قوانین، استانداردها و اخلاق : نسبیت پیش بینی تفاوت های متقابل ملی در تدوین استانداردهای اخلاقی
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||تعداد صفحات مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی|
|1638||2011||9 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : International Business Review, Volume 20, Issue 3, June 2011, Pages 353–361
This research examines the relationship between the code of ethics adopted by businesses in a country and the ethics positions of the inhabitants of that country. Ethics Position Theory (EPT) maintains that individuals’ personal moral philosophies influence their ethical judgments, actions, and emotions. The theory, when describing individual differences in moral philosophies, stresses two dimensions: relativism (skepticism with regards to inviolate moral principles) and idealism (concern for positive outcomes). Extending previous research that identified differences in relativism and idealism between residents of different countries and world regions, we examined the relationship between relativism, idealism, and the regulatory standards governing commercial activities of firms headquartered in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, Spain, the UK, and the US. The results indicated that the level of relativism of a nation's populace predicted degree of ethical codification of commerce in that nation. These findings suggest that the ethical conduct of business will be more closely regulated in countries where relativism is low (e.g., Australia, Canada) but less closely regulated in countries where the residents are more ethically relativistic (e.g., Hong Kong, Spain).
Businesses that operate internationally deal not only with differences in languages, time zones, and governmental regulations, but also differences in business ethics. Strategies and procedures that may be considered appropriate, legitimate, or even laudable in one country may be condemned as morally unacceptable elsewhere. Bribery, nepotism, and exploitation of the members of less privileged classes are taken for granted in some locales, but in others these actions cross a moral boundary (e.g., Al-Khatib et al., 2002 and Kaikati et al., 2000). In some countries individuals scrupulously conform to governmental regulations pertaining to business practices, but in others these rules are flouted or even nonexistent (Ferrell, Gresham, & Fraedrich, 1989). In some cultures employees think little of maximizing their personal outcomes at the expense of others and the company as a whole. They dally during work breaks, call in sick so they can enjoy some time off, take credit for work they did not do, and pilfer company supplies for use at home, but in other cultures such selfish actions are roundly condemned (Al-Kazemi & Zajac, 1999). In Germany and the U.S. contracts are viewed as moral pledges, and to break such a pledge is a sign of moral turpitude. But in Japan contracts are practical commitments rather than morally charged prescriptions, and they often include a jiji henco clause permitting renegotiation should circumstances change (Mitchell, 2003). A number of factors undoubtedly combine to create cultural variations in business ethics—religious traditions (e.g., Cornwell et al., 2005), cultural complexity (e.g., Trigger, 2003), historical and economic circumstances (e.g., Kluckholm, 1951), and cultural dimensions (e.g., individualism, power distance, masculinity, uncertainty avoidance, and long-term orientation; Hofstede, 1980)—but the current work examines one specific determinant of these variations in ethics: individual and cultural differences in ethical ideology. The analysis is based on Ethics Position Theory, or EPT, which assumes that individuals’ ethical judgments, actions, and emotions are influenced by their dispositional concern for others’ well-being (termed idealism in the theory) and their skepticism with regards to inviolate, trans-situational moral principles (termed relativism in the theory). Forsyth, 1980 and Forsyth, 1992 developed this theory to explain individual differences in morality, but researchers have identified consistent cross-national differences in idealism and relativism. Al-Khatib, Stanton, and Rawwas (2005), for example, discovered that residents of Saudi Arabia were significantly more idealistic than Kuwaitis or Omanis. Robertson, Gilley, and Street (2003), in a study of employees in various industries and organizations, reported that Russians were more relativistic than their counterparts in the U.S. In the current study we investigated these country-by-country variations in idealism and relativism to determine if they are related to variations in regulatory standards pertaining to business ethics. Those conducting business in international contexts may seek to comport themselves in ways that are consistent with the ethical standards of the country where they do business, but as they move from one country to another they often encounter pronounced differences in regulations pertaining to such practices as bribery, the rights of employees, and the protection of the environment. Here we test EPT's explanation of these variations by examining the codification of ethical standards in 11 nations: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, Spain, the UK, and the US. We predict that (a) the codes that govern the ethics of business practices will be less extensive in countries where citizens are more relativistic and that (b) these codes will include human rights protections in countries where citizens are relatively idealistic.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
Are the codes of ethics adopted by businesses in a country related to the ethics positions of the inhabitants of that country? We examined this question by first indexing the average degree of relativism and idealism reported by the inhabitants of 11 countries, and then correlating these indices with documented differences in the ethics codes of the businesses within each country. Our findings partly supported our hypotheses, for businesses in countries that were more relativistic—in other words, surveys conducted in those countries suggested that its residents believed more strongly that individuals’ personal values and perspectives should guide their moral choices, rather than universal ethical principles—were less likely to have (a) adopted a code of conduct or ethics, (b) communicated standards pertaining to ethics to its employees, (c) established procedures for dealing with lapses in moral conduct, and (d) included a policy pertaining to bribery and other forms of corruption in its ethical guidelines. These countries included Spain, the UK, Hong Kong, and Ireland. In contrast, businesses headquartered in countries where residents were less relativistic operated with more well-developed codes of ethics. These countries included Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, New Zealand, and the US. The level of moral idealism expressed by the residents of a country did not, however, predict the degree of codification of the firms located in that country. Nor did idealism predict the one aspect of ethics that focused more specifically on the consequences of one's actions for others: the codification of standards to follow when conducting business in countries with an uncertain record of respecting the rights and well-being of workers (e.g., Burma, North Korea, Zimbabwe). In retrospect, this lack of relationship can be attributed to methodological shortcomings of the current work. The one variable in the data set most closely related to consequences—human rights—may not have adequately documented corporate idealism. Idealism pertains to concern for the consequences of one's actions, with a stress on avoiding harm to others, and one's policies with regards to labor rights in foreign countries may be determined more by political and social policies rather than corporate values. Moreover, only firms with international operations were likely to have included information related to this concern in their ethical codes, and these firms may not be representative of the country's overall position on idealism. Last, the lack of relationship between idealism and these measures of ethics may be due the reduced range of scores on idealism within the countries sampled. Although the 11 countries studied varied substantially with regard to their codification of ethics, they did not vary substantially in idealism—only Australia and Belgium had low scores on idealism, whereas only Spain was relatively high in idealism. New Zealand, Ireland, and Hong Kong had the lowest scores on the ethics of Human Rights, but clustered in the mid-range in idealism. Other limitations in the methods we used in this study should not be disregarded. We defined entire nations’ moral position on the basis of responses of a small subset of the residents of those nations, and so were not sensitive to the many unique aspects of the philosophies within these nations. The results must also be interpreted with caution given the psychometric weaknesses of the EPQ and the coding methods used by the EIRIS. These instruments were designed to measure qualities of specific individuals and businesses, but in this study we aggregated those scores to yield country-level indices. The findings we report are based on 23,477 individuals and 2215 firms located in 11 different countries, but we would be more confident that the correlations reflect a generalizable relationship between ethical codes and relativism if these statistics were based on more representative samples of individuals and firms and multiple studies. Although the number of studies included in some cases was less than ideal, it should be noted that cell stability with entire samples serving as data points (as opposed to individuals or single firms) provides much better estimates (Hunter and Schmidt, 2004 and Lipsey and Wilson, 2001). These limitations notwithstanding, the current findings bolstered support for the idea that variations in ethics across countries are not unpredictable or incoherent, but rather reflect systematic differences in degree of relativism within that particular cultural context. Hofstede's (1980) groundbreaking research assumed that the many differences in attitudes, traditional values, and work orientation that distinguish one country from the next could be understood in terms of a smaller set of key components of cultural variations: power and hierarchy, risk and uncertainty, assertiveness and influence, and individuality and group orientation. The current work suggests that differences in ethical behavior, affect, and judgment can similarly be understood in terms of a smaller set of key dimensions—reliance on guiding principles that define right and wrong (relativism) and concern for outcomes for oneself and for others (idealism). In this study only relativism proved to be linked to the ethical codes adopted by the firms in those countries, but it is too soon to discount the impact of idealism on business ethics. Idealism may not influence the content of the codes of ethics, but it may determine how businesses respond to violations of their codes. We await future research to determine if employees who act in ways that are inconsistent with a company ethics policy, and in so doing create negative consequences for others, are judged more harshly in more idealistic cultures. These findings have numerous theoretical and managerial implications for those who conduct their work in international business contexts. Because ethical standards are often deeply ingrained by culture and socialization, individuals not only find the marked differences in ethics they encounter in the course of international transactions surprising, but also bewildering. The current work offers a means of conceptualizing and simplifying those variations by considering how specific moral practices reflect a culture's orientation with regards to idealism and relativism. International businesses require practical information about cross-cultural variations in ethics, and Ethics Position Theory offers a useful means of sorting out these myriad moral standards and practices into a smaller set of key distinctions. In addition, the findings of this particular study—that relativism is associated with ethics codes—suggest when and why it will be crucial to develop and disseminate a corporate ethics policy. In contexts marked by high levels of moral relativism corporations may be able to conduct their business without considering how their practices and strategies would be judged, ethically, both by their own employees and by the public, but as relativism declines business leaders would be well advised to spend time developing, and promulgating, a coherent statement of the moral principles that guide them as they conduct their business. Business, like all human enterprises, is guided by a set of mutually binding working rules or principles that define both the form and the process of transactions between principals (Holt, 2006). Corporations are committed, fundamentally, to the goal of maximize profit and yield to owners and shareholders, but they do not operate in isolation from an interpersonal context. Just as individuals cannot unrelentingly pursue personal gain heedless of the costs their self-serving actions inflict on others, so businesses must be mindful to align their practices and procedures with accepted ethical standards.