Purpose: The current thesis aims to contribute to current literature debates on cognitive mechanisms guiding ethical managerial decision making as well as moral evaluation of the latter, from different perspectives. First, I test how affective and moral personal attitudes affect two major aspects of moral cognition, namely intentionality and responsibility inferences of managerial wrong-doing. Second, analyzing real corporate case studies through the lenses of the Catholic Indulgences, I propose a framework for moral evaluation of organizational motivation to commit to good and bad deeds. Third, I transfer the latter discussion to a multi-level perspective to propose cognition as an additional factor motivating ethically relevant managerial decision-making under conditions of institutional uncertainty.
Design Methodology: First, I use two experiments to explore underlying individual mechanisms guiding moral judgment of managerial wrong-doing. Second, I use corporate case study evidence and theological literature insights to develop a conceptual framework for moral evaluation of organizational ethicality. Last but not least, I extend my conceptual framework to propose socially responsible managerial decision making as a multilevel phenomenon shaped by an interplay of cognition and institutional context.
Findings: My research findings show that affective and socially formed moral attitudes explain distinct aspects of moral judgment, namely intentionality and responsibility inferences of unintended managerial wrong-doing, respectively. Further, I propose that organizational ethicality can be evaluated based on its indulgent seeking component and can be located across a continuum extending from proper indulgence through abuse of indulgence to organizational impostorism. Finally, I extend my conceptual framework to propose cognitive construal levels as a major factor interplaying with the macro institutional environment to guide managerial choices.
Research limitations/Implications: My research discusses distinct underlying mechanisms guiding moral evaluation of managerial wrong-doing, thus opening avenues for future research to empirically transfer, explore and confirm the proposed findings across organizational contexts. I recognize that in the absence of organizational literature discussing some of my used concepts and constructs, it might not always be easy to compare my findings with extant literature debates. However, by discussing novel concepts in the context of business ethics, my research provides new insights and enhances understanding on the processes shaping moral attitudes with regards to organizational practice and managerial decision making.
Practical Implications: My findings intend to increase managerial awareness with regards to how managerial and corporate wrong-doing are evaluated by the public, thus providing managers with rich insights allowing them to enhance their ethical decision making.
Social Implications: By proposing frameworks for moral evaluation of organizational motivation to engage in wrong-doing, the current findings can be used by various stakeholders in the society to evaluate organizational wrong-doing.
Originality/Value: Through transferring debates on moral cognition from moral philosophy and theology to business ethics literature, the current research proposes novel conceptual frameworks allowing to better understand and evaluate ethically relevant organizational practice.
Keywords: intentionality, cognition, indulgences, managerial wrong-doing, CSR