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  • •Topic 5

    •MAA350 Professional Ethics and Governance
    •Learning objectives
    •To understand how ethical decisions are actually made.
    •Topic is divided into 4 parts:
    1.Kohlberg’s theory of cognitive moral reasoning   and development.
    2. Ethical decision-making and ethical behaviour   using James Rest’s Four-Component Model.
    3. Factors that influence ethical decision-making.
    4. Ethical decision-making models.
    •PART 1:
    •Moral philosophy
    –is concerned with what is morally right or wrong and is composed mainly of the normative theories of ethics .
    •Moral reasoning
    –is concerned with the process (how and why) that individuals follow in making decisions with ethical implications.
    –E.g.  telling the truth out of respect for a fellow human being is morally different from telling the truth to avoid harm to oneself.
    •There are three levels of moral development:
    –Level 1: pre-conventional
    –Level 2: conventional
    –Level 3: post-conventional
    •Two stages within each level: total of 6 stages
    •Each stage is characterised by the reasons one gives for making what one considers the right or moral reason, when confronted with a moral dilemma
    •Pre-conventional level (Level 1) reflects a level of moral reasoning that is exclusively self centred
    –the moral decisions are interpreted in terms of good and bad consequences to oneself
    •Two stages:
    –Stage 1: the driving force is minimization of personal harm
    –Stage 2: the maximisation of personal gain
    •L1: Stage 1 (avoiding punishment) 
    •A moral course of action is defined as obedience to fixed rules
    •The individual does not see any purpose for the rules: it is merely is assumed that punishment is inevitable following disobedience.
    •The driving force behind personal decisions is the desire to avoid punishment
    •L1: Stage 2 (self-interest)
    •A person is motivated to pursue their self-interest.
    •An action is considered ethical if the benefits to the decision-maker exceed the costs.
    •While stage one may characterise a person who has an aversion to authority, an element of reciprocity enters into stage two judgments
    •Notions of living within a community, including  conformity and maintaining relationships, assume increasing significance in this level
    •Stage 3: conformity with the group
    •Stage 4: conformity with society
    •L2: Stage 3 (pleasing others)
    •Individuals are motivated to conform to the norms and needs of the group
    •Ethical decisions are motivated by the need to be seen as a ‘good person’ in the eyes of those for whom one feels loyalty and affection -  family, friends and peers.
    –a good decision is defined as one which pleases or helps the members of the group.
    –shame or disapproval from the group is a deterrent to bad behaviour 
    •In the absence of identifiable group norms, a person reasoning at stage 3 is likely to conform to stereotypical images of majority behaviour.
    •L2: Stage 4 (law & order)
    •One is also concerned with loyalty, but to the larger nation rather than the immediate group
    •The moral course of action is defined by compliance to authority and laws. In business, a person with stage four reasoning is a rule-follower guided by codes of conduct, company policies and regulations
    •Post-conventional level shifts from strict compliance with rules, to reliance on personally held principles as a means of making moral choices
    •This principled level reflects a growing moral autonomy defined by self-determined, but not selfish, moral reasoning
    •L3: Stage 5 (just rules)
    •People see society as a social contract that guides acceptable behaviour by emphasising fair ways of reaching consensus by agreement and due process e.g. law.
    •A person will respect laws developed from due process because the legal system is based on principles of justice and humanity and the will of the people.
    •An individual will evaluate, question and seek to change laws if they are unjust.
    •L3: Stage 6  (principle)
    •At Stage 6 of reasoning, one goes beyond due process and social consensus - reasoning rests on a commitment to universal deontological principles, in which there is an awareness of the moral point of view
    –Moral decisions are independent and based on ethical principles (justice, duties and human rights), without influence from authority, rules, consequences or the group
    •Evidence of  principled (level 3) moral reasoning suggests :
    –requires a high degree of maturation expectations of such reasoning should not be anticipated until people are into their late 20s and beyond.
    –the majority of individuals (possibly more than 80%) will never develop moral reasoning beyond the conventional level with very few individuals ever expected to reach stage six.
    •APPLIED ETHICS (p. 63)
    •An employee should comply with the code  because:
    –Stage 1 – avoid punishment from superiors
    –Stage 2 – less costly than not complying
    –Stage 3 – peers comply (group norms)
    –Stage 4 – compliant behaviour
    –Stage 5 – in the public interest to comply
    –Stage 6 – consistent with principle of honesty
    •Stage progression is sequential - one stage at a time and never backwards
    •The majority of the adult population never surpass the Conventional level
    •Apparent causes of moral development are unclear but age (life experiences) and years of formal education (critical thinking) have been identified as the major determinants of moral stage development
    •Gender and culture have been investigated as possible determinants of moral development but were found to be either trivial or lacking strong correlative evidence
    •Research on moral reasoning levels of accounting and financial planning professionals indicate that they do not mature beyond the conventional level
    –consistent with the moral judgment levels of the adult population
    •Without principled reasoning, professional responsibilities such as objectivity and autonomous judgment may be lacking.
    •Compliance-based approach to education and duties creates a rule-based reasoning in professionals that demonstrates a strong stage four orientation
    •Research from a gender perspective shows mixed results for ethical judgements between genders
    •Empirical evidence indicates that the moral reasoning of accountants decreases steadily as they progress to higher ranks within the firm.
    •A basic tenet of Kohlberg’s stage framework is that individuals develop one stage at a time and do not regress.
    •Moral reasoning regression is explained by the notion of self-selection or the selection-socialisation process
    •Firm hierarchy
    •Promotions are awarded to employees who have similar values and share common views with senior management.
    •One can infer from that senior managers with low levels of moral reasoning promote only those people with similar levels of moral development.
    •Alternative findings have contradicted the selection-socialisation view
    •PART 2:
    •Kohlberg’s model considers how one thinks about a moral dilemma in ethical decision making but not what one might do in a particular situation.
    •Additional individual and situational factors  are variables to help determine how an individual is likely to behave in response to an ethical dilemma.
    1: Moral sensitivity
    –the way people recognise an ethical problem and the extent to which they consider possible courses of action and their consequences
    –the degree of empathy that one has toward others is a major factor affecting moral
    •Without ethical sensitivity, individuals may not recognise ethical issues in professional problems when they arise
    2: Moral reasoning
    –considering what should be done in resolving an ethical dilemma
    –Moral judgment theory is prevalent here 

    3: Moral motivation
    –what an individual would do by prioritising moral values over personal values, so that there is an intention to do what is morally right
    4: Moral character
    –Having sufficient perseverance, ego-strength and implementation skills to follow through on one’s moral intention
    –This component is dependent on having the ability to persist with a course of action in the face of obstacles or challenges.
    –Virtue ethics is critical to components here.
    •Rest (1986) maintained that the four key psychological processes must occur in order for moral behaviour to happen.
    –a shortcoming in any one component can result in unethical behaviour
    •For instance,
    –a person’s lack of moral sensitivity (Component 1), inability to prioritise ethical values (Component 3) or lack of character to pursue their convictions (Component 4), may result in unethical behaviour inconsistent with their moral judgment (Component 2)
    •PART 3:
    •Ethical decision-making is a function of individual characteristics and the environment in which a decision-maker works and lives

    •The greatest influence on a person's decision-making is one’s personal ethics 
    •An interactionist model of ethical decision-making
    •Figure 3.2 A descriptive model of ethical decision-making
    •The higher one's personal ethics (moral development), the less dependent that person is on outside influences and hence the more that person is likely to resolve the problem autonomously
    •Questionable decisions result from an environment clouded by pressure and stress
    •Stress is a tension or strain that results from challenging events or situations
    •Short-term stress such as a job promotion or marriage is not necessarily troublesome and can have a positive effect by motivating individuals to improve their performances.
    •Long-term stress is detrimental to one’s health because it entails constant pressure without relief.  
    •Stress can impair the operating effectiveness of individual employees  leading to poorer decisions by limiting one’s focus or attention or strength  to act ethically.
    •Time pressures - restrict the time available to gather information, which in turn results in the individual considering fewer factors and alternatives.
    •The extent to which an individual will make a decision consistent with their personal values, will depend on how well they can resist the pressures in the work environment
    •A formal system of behavioural control refers to the written procedures and policies of the organisation that direct desirable behavioural choices.
    –of codes of conduct, performance appraisals, and reward and punishment criteria.
    •Issues address include:
    –compliance with law, conflicts of interest, relationships with competitors, confidential information, misuse of funds, company records and accounting, gift giving and receiving, and political contributions.
    •Rewards that encourage positive behaviour can be
    –intrinsic, such as feelings of worth or gratification,
    –extrinsic, such as praise or a bonus.
    •Penalties can come in the form of reprimand dismissal.
    •An informal system of control
    –does not prescribe rules to guide behaviour
    –there is implicit knowledge as to how the organisation works and what it expects from its employees.
    •Informal controls take precedence when there is incongruence with formal controls
    •Professional associations influence member behaviour by guiding members’ conduct to be consistent with the expectations of the profession
    •On a broad level, financial service professionals have a responsibility to perform their duties to the best of their abilities, and to ensure the protection of the public interest
    •Rules of acceptable conduct in society are expressed in law established by the community through the legislature.
    •Law as a moral guide is subject to two general shortcomings
    –law is silent or out-dated creating a gap between ethical and legal standards.
    –with the increasing sophistication of white-collar crime the chance that business crime will be detected and prosecuted is relatively small.
    •How Ethical Are You? Take The Ethics Guy's Quiz on CNN

    •PART 4:
    •AICPA ethics decision tree
    •Developed by the AICPA ( American Institute of CPAs) to help accountants  resolve an ethical issue at work

    •Firstly, follow established company policies if in place
    •If not available, discuss with immediate superior and escalate upwards if necessary
    •May take it to the entity’s ethics committee or the audit committee of the board
    •If issue not resolved, consider whether it is appropriate to resign
    Click here to view AICPA ethical decision tree
    •American Accounting Association(AAA) Model
    •The AAA model is a seven-step ethical decision-making model developed by the accounting profession for the resolution of ethical dilemmas.
    •Step 1: Facts 
    •Ethical decisions require full knowledge of the facts, therefore the purpose here is to assemble as much information as possible to determine the cause of the dilemma
    •Otherwise key issues may be overlooked, or a decision may be the right answer to the wrong problem
    •Questions that are normally asked in this step include Who? What? Where? When? and How?
    •Step 2a: Stakeholders
    •List the primary stakeholders
    Step 2b: Ethical issues
    • 2b Define the ethical issues
    –An ethical issue is as course of action or obligations in which the stakeholders have competing interests in terms of benefits, harms, rights, duties, principles and claims.
    –Example, in cases involving executive misconduct, the investors right to know may conflict with the company’s obligation to maintain confidentiality.

    •Step 3: Norms and principles
    •Consider and identify the values associated with the ethical issues and explain their effect on the stakeholders
    •Values include standards, rules and beliefs that guide acceptable and morally ‘good’ conduct
    –May include personal and or professional values
    –(public interest, competence,  confidentiality, due care, integrity, objectivity)
    •Step 4: Alternatives
    •List the major alternative courses of action to resolve the problem including alternatives that may involve compromise.
    •Listing two alternatives represent the extremes
    •Step 5: Match alternative with important values
    •Consider  all alternatives in light of the values identified in Step 3
    •Need to determine whether one value, or combination of values, is so compelling that the proper alternative is clear
    •For example, correcting a defect in a product that is almost certain to cause serious injury.
    •Step 6: Consequences
    •Each alternative identified in step 4 (alternative courses of action) should be evaluated in terms of its short, long, positive, and negative consequences
    •This question brings to light the potential harms, physical or emotional, that may occur to stakeholders
    •Step 7: Decision
    •If a decision is not reached in Step 5, the decision-maker must balance the consequences for each course of action and select an appropriate alternative
    •Why ethical decision making models?
    •It helps the decision-maker through the maze of issues and to select the alternative that maximises the values central to the dilemma
    •It ensures that all of the important issues are identified and considered
    •Application of the model demonstrates evidence of ethical commitment, providing a defence against accusations of misconduct
    •Kohlberg’s theory of moral reasoning displays the rationale that people use in making decisions
    •Rest’s four-component model identifies the  processes required for ethical action
    •An interactionist model of ethical decision-making explained how ethical decisions are influenced in real-world contexts
    •The ethical decision making models provide a tool for guiding ethical decisions