unintentional unethical decision-making, cognitive barriers, ideology, ethics, decision-making


This paper brings together diverse research findings to suggest that there are several cognitive, ideological, and goal-pursuit barriers that often get in the way of ethical decision-making. The barriers lead managers to give little or no conscious attention to the ethical implications of their actions. The barriers that I categorize and describe are overconfidence, cognitively “filling-in” of missing information, social norm beliefs, ethical fixed mindsets, metaphors in-use, fairness and justice ideology, behavioral scripts, goal-fever (teleopathy), and goal framing. I describe the processes and mechanisms that underlie these barriers to increase awareness of them so that the willing manager may be better equipped to prevent unwanted effects. Most managers desire to do good work and behave ethically. Sometimes they make decisions and behave in ways that are unintentionally unethical. This paper helps to address that problem. Often, decisions involving more routine and less effortful consideration end up getting made without concern for the ethical implications. Throughout this paper the barriers are described and explained, business examples are provided, and suggestions for remedial steps are offered.

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