Litschka, Michael and Suske, Michaela and Brandtweiner, Roman
Decision Criteria in Ethical Dilemma Situations:
Empirical Examples from Austrian Managers.
Journal of Business Ethics, 104 (4).
This paper is the result of an empirical research project analysing the decision behaviour of
Austrian managers in ethical dilemma situations. While neoclassical economic theory would
suggest a pure economic rational basis for management decisions, the empirical study
conducted by the authors put other concepts to a test, thereby analysing their importance for
managerial decision making: specific notions of fairness, reciprocal altruism, and
commitment. After reviewing some of the theoretical literature dealing with such notions, the
paper shows the results of an online survey working with scenarios depicting ethical dilemma
situations. By judging such scenarios the respondents showed their preference for the named
concepts, though with different degrees of confirmation.
The results (with all limitations of an online survey in mind) support the theoretical work on
the named concepts: Fairness elements (including Rawlsian principles of justice and an
understanding of fairness as conceived by a reference transaction) play a major part in
management decisions in ethical dilemma situations. Also, commitment as a behaviour that
sticks to rules even if personal welfare is negatively touched, and reciprocal altruism as a
cooperative behaviour that expects a reciprocal beneficial action from other persons have
been concepts used by Austrian managers when analysing ethical dilemmas. The article also
tries to put the results into a comparative perspective by taking into account other studies on
ethical decision factors conducted with e.g. medical doctors or journalists, and by discussing
intercultural implications of business ethics. (author's abstract)