Investigating unethical decisions at work: Justification and emotion in dilemma resolution

Richard Coughlan, Terry Connolly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


This study explores the relative impact of two categories of factors - justifications and emotions - on the ethical decisions of individuals. Subjects responding to three complex ethical dilemmas were asked (for each dilemma) to indicate what they should and would do, and to rate the relevance of ten possible justifications for their decisions. They also estimated the extent to which they would expect to feel three decision-related emotions (regret, relief, and satisfaction) if they chose each of two options we presented. Results suggest that both cognitive and emotional factors affect the formation of ethical and unethical choices. Their relative importance varies with the content of the ethical dilemma. Directions for further research and implications for both teachers and managers concerned with ethical choices are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)348-365
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Managerial Issues
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Management Information Systems


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