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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/31707

Title: Bitter Sweet Morality: An Investigation of the Role of Ethical Orientation on Workplace Necessary Evils
Authors: Carter, Nancy
Advisor: Gunz, Hugh P.
Department: Management
Keywords: Ethics
Necessary evils
Issue Date: 5-Jan-2012
Abstract: In almost all types of work it is sometimes necessary to do harm as a means of doing good; as such, necessary evils are a wide spread phenomenon in work life. The present research furthers our understanding of necessary evils through exploring how one’s ethical orientation (measured in terms of idealism and relativism) affects one’s experience of performing such tasks. Molinsky and Margolis (2005) theorized that nine dimensions of necessary evil affect a person’s judgments, beliefs, and attitudes about the task they are required to perform, the self, and the impact of the necessary evil. When performing a necessary evil, individuals evaluate its dimensions -- this evaluation involves assessing the alternative actions one might take to carry out the necessary evil, and the possible consequences of each alternative course of action. Workers are thus faced with an ethical judgment as they realize that if the necessary evil is to be carried out, someone will be harmed. Two studies were conducted to develop a better understanding of workers’ experience of necessary evils in general, and to explore whether people’s idealistic and relativistic values are related to how they experience performing necessary evils. In an effort to gain rich and contextualized information about peoples’ experiences, 30 individuals with experience performing necessary evils were interviewed for Study 1. Respondents were asked to comment on their experiences before, during and after they performed necessary evils, as well as whether they felt that such tasks were ethical or moral in nature. Study 2 presented necessary evil vignettes to 150 university students and used structural equation modeling to test hypotheses about the relationship between ethical orientation and the necessary evil experience. Two models of how necessary evils are performed fit the data. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/31707
Appears in Collections:Doctoral

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