analysis of the Australian services sector
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This thesis reports on an interpretive mixed-methods approach research conducted in the Australian services sector. Deriving from two different yet related literatures on aesthetics and spirituality, this thesis focuses on the examination of ethical mindsets. Data was collected through an online survey of 223 respondents and focus groups interviews with 20 participants. Analysis of the quantitative and qualitative data suggests the presence of aesthetic spirituality and religious spirituality, along with optimism, harmony and balance, contentment, personal truth, making a difference, and interconnectedness as ethical mindsets components. Although this research does not support universal conclusions, the relationship between ethics, spirituality, and aesthetics identified in the Australian services sector might be replicated elsewhere.In the field of business ethics, this thesis comes in response to diverse calls by several scholars from different disciplines such as Lane & Klenke (2004) Ashar and Lane-Maher (2004), and Ghoshal (2005) amongst others. More recently with the market meltdown and its global ramifications, there has emerged an increasing chorus of calls for a re-examination of ethics guiding individuals. These individuals, continue to struggle with emerging issues such as: uncertainty, risk, ambiguity and suffering and, in severe cases, these individuals might feel alienated in this society as argued by Arisian (1993). Such developments in this post-ideological period and post-modern society seem to threaten the very fabric of the society, by allowing individuals to stand alone, and to introduce change to or even reject the values that have hitherto defined the character of Western society. This trend, if left unchecked, might lead to grievous consequences for the society as a whole. With special attention to Weick’s (1999) recommendation to abandon the heavy tool of paradigms and monologues; this study intends to examine the mindsets of individuals.It is argued that research in ethics, and specifically business ethics, is gaining momentum. This interest is coupled with an interest in spirituality, especially with the increasing number of conferences and articles that discuss this and related concepts. Practitioners, academics, heads of state, and heads of international organizations have increased calls to examine the ethics in an attempt to find solutions to the transgressions, which have led to the crisis that has befallen global markets. Therefore, the urgent need to go beyond the traditional theories and models in relation to business ethics has been recognised in this thesis. It became apparent, through the extensive literature review, that there is an area that has yet to be explored in the field of management. This area is ethical mindsets, to ascertain whether aesthetics and spirituality are components of ethical mindsets, and whether these two components are inter-related.This thesis examines the under-researched, under-theorized area of ethical mindsets, with the aim of investigating the existence of ethical mindsets in the Australian services sector. The research draws mainly on two separate but allied business ethics literatures relating to spirituality and aesthetics, two issues that were probed using the theoretical lens of mindsets. In order to achieve the aims and objectives of this thesis, an interpretive mixed-methods approach was considered the most appropriate. This thesis contributes to the contemporary debate on business ethics, moving behind the progressively more modernized investigative languages that prevail and beyond the traditional. This thesis goes past and well beyond the obvious, in an attempt to close the gap identified in the literature of management research. This gap is perceived as being the lack of practical evidence supporting the examination of concepts such as spirituality, aesthetics, ethics and ethical mindsets combined in an Australian business context. Spirituality draws attention to individuals’ conscientiousness in inventing ethical workplaces, whilst aesthetics focuses the conversation and discernment on ethical behaviour in business. Mindsets provide a key perspective that combines spirituality and aesthetics into a single analytical framework.With the lack of appropriate tool to measure the three concepts combined, and through a rigorous process of a three-stage pilot study, a new tool was designed to achieve this thesis aims. The aims are (1) assess the existence and dimensions of ethical mindsets of individuals working in the Australian services sector, (2) explore the components of ethical mindsets, and examine the relationship, between ethical mindsets, spirituality and aesthetics, and (3) contribute to the wider debate on ethical issues, specifically with regards to ethical mindsets, spirituality and aesthetics. In order to achieve these aims and objectives, research questions examined are: (1) Do ethical mindsets exist in the Australian services sector? If so, what is the nature or dimensionalities of ethical mindsets in the Australian Services Sector?, (2) To what extent are spirituality and aesthetics key components of ethical mindsets? Moreover, how do spirituality and aesthetics affect ethical mindsets?, and, (3) How are spirituality and aesthetics related to each other within ethical mindsets?Based on the evaluation of empirical and theoretical studies to date, this thesis provides answers to the research questions in relation to ethical mindsets, with a special interest in aesthetics and spirituality and their influence on individuals’ ethical mindsets. The empirical evidence presented in this thesis assesses and acknowledges the existence of ethical mindsets in the Australian services sector. The findings from the online survey, which were further explored and triangulated by the data gathered through focus groups interviews, provide an exploration and identification of eight major components of these mindsets (i.e. aesthetic spirituality, religious spirituality, optimism, harmony and balance, personal truth, contentment, making a difference and interconnectedness). These eight components recording high alphas, those range between 0.931 and 0.720, with their thirty-four dimensions recording high factor loading (high of 0.913 and low of 0.445). The discussions throughout this thesis document highlight the strength of the relationship between ethical mindsets, spirituality and aesthetics, allowing the contribution to the wider debate on ethical issues, specifically regarding ethical mindsets, spirituality and aesthetics.The statistical power of the intervening variables might be limited by the sample size of 223 respondents; however, an analysis of both quantitative and qualitative data has revealed both intrinsic and extrinsic factors. Intrinsic factors pertain to individuals (e.g., age, gender, motivations, beliefs, values etc) and extrinsic factors pertain to the broader environment (e.g., organizational culture, organizational leadership, national culture, social norms etc). Both intrinsic and extrinsic factors (i.e. agency vs. structure) were identified as possibly having an influence on individuals’ ethical mindsets. In addition, a by-product of this thesis is the suggested newly developed research tool that can be used for the examination of ethical mindsets. The findings of this thesis of the eight ethical mindsets components, and the suggested survey tool, the methodology employed, has their theoretical, practical and methodological implications on business ethics research that are of importance to both academics and practitioners. These findings are likely to assist individuals, and in turn businesses in Australia, to tackle the deterioration of ethics in business-related matters, and most importantly, the researcher’s belief that the findings and the outcome of this thesis have opened a completely new field of research developing a path for future research in this area.
Winner:: 2010 EFMD/Emerald Outstanding Doctoral Research Award in the Management and Governance Category
Dear Dr Issa, I am delighted to tell you that your research “Ethical mindsets, aesthetics and spirituality: a mixed-methods approach analysis of the Australian services sector” has been chosen, by the Editor(s) of Management Decision, as the winner of the 2010 Emerald/EFMD Outstanding Doctoral Research Award in the Management and Governance category. Your prize will include: 1) monetary prize 2) a certificate 3) the prospect of an offer of publication in Management Decision (as a full paper or executive summary/research note, at the discretion of the Editor(s) and 4) a winner’s logo for use on correspondence. Winners will also be listed shortly on the Emerald and EFMD websites: <a href="http://www.efmd.org/odra">http://www.efmd.org/odra</a> & <a href="http://www.emeraldinsight.com/research/awards/odra.htm">http://www.emeraldinsight.com/research/awards/odra.htm</a>. I will be in contact again soon regarding the details of receiving your award, the offer of publication, etc. Thank you for your submission. Both Emerald and the EFMD are proud to help reward and promote such high-quality research. Congratulations, and I will be in touch soon. Best wishes, Devon BlakeExternal Relations Executive Emerald Group Publishing Limited
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