Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Moral Identity Equals More Behavior?

Not necessarily, according to this report. Those who most identified themselves as moral were more likely to go good OR bad in given situations, to the extremes of possible options in both directions.

Bad behavior seems rampant in business, and scholars are divided as to why people act ethically or unethically. Many have argued that ethical behavior is the result of simple judgments between right and wrong. Others suggest that the driving force behind ethical behavior is the individual's moral identity, or whether the individual thinks of him/herself as an ethical person.
"Our research suggests that a moral identity motivates behavior, but that accurate, ethical judgments are needed to set that behavior in the right direction," Reynolds says. "A person's moral identity can interact with his or her judgments and actually push ethical behaviors to extreme levels, as we saw with the students who decided that cheating was justifiable and OK."

According to the researchers, a moral identity specifically centers on a person's moral aspects and acts as a self-regulatory mechanism that sets parameters for individual behavior and motivates specific actions that are moral.
Reynolds and Ceranic found that this motivational force needs direction, and that without proper guidance a moral identity can conceivably push individuals toward socially undesirable behaviors.

"Moral identity seems to be more motivational in nature than 'moral' in nature," Reynolds says. "Managers and organizations should not just assume that a moral identity will necessarily translate into moral behaviors."

I know this applies most directly to offenders and their rationales for their criminal behavior, but I couldn’t help but think more of the bad practitioners on our “side” who consistently proclaim their moral superiority while acting in ways that refute it dramatically (like this guy today). The article goes on to provide ways of fostering both moral id and behav in orgs if you’re so inclined to study further.

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