Are traditional Western ethical theories still relevant in a cross-cultural and entrepreneurial business world?

Robinson, D and Zhou, J 2008, 'Are traditional Western ethical theories still relevant in a cross-cultural and entrepreneurial business world?', Journal of Asia Entrepreneurship and Sustainability, vol. 4, no. 1, pp. 22-37.


Document type: Journal Article
Collection: Journal Articles

Title Are traditional Western ethical theories still relevant in a cross-cultural and entrepreneurial business world?
Author(s) Robinson, D
Zhou, J
Year 2008
Journal name Journal of Asia Entrepreneurship and Sustainability
Volume number 4
Issue number 1
Start page 22
End page 37
Total pages 16
Publisher RossiSmith Academic Publishing
Abstract Ethics is an area of business largely left to the imagination. Typically, managers are guided by the company code or culture, or at least have a person higher up the hierarchy that they can refer to when faced with a decision containing ethical dimensions. Entrepreneurial managers, being opportunistic and often working alone, may overlook or even ignore the ethical elements of business decisions. Under circumstances of intense competition and the need for expediency, conflicting priorities arise and the entrepreneur may be faced with certain dilemmas. In seeking to resolve these, entrepreneurs must usually rely on their own judgment to determine ‘what is right’. Since moral choices have a significant impact on business decisions, and given the fact that entrepreneurs usually make those choices without requesting advice from people well-versed in ethics, it is important to know whether or not they are likely to have ethical bias or particular orientation. Traditional Western ethical theories recognise three bases for ethical choice, namely virtues, rules and/or consequences. This paper assesses the ethical orientations of managers with entrepreneurial intentions by means of a questionnaire administered to Master of Business Administration candidates in China and Australia, who either have or do not have the intention to become entrepreneurs. The research problem is two-fold, namely: To determine whether entrepreneurially-inclined managers are more oriented than their corporate counterparts toward any of the three ethical theories when making decisions. To determine whether there are any differences in ethical orientation between Chinese and Australian entrepreneurially-inclined managers. The entrepreneurially-inclined manager is defined as one who is an established manager and who has entrepreneurial inclinations, whether already realised or not. This means either that they are currently managing their own business or considering entrepreneurship as a future endeavour. Either way, they are self-proclaimed entrepreneurs in the psychological and/or behavioural sense of the term. Likewise, those designating themselves as ‘not entrepreneurially-inclined are either working as managers in corporate businesses and not intending to become self-employed or are currently engaged in Not-for-Profit undertakings as a long term career choice. As business-related responsibilities typically remain his/her priority at all times. there is usually little time for any matters that fall outside of the realm of business ownership and management. This usually results in the entrepreneur being totally absorbed by work-related issues, which makes it difficult to discern where business ends and other aspects of his/her life fit in. As entrepreneurs continuously pursue opportunity (Stevenson 1983), they may be faced with opportunities where they are compelled to make choices between alternatives. They typically face aggressive competition in the marketplace and extra-ordinary financial risks. Sometimes none of the choices appear appropriate to them, or more than one appears equally desirable. In addition, they are usually unable or unwilling to consult with others about the decision, so they must rely on their own judgment to determine ‘what is right’. It is hypothesised that entrepreneurially-inclined managers will tend to be more biased toward consequentialism (as opposed to deontology and virtues) than their corporate counterparts and that there are differences in ethical orientation between Chinese and Australian managers with entrepreneurial intentions.
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