Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 71, Issue 2, pp 179–194 | Cite as

Managers’ Moral Reasoning: Evidence from Large Indian Manufacturing Organisations

  • Manjit Monga


Increased globalisation has also seen increased scrutiny of corporate behaviour by the communities. Clearly managers are under increased pressure from stakeholders not only to outperform their competitors, but also are expected to do so in an ethical manner. In order to act ethically an individual is expected to have a well-developed moral imagination and moral reasoning. Literature on ethical reasoning research indicates a positive relationship between higher levels of moral reasoning and ethical behaviour. This paper presents the findings of a study of the moral reasoning/moral development of managers working in large manufacturing enterprises situated in the state of Punjab in India. Kohlberg’s theory of Cognitive Moral Development forms the basis of the study. Moral Judgement Interview (MIG) developed by Weber, on the basis of Kohlberg’s theory was used for the study. Moral Reasoning Scores were calculated using Abbreviated Scoring Guide. More than half of the managers scored at post-conventional level of reasoning while assessing the moral dilemmas. The reasoning scores varied for the three dilemmas.


moral reasoning business ethics cross-cultural ethical decision-making moral judgement cognitive moral development 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Arnold, D. and L. A. Ponemon: 1991, ‘Internal Auditors; Perceptions of Whistle-Blowing and the Influence of Moral Reasoning: An Experiment’, Auditing: A Journal of Practice and Theory (Fall), 1–15Google Scholar
  2. ATKearney: 2004, Location Attractiveness Index 2004- Offshore_S.pdf#search = ’at%20kearney’s%202004% 20offshore%20location%20attractiveness%20index’Google Scholar
  3. Bay D., Greenberg R. R. (2001). The Relationship of the DIT and Behavior: A Replication. Issues in Accounting Education 16(3):367–380Google Scholar
  4. Bernardi, R.: 1991, ‘Fraud Detection: An Experiment Testing Differences in Perceived Client Integrity and Competence, Individual Auditor Cognitive Style and Experience, and accounting Firms’, An Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation (Union College, Schenectady, New York) (cited in Ryan, 2001)Google Scholar
  5. Blasi A. (1980). Bridging Moral Cognition and Moral Action: A Critical Review of the Literature. Psychological Bulletin 88:1–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Browning J., Zabriskie N. B. (1983). How ethical are industrial buyers?. Industrial Marketing Management 12:219–224CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chang, L. H. and P. M. Warton: 2001, ‘Voices of Moral Reasoning of Malaysian Students’, in Loo, S. P. (ed.), Educational Challenges in the New Millennium (Educational Research Association, Singapore), 3, pp. 1332–1340Google Scholar
  8. Chockalingam V., Deshpande S.P. (1998). Do demographic Correlates of Ethical Perceptions Generalise to Non-American Samples: A Study of Managers in India. Cross Cultural Management 5(1):23–33Google Scholar
  9. Colby A., Kohlberg L. (1987). The Measurement of Moral Judgment, vol I–II. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  10. Colby, A., L. Kohlberg, J. Gibbs, and M. Lieberman: 1983, ‘A Longitudinal Study of Moral Judgment’, in Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development 48(series 200), 1–107Google Scholar
  11. Collins D. (1989). Organisational harm, legal condemnation and stakeholder retaliation: A typology, research agenda and application. Journal of Business Ethics 8:1–13CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cortese A. J. (1984). Standard Issue Scoring of Moral Reasoning: A Critique. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly 30(3):227–246Google Scholar
  13. Elm D. R., Nichols M. L. (1993). An Investigation of the Moral Reasoning of Managers. Journal of Business Ethics 12:817–833CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Elm D. R., Weber J. (1994). Measuring moral Judgment: The Moral Judgment Interview or Defining Issues Test. Journal of Business Ethics 13:341–355CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. England G. W. (1975). The Manager and his Values: An International Perspective. Ballinger Publishing Company, USAGoogle Scholar
  16. Falkenberg A. W. (2004). When in Rome Moral Maturity and Ethics for International Economic Organisation. Journal of Business Ethics 54:17–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Ford C. R., Richardson W. R. (1994). Ethical decision making: A review of the empirical literature. Journal of Business Ethics 13:205–221CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Forsyth D. R. (1980). A Taxonomy of Ethical Ideologies. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 39(1):175–184CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Forte A. (2004a). Business Ethics: A study of the Moral Reasoning of Selected Business Managers and the Influence of Organizational Ethical Climate. Journal of Business Ethics 51(2):167–173 Part 1CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Forte A. (2004b). Antecedents of Managers Moral Reasoning. Journal of Business Ethics 51(4):315–347CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gilligan C. (1977). In a different voice: Women’s conception of the self and of morality. Harvard Educational Review 47:481–517Google Scholar
  22. Gilligan C. (1979). Woman’s place in a man’s life cycle. Harvard Educational Review 49:431–446Google Scholar
  23. Gilligan C. (1982a). In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women’s Development. Cambridge, Harvard University PressGoogle Scholar
  24. Gilligan C. (1982b). New maps of development: New visions of maturity. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 52:199–212CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Goolsby J.R., Hunt S.D. (1992). Cognitive Moral Development and Marketing. Journal of Marketing 56:55–68CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Haan N. (1977). Coping and defending: Processes of self-environment organization. Academic Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  27. Harris H. (2001). Content analysis of secondary data: A study of courage in managerial decision making. Journal of Business Ethics 34(3–4):191–208CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Harrison R. (1972). Understanding your organization’s character. Harvard Business Review 50(3):119–128Google Scholar
  29. Helkama K., Uutela A., Pohjanheimo E., Salminen S., Koponen A., Rantanen-Vantsi L. (2003). Moral Reasoning and Values in Medical School: A longitudinal study in Finland. Scandinavian Journal of Education Research 47(4):399–411CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hofstede G., Bond M. H. (1984). Hofstede’s cultural dimensions: An Independent validation using Rokeach’s value survey. Journal of Cross-cultural Psychology 15:417–433Google Scholar
  31. Holstein C. B. (1976). Irreversible, stepwise sequence in the development of moral judgment: A longitudinal study of males and females. Child Developement 47:51–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hunt S. D., Vitell S. J. (1986). A General Theory of Marketing Ethics. Journal of Macromarketing 6(1):5–16, SpringGoogle Scholar
  33. Inglehart R., Baker W. E. (2000). Modernisation, cultural change, and the persistence of traditional values. American Sociological Review 65:19–51CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Jackson J. (1996). An Introduction to Business Ethics. Blackwell Publishers Ltd, UKGoogle Scholar
  35. Jeffery C. (1993). Ethical Development of Accounting Students, Non-Accounting Business Students and Liberal Art Students. Issues in Accounting Education 5:195–208Google Scholar
  36. Jones T. M. (1991). Ethical decision making by individuals in organizations: An issue contingent model. Academy of Management Review 16:366–395CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Jones T. M., Gautschi F. H. (1988). Will Ethics of Business Change? A survey of future executives. Journal of Business Ethics 7:231–248CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Kite D., Louwers T., Radtke R. (1996). Ethics and Environmental Auditing: An Investigation of Environmental Auditors’ Levels of Moral Reasoning. Behavioral Research in Accounting 8(supplement):200–214Google Scholar
  39. Kohlberg L. (1969). Stage and Sequence, Handbook of Socialization Theory and Research. Rand McNally, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  40. Kohlberg L. (1976). Moral Stages and Moralization; the Cognitive Developmental Approach. In: Lickona T. (eds). Moral Development and Behavior. Holt Rinehart, and Winston, New York, pp. 31–55Google Scholar
  41. Kohlberg L. (1984). Essays in Moral Development, Volume II: The Psychology of Moral Development. Harper and Row, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  42. Kohlberg L. (1986). A Current Statement on Some Theoretical Issues. In: Modgil S., Modgil C. (eds). Lawrence Kohlberg: Consensus and Controversy. Falmer press, Philadelphia, pp. 485–546Google Scholar
  43. Kohlberg, L. A. Colby: 1983, ‘Reply to Fischer and Saltzstein’, Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development 48(1/2, series 200), 120–124Google Scholar
  44. Kohlberg L., Levine C., Hewer A. (1983). Moral stages: a current formulation and a response to critics. Karger, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  45. Lane M. S., Schaupp D., Parsons B. (1988). Pygmalion effect: An issue for business education and ethics. Journal of Business Ethics 7:223–229CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Lifton, P. D.: 1985, ‘Individual Differences in Moral Development: A Relation of Sex, Gender and Personality to Morality’, Journal of Personality 53(2), 306–334Google Scholar
  47. Logsdon J. M., Yuthas K. (1997). Corporate Social Performance, Stakeholder Orientation and Organisational Moral Development. Journal of Business Ethics 16:1213–1226CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Lovell A. (1995). Moral reasoning and moral atmosphere in the domain of accounting. Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal 8(3):60–80Google Scholar
  49. Malhotra, A.: 1985, ‘Value Erosion Among Indian Managers’, Business India (Jan) 14–27Google Scholar
  50. Mellahi K. (2001). Differences and Similarities in Future Managerial Values: A Five Cultures Comparative Study. Cross Cultural Management 8 (1):45–58Google Scholar
  51. Modgil S., Modgil C. (eds) (1986). Lawrence Kohlberg: Consensus and Controversy. Philadelphia, Falmer PressGoogle Scholar
  52. Monappa A. (1977). Ethical Attitudes of Indian Managers. All India Management Association, New DelhiGoogle Scholar
  53. Nunner-Winkler G. (1984). Two Moralities? A Critical Discussion of an Ethic of Care and Responsibility vs. and Ethic of Rights and Justice. In: Kurtines W. M., Gewirtz T. A. (eds). Morality, Moral Behavior and Moral Development. Wiley, New York, pp. 348–361Google Scholar
  54. Pennino C. M. (2002). Is decision Style Related to Moral Development Among Managers in the U.S.?. Journal of Business Ethics 41:337–347CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Petrick, J. A. and G. E. Manning: 1990, ‘Developing and Ethical Climate for Excellence’, The Journal for Quality and Participation (March), 84–90Google Scholar
  56. Piaget J. (1932). The moral judgment of the child. New York, Free PressGoogle Scholar
  57. Ponemon L. A. (1990). Ethical Judgments in Accounting: A Cognitive Developmental Perspective. Critical Perspectives in Accounting 1:191–215CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Ponemon, L. A. and D. R. Gabhart: 1990, ‘Auditor Independence Judgments: A Cognitive Development Model and Experimental Evidence’, Contemporary Accounting Research 7(1), 227–251Google Scholar
  59. Rest M. (1986). Moral Development; Advances in research and theory. Praeger, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  60. Rest, J. R.: 1994, ‘Background: Theory and Research’, in Rest, J. R. and D. Narváez (eds.), Moral Development in the Professions (Erlbaum, Hillsdale NJ), pp. 1–26Google Scholar
  61. Ryan J. J. (2001). Moral Reasoning as a Determinant of Organizational Citizenship Behaviors: A Study in the Public Accounting Profession. Journal of Business Ethics 33:233–244CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Sethi P. S., Steidlmeier P. (1993). Religion’s Moral Compass and a Just Economic Order: Reflections on Pope John Paul II’s Encyclical Centesimus Annus. Journal of Business Ethics 12(12):901–918CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Shaub M. K. (1994). An Analysis of the Association of the Traditional Demographic Variables with the Moral Reasoning of Auditing Students and Auditors. Journal of Accounting Education 12:1–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Snarey J. R. (1985). Cross-Cultural Universality of Social- Moral Development: A Critical Review of Kohlbergian Research. Psychological Bulletin 97:202–232CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Soon L. G. (2003). Differences in Ethical Judgement between Chinese and Singaporeans: Individual Reactions to Self and Organizational Interest Considerations. Singapore Management Review 25(2):1–24Google Scholar
  66. Sridhar B. S., Camburn A. (1993). Stages of Moral development in Organisations. Journal of Business Ethics 12:727–739CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Sweeney J. T., Fisher D. G. (1998). An Examination of the validity of a new measure of moral judgement. Behavioural Research in Accounting 10:138–158Google Scholar
  68. Trevino L. K. (1986). Ethical decision making in organizations: A person situation interactionist model. Academy of Management Review 11(3):601–617CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Trevino L. K., Nelson K. A. (1999). Managing Business Ethics- Straight Talk About How To Do It Right. John Wiley & Sons, USAGoogle Scholar
  70. Trevino L. K., Youngblood S. A (1990). Bad Apples in Bad Barels: A causal Analysis of Ethical Decision- Making Behavior. Journal of Applied Psychology 4:378–383CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Tsui J., Windsor C. (2001). Some Cross-Cultural evidence on Ethical Reasoning. Journal of Business Ethics 31:143–150CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Uddin N., Gillet P. R. (2002). The Effects of Moral Reasoning and Self –Monitoring on CFO Intentions to Report Fraudulently on Financial Statements. Journal of Business Ethics 40:15–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Venezia, C. C.: 2005, ‘The Ethical Reasoning Abilities of Accounting Students’, The Journal of American Academy of Business March 2005, 200– 207Google Scholar
  74. Werhane P. H. (1998). Moral Imagination and the Search for Ethical Decision Making in Management. Business Ethics Quarterly Ruffin Series 1:75–98Google Scholar
  75. Walker L. (1984). Sex differences in the development of moral reasoning: A critical review. Child Development 55:677–691CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Walker L., de Vries B., Trevethan S.D. (1987). Moral Stages and Moral orientations in Real-Life and Hypothetical Dilemmas. Child Development 58:842–858CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Warming-Rasmussen B., Windsor C.A. (2003). Danish Evidence of Auditors’ Level of Moral Reasoning and Predisposition to Provide fair Judgments. Journal of Business Ethics 47:77–87CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Weber, J.: 1988, ‘The Relationship Between Managerial Value Orientations and Stages of Moral Development: Theory Development and Empirical Investigation with Behavioural Implications’, Unpublished Dissertation (University of Pittsburgh)Google Scholar
  79. Weber, J.: 1989, ‘Managers’ Moral Reasoning: An Exploratory Look at Managers’ Responses to Three Moral Dilemmas’, Academy of Management Proceedings, 333–337Google Scholar
  80. Weber J. (1990). Managers’ Moral Reasoning: Assessing Their Responses to Three Moral Dilemmas. Human Relations 43(7):687–702CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Weber J. (1991). Adapting Kohlberg to enhance the assessment of managers’ moral reasoning. Business Ethics Quarterly 1(3):293–318Google Scholar
  82. Weber J. (1996). Influences Upon Managerial Moral decision-making: Nature of Harm and Magnitude of Consequences. Human Relations 49(1):1–22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Weber J., Wasieleski D. (2001). Investigating Influences on Managers’ Moral Reasoning. Business and Society 40(1):79–113Google Scholar
  84. White R. D. (1999). Organisational Design and Ethics: The effects of Rigid Hierarchy on Moral Reasoning. International Journal of Organisational theory and Behaviour 2(3&4):431–456Google Scholar
  85. Wood J. A., Longenecker J. G., McKinney J. A., Moore C. W. (1988). Ethical attitudes of students and business professionals: A study of moral reasoning. Journal of Business Ethics 7:249–257CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of ManagementUniversity of South AustraliaAdelaideAustralia

Personalised recommendations