Nav: Home

Avoidance or responsible moral choices -- what is your supervisor like?

March 21, 2019

A study conducted in the Department of Psychology at the University of Jyvaskyla asked Finnish leaders to describe the moral decision-making in their working life. Based on their answers, four moral identity statuses were identified: achieved (34%), foreclosed (30%), diffused (23%), and moratorium (13%).

"An achieved moral identity is the most desirable option for work-related ethical decision-making," says Mari Huhtala, a postdoctoral researcher from the Department of Psychology.

An achieved identity describes leaders who follow a clear, self-chosen value framework. They had committed to their personal values and applied them in a flexible yet responsible way in their work. Leaders with foreclosed identities, on the other hand, also had a clear and strong framework, but it was based on values adopted from others. For example, they described following organizational values and norms without critically evaluating them.

"If a company's values are not morally sound, a foreclosed identity can be a risk for unethical behavior," Huhtala explains. "In this case the leader can find him- or herself operating in a 'moral gray zone', for example by striving to maximize profit with no reference to critical and moral reasoning."

The studied leaders were also identified to have diffused and moratorium identities. A diffused moral identity was depicted by a lack of a clear value framework. According to the researchers, diffusion was often related to avoiding ethical decisions.

"These leaders described making decisions solely based on facts and numbers, which means that the moral dimension of the situation is downplayed. They also said that they shift responsibility of the situation to someone else, such as to their own supervisor," Huhtala says.

If the leader is capable of actively exploring and comparing different moral perspectives, the leader represents identity moratorium. When a person is trying to find their own values, one might ask questions a number of questions: What is important and meaningful to you? What are the values that you want to base your work on?

Moral identity can be developed

What to do if your own identity does not seem to support moral actions at work? Researchers say that identity development does not have fixed end points. Instead, identity develops throughout adulthood.

"Modern working life should acknowledge the importance of moral values as a part of responsible practices more," Huhtala says. "Leaders and employees should be offered different opportunities to develop their personal moral consciousness. This could be done through training, consulting, and everyday practices within the work community. One example would be to reflect on personal experiences in order to learn more about them and to increase ethical sensitivity."

According to the researchers, future studies should investigate how moral identity develops over time. What could initiate change, facilitate the critical evaluation of previous commitments, and explore new value alternatives?

The study was conducted in the Department of Psychology at the University of Jyvaskyla. It was based on focus group discussions among 16 supervisors and on a questionnaire study, which included 180 leaders. The study is a part of the project Moral work identity: How ethical dilemmas at work and ethical organizational culture shape its development, funded by the Academy of Finland.

University of Jyväskylä - Jyväskylän yliopisto

Related Leaders Articles:

Infants expect leaders to right wrongs, study finds
Infants 17 months of age expect leaders -- but not others -- to intervene when one member of their group transgresses against another, a new study reveals.
Strongman leaders make for weak economies, study finds
Autocratic leaders are often credited with purposefully delivering good economic outcomes, but new research challenges that long-held assumption.
Government and NHS leaders could do more to encourage collaborative relationships between healthcare
The Nuffield Council on Bioethics has published a briefing note outlining the factors that can contribute to disagreements between parents and healthcare staff about the care and treatment of critically ill babies and young children.
In small groups, people follow high-performing leaders
Researchers at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering have cracked the code on how leaders arise from small groups of people over time.
Religious leaders' support may be key to modern contraception
Women in Nigeria whose clerics extol the benefits of family planning were significantly more likely to adopt modern contraceptive methods, new research suggests, highlighting the importance of engaging religious leaders to help increase the country's stubbornly low uptake of family planning services.
More Leaders News and Leaders Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Erasing The Stigma
Many of us either cope with mental illness or know someone who does. But we still have a hard time talking about it. This hour, TED speakers explore ways to push past — and even erase — the stigma. Guests include musician and comedian Jordan Raskopoulos, neuroscientist and psychiatrist Thomas Insel, psychiatrist Dixon Chibanda, anxiety and depression researcher Olivia Remes, and entrepreneur Sangu Delle.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#537 Science Journalism, Hold the Hype
Everyone's seen a piece of science getting over-exaggerated in the media. Most people would be quick to blame journalists and big media for getting in wrong. In many cases, you'd be right. But there's other sources of hype in science journalism. and one of them can be found in the humble, and little-known press release. We're talking with Chris Chambers about doing science about science journalism, and where the hype creeps in. Related links: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study Claims of causality in health news: a randomised trial This...