Ethical decision making
: an exploratory study of British and Chinese manager behaviour

  • Jun Zhang

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    The growth of international businesses within the context of economic globalisation has created different operating environments that have exposed managers at both national and international levels to different business challenges as well as moral dilemmas. The moral dilemmas and subsequent decisions facing managers in Britain and China today are important considerations both in terms of research knowledge and management practices. This thesis is based on a triangulated cross-cultural comparative study of managers working for British multi-national corporations (MNCs) in China and the United Kingdom (UK). The study includes a postal survey and semi-structured interviews with Chinese and British managers of British MNCs that represent various industries. Alternative to traditional approach, the study has investigated the reality experienced by the managers in their decision making when confronted by moral dilemmas. The managers‟ moral behaviour processes are compared. For China-based managers, the recent moral, economic, social and cultural changes in modern China have contributed to the creation of ethical challenges. The dilemma for them is whether to follow local practices or the corporate standards of their British companies. For managers who are based in Britain, the centre of the moral tension is caused by reconciling personal ethical standards when making decisions to prioritise business rationale. Similarities found between Chinese and British managers show that despite moral struggles and discomfort suffered by managers, the decisions they finally make are determined by a leaning towards their companies‟ continued benefit.The evidence in this study suggests that managers‟ moral behaviour and final decisions are not often determined by what they personally think is morally right or wrong, but determined by their managerial responsibility, business pressure, commonly accepted practices, business culture and social environment, as well as changing economic environments. The components which play essential parts in constructing moral behaviour include managers‟ moral sensitivity, judgement, motivation and decisions. Business rationale and economic values of a decision are consistently shown to be the main reasons which can explain managers‟ decisions. This is the reality of managerial ethical decision-making interpreted and understood by the managers in China and the UK in this study.
    Date of Award2009
    Original languageEnglish


    • Decision making
    • Business ethics

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