Ethical Decision Making In Organizations: Critical Reflection Assessment Answer

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Question :

Compare and contrast these readings (Gioia 1992; Jones & Ryan 1998; Monahan & Quinn 2006; Sonenshein 2007) and produce a 1200 word critical reflection on the four articles about what ethical decision making is, and the factors that influence ethical decision making in organisations.

In this critical reflection you should provide a reasoned explanation for choosing the perspective(s) that you believe best explain ethical decision making in organisations.

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Answer :

Critical Reflection


This paper critically reflects on the distinctive perspectives of multiple researchers concerning the elements influencing ethical decision-making (EDM) in the context of organisations. EDM has been defined to be a four-step process that involves the execution of cognitive, as well as, conceptual processes before deciding on a moral action (Rest 1986). Furthermore, the paper further strives to reasonably explain the perspectives that I believe best explain EDM in current organisations.

Summary of the Articles

1. Article 1 (Sonehshein 2007)

The first perspective addressed by Sonehshein (2007) revolves around rationalism and how it influences ethics. The article further addresses four key limitations associated with the rationalist approach toward EDM in organisations. Sonehshein (2007) indicated that in organisations adopting the rationalist approach, very vague consideration is placed on the ambiguity of data and therefore, organisations tend to assume that they always have prior information concerning ethical issues before a decision is made. Moral reasoning and contemplation have to occur upon being aware of the ethical issues to ensure that one can make moral judgements. The article further proposes a more practical approach that can perform as an alternative to the rationalist approach while mitigating the discussed limitation in the form of ‘SIM’.

Standing for Sensemaking Intuition Model, the first stage of SIM is ‘sensemaking’. Sonehshein (2007) propose that organisations should engage in sensemaking of ethical issues if ambiguity is faced in any form or manner. The construction of ethical issues entails expectations giving shape to meanings, motivation or the unconscious desires one has, social anchors, as well as, the depictions. The second stage of SIM is ‘intuition’ which reflects that individuals make judgements based on instantaneous intuition. These intuitions may occur from one’s socialisation habits and experience or both. Unethical conduct may be repeated by newly recruited employees as a method to fit in. Furthermore, justifications come at the end of decision-making due to EDM occurring almost subconsciously and instantaneously. 

2. Article 2 (Monahan and Quinn 2006)

Mohanan and Quinn (2006), drawing on past literature, hypothesised that rather than an individual, EDM tends to be an outcome of influences that are extrinsic (such as the environment in which an organisation operates). EDM has been explained with the determination of similar characteristics of EDM within the implications of neo-institutional theories including deviance and decoupling based on the examples of Architecture’s Internship Program and Abu Gharib Prison.

In the examples drawn from both organisations, conflicting issues have been observed by the authors compelling the institutions to abide by societal norms while, at the same time, forfeiting legitimacy and performance. Whether decoupling allows maintaining both at the same time, deviance is always an outcome of decoupling. Deviance shapes the formal structure of organisations into an allegorical structure. The organisational activities become independent predominately whereas, accountability and monitoring of the activities become limited which subsequently contributes to poor organisational EDM. 

The identification of determination may negatively influence people to deny and cover ethical issues. The workers in the lower levels of organisations that engage in irregular practices are blamed for the development of the ethical issues which allows organisations to shift the focus from the wrongful processes and structure leading to the development of deviance in the first place. 

3. Article 3 (Gioia 1992)

Gioia (1992) explains EDM from the perspective of scripts that are referred to as schemas concerning certain situations that guide in terms of comprehending behaviours to be performed and the contexts in which such behaviours may be performed. The author implies that while scripts may reduce contemplation and be effective due to saving time, it does not ensure the making of good ethical decisions.

Being a Recall Coordinator, Gioia had the first-hand experience in the Pinto fires case. As explained by the author, the manufacturing process of the cars had been rushed by the organisation and the design of the models was poor leaving the models vulnerable to quickly catch fire and crashes. The author further claimed that Ford's culture focussed too much on financial viability which led to the decision that a production fix may cost the company more money than covering the deaths of the drivers. The rapid pace, as well as, overwhelming responsibilities within the structure led to the failure of the Author in terms of recalling the Pintos which was majorly due to the forcible engagement into the organisation-formed scripted responses, as well as, standards of recalling production units.

4. Jones and Ryan (1998)

Moral approbation is the key concept reflect on by Jones and Ryan (1998). It is explained that moral approbation refers to the level of moral approval desired by individuals from others or even themselves that stems from the motive of individuals to be moral. The foundation of the conceptual framework was laid out on the second and third stages of Rest’s sequential model including judgement and intent. From the perspective of the authors, moral judgement regarding actions is first performed by the agent. It states that an individual first appraise the level of extrinsic approbation to be received and compare it to the level desired by the individual before establishing their moral intent. The planned action is only performed when an individual perceives the level of external approbation to fall within the level of approbation desired. Otherwise, an individual keeps rationalising the decisions until the level of the desired approbation falls within the acceptable range. 

Comparing and Contrasting the Articles 

From the review of the articles, a key concept that has identified is that with variable degrees of influence, organisational elements play significant roles in terms of influencing organisational EDM. As per article 1 and 4, organisational EDM is driven by the motive of individuals within the organisations while a part of EDM is driven by the extrinsic environment. In the context of organisations, the opinions of others define rightful actions. On the other hand, Article 2 and 3, on a similar note, imply that the main influences of organisation EDM are the conflicting environments that can be both intrinsic and extrinsic to the organisations. The lack of time to think and then act on the thoughts leads to the formulation and inclusion of scripts into the culture of organisations and are implemented in relevant contexts accordingly. Similarly, Article 2 explains that while individuals that participate in the acts of deviance are at fault partially, the notion of deviance is fuelled from organisational practices leading to decoupling. The key difference between Article 1 and 4 are laid out in terms of the approaches followed by the authors. While Article 4 focuses on the utilisation of the rationalist approach in EDM entailing reasoning, as well as, purposeful moral appraisal, Article 1 denotes the limitations of the approach and suggests a more practical and relevant substitute model leading to the mitigation of the limitations.


From the critical review of the articles, I have come to believe that both organisations and individuals play equal parts in organisational EDM as hypothesised by Sonenshein 2007; Jones and Ryan 1998. While there are several limitations of the SIM model, I believe this model can explain the organisation EDM most efficiently due to several reasons. Firstly, the amount of time needed for considering each aspect of an issue, rationalising the decisions and acting on the identifiable ethical actions may not be available to everyone in every situation. As humans, intuition drives our decisions significantly. Further, uncertainties can occur in any situation leading to ineffective consideration of the outcomes of our actions.