How Decision Makers Resolve Ethical Dilemmas in Professional Fields: A Person X Situation Model

Karen Nokes, Gerard P Hodgkinson, Daniel Read

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent events in the financial, accounting and healthcare industries have heightened the need to understand how individuals in the professions make ethical decisions. This paper advances a cognitive theory of how individual decision makers in the professions reconcile competing logics in their mental models as they deal with ethical dilemmas in their everyday practice. Professional fields represent sites of institutional complexity where individuals face multiple and competing institutional logics. Drawing on recent advances in institutional theory and the literature on ethical decision making, we theorize that, faced with complex and ambiguous cases, decision makers construct simplified representations of the problems at hand, in which the competing logics prevailing in the wider institutional environment will determine the likelihood of an (un)ethical outcome. Adopting a dual-process perspective, we propose that the particular logics that come to prevail in decision makers’ mental models are moderated as a function of stable individual differences in respect of cognitive style and core self-evaluation. In addition, we propose that experience moderates the utilization of logics and likelihood of an (un)ethical outcome. We suggest methodological approaches to test our model and discuss directions for future research more generally.
Original languageEnglish
Article number14265
JournalAcademy of Management Proceedings
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2016

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Institute of Innovation Research


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