The influence of culture and ethical ideology on ethical decision making process of Malaysian managers
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The ethical decision making (EDM) process of individuals has proven to be very challenging due to the multitude of complex and varied factors that contribute to this behaviour. Nevertheless, many theoretical frameworks have been proposed to describe such behaviour. Despite the increasing number of EDM models and practices, reports of unethical incidents and illegal behaviour, especially in organizations, continue to appear. This problem is in part related to the failure of EDM models that do not adequately explain the antecedent factors of ethical behaviour by individuals in organizations. As a result, there is a gap between theory and practice. Hence, the main objective of this study is to address these shortcomings by exploring and empirically examining the antecedents in the EDM process and by developing a behavioural model that encompasses a fully functional model of individual ethical behaviour.Furthermore, most of the major frameworks have been formulated from a Western perspective. The current research was conducted in the Malaysian context, using a model that accounts for cultural differences. The most generally accepted concept is that culture is a key determinant of an individual's ethical ideology, which affects an individual’s inclination to behave ethically. In other words, culture acts as a guideline in determining whether certain practices are appropriate and acceptable. However, individuals in organizations also have an obligation to comply the culture in their work setting. Therefore, the culture of ethical practices in an organization is expected to play an important role in the process of EDM. In addition, literature has established the moderating effect of gender, age and level of education in such behaviour. Therefore, the current research also further investigated the relationship among the components of the EDM process, which has thus far not been given proper attention.A two-phase sequential mixed-method approach, consisting of qualitative and quantitative approaches, was carried out in this research. In the qualitative part, a field study of semi-structured interviews was conducted with the objective of testing the applicability of the initial model besides exploring the dimensionality of the construct. The data was analyzed using content analysis through Nvivo software. Based on the analysis, the dimensionality of the constructs was identified and two more relevant antecedent factors were detected, namely parental values and religiosity. Thus, these two factors were added to the comprehensive research model. A survey was conducted among managers from Malaysia large organizations to collect quantitative data. The data was analyzed using a Partial Least Square (PLS) based Structural Equations Modelling (SEM) tool. In addition, multi-group analysis of PLS was also employed.The major findings of this research have confirmed the influence of ethical ideology as the major determinant of the EDM process. Furthermore, results have demonstrated the role of culture as the antecedent of an individual’s ethical ideology. Interestingly, the influence of parental values and religiosity, which was derived from the field study, was also confirmed. Findings also verified the moderating effect of the organizational ethical culture in enhancing a moral awareness of an individual’s EDM process. With regards to the relationship among the components of the EDM process, findings revealed sequential and interrelationship links between the components. On the other hand, the moderating effect of gender, age and level of education in the EDM process was not detected. Overall results confirm the multidimensional construct and the complexity of such a process. This research provides a significant contribution to the existing knowledge in the EDM area. Most importantly, an understanding of the antecedents and the processes of EDM provides guidelines for organizations in developing better ethical programs and policies in order to promote and encourage ethical behaviour. Perhaps a major contribution of this research is the implication for managers to enhance the process of EDM in organizations.
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