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Analysis of An Article An Exploration of Ethical Decision-Making Processes in the United States and Egypt

This essay shows a deep analysis of an article An Exploration of Ethical Decision-making Processes in the United States and Egypt and it’s outcomes. Authors paid much attention on dependence between nationality of respondents and their understandings of ethics. I also proposed improvement of this research by paying more attention to age, gender and social class differences of respondents, because thy are also have a great influence on ethical decision making process. My idea is supported by various researches and investigations provided below. Also, I tried to cover the process of adaptation the above mentioned questionnaire so it could be performed in my university.

This essay is based on reading of An Exploration of Ethical Decision-making Processes in the United States and Egypt written by Rafik I. Beekun, Ramda Hamdy, James W. Westerman, Hassan R. HassabElnaby in 2007. The authors of this work used questionnaire to research the ethic awareness of citizens of Egypt and the USA. They explored the relationships and dependence between ethical decision making and culture of the representatives of above mentioned countries. About 300 hundred people took part in the examination. Such huge amount of participants increases the possibility of obtaining relevant outcomes.

The preliminary examinations were performed by using Hofstede’s national culture dimensions. This method was chosen because there are close relationships between national culture and business ethics, which form and have considerable influence on ethical decisions of people. It should be noted that in this particular article the national culture is considered as a combination of values which form environment of particular nation.

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 The method based on Hofstede’s national culture dimensions, consists of examination of the following cultural dimensions: power distance, uncertainty avoidance, masculinity or femininity, and individualism or collectivism. According to the preliminary investigations, Egyptians and Americans differ greatly on all cultural dimensions except masculinity or femininity. These differences are based on different cultures and histories. The social structure of Egypt for long time was under a great influence of feudalism and socialism. So, Egyptians have stronger collectivistic features. For example, obtaining benefits of a group of people is more important than obtaining individual benefits. Americans is more individualistic and independent nation. This characteristic is based on the history of the USA (when peasant arrived to the country they could rely only on themselves). These people are oriented on self-reflection and egoism. Individual interest and interests of the closest group are much more important to Americans than general benefits to the whole society.

On the basis of the above mentioned understanding the authors of the article performed their own investigation for exploration of ethical decision making process. They used questionnaire for educing people’s attitudes to six different accounting and marketing situations. Four normative theories were chosen for answering the question: what actions are considered to be ethical or unethical to Egyptians and Americans? These theories are: “justice, utilitarianism, relativism, and egoism”. The choice of these theories is grounded on the understanding that they give the most explicit vision on people’s attitudes. Moreover, they are not greatly influenced by temporary changes in opinions and time preferences.

Rafik  Beekun at el developed nine different hypothesis, and analyzed their relevance by using questionnaire. Egyptians and Americans reflect their attitude to 6 different situations. On the basis of obtained results hypothesis were considered to be supported, partly supported or not supported.

The first hypothesis undermines that “the assessment of the ethical content of business decisions is a function of national culture”. It was supported by both Egyptians and Americans. I agree with this statement, because the culture and social environment form personal understanding of what is considered to be ethical and unethical. Moreover, people perform their actions guided by visions of social environment and linked minded people. 

The next supported hypothesis considers that Americans are more likely to judge the ethical content of any event, decision or action as unethical, than Egyptians. This finding id based on more individualistic feature of Americans. These people are more oriented on obtaining personal benefits and self - reliance, than advantages to the whole society. So, any decision is more evaluated through personal visions and understandings. Such individualistic judgment is also applicable to judgment of ethical content with application of utilitarian criteria (the third hypothesis). Also, it should be mentioned that Americans tend to judge relativistic decisions as more unethical than Egyptians. This is connected with the understandings that citizens of the USA have different visions on personal and collective benefits, i.e. the benefits of the society do not always mean the benefits to a individual. I support this idea. The nation of Americans has such outstanding features as egoism and self awareness: “U.S. respondents relying on egoism judge an action or decision as being more unethical than Egyptian respondents”. Americans is much more egoistic individuals which are more directed on gaining personal benefit than community advantages. This creates the situations when actions of other representatives of the community are more likely to be considered egoistic. Supporting outcomes concerning the ninth theory confirmed the above mentioned statement: “when assessing the ethically of the situation, Egyptians will rely on egoism less than Americans in determining the behavioral intentions of themselves and their peers”.

The further investigations found out that both Americans and Egyptians use justice in their personal behavioral intentions, notwithstanding the fact that the first nation is individualistic and the second is collectivistic. I think this finding reflect the idea that people thrive to perform actions which their society considered as justified and ethical. Both Americans and Egyptians try to avoid any social condemnation. In the same time representatives of both nations clearly understand that any event can lead to different outcomes for particular individual and for the whole community.  However, Egyptians rely not only on justice, but also on utilitarianism during assessment of any event and decision. This one more time supports the idea that collectivistic behavior of society has a considerable influence on assessment, as Egyptians evaluate the benefit that particular decision can bring to the whole group of people.

Justice, utilitarianism, and relativism are considered by the same by representatives of two nations. However, the above mentioned differences in behavior enables diverse assessment of the same situations.

This research forms a background of different understandings and attitudes of Americans and Egyptians on the same situations. Also this can lead to formation of opposite points of view on one particular event. Moreover, the same business decisions can lead to high acceptance in one society and in the same time cause considerable moral and ethical disagreements on the other society. These findings can help the managers of international companies to form more effective and efficient business strategies abroad (in Egypt, for example), and to eliminate any misunderstanding and issues.

Rafik I. Beekun  at el use the questionnaire for finding people’s attitudes to two different types of situations: marketing and accounting. I think, more situations can be entered for assessment, like social and economic (more general). This improvement may provide deeper and more thorough understanding of the influence national culture and history on determination whether any event is ethical or unethical.

Also, I think that researchers should pay more attention to age, social status and gender of respondents, because these factors have a considerable influence on the background of assessment of any event to be ethical or unethical. Christine Noel in her article Teaching Ethics Makes a Difference provided thorough discussion and even examination of dependence of ethical perceptions of an individual from such internal factors as age and gender. According to her investigations, “women viewed questionable actions as less ethical than men, and were less likely to perform indicated actions” (Noel, 2014). Also, Christine Noel used investigations of different scientists, like Brown and Chong, for supporting her idea that differences in perceptions between women and men lead to different way of conducting business.  It is notable, that man “practiced dishonest behavior in a far greater proportion than women”. The below figures support this idea.

Table 1.

The proportion of using dishonest behavior of women and men

Dishonest behavior

Proportion

Women

Men

False excuses to delay of a work

27. 3 %

64. 7 %

Unauthorized exam crib notes

22. 7 %

49 %

Using a work of other person as one’s own

13. 6 %

37. 3 %

Crediting or participation in a group project, but not performing fair share of work

22. 7 %

52. 9 %

It should be noted that notwithstanding the fact that women have more awareness towards ethics and ethical decisions, their actions can not always reflect this awareness. They usually report a higher level of ethical decisions. In the same time women “may not be more likely to make an ethical judgment or behave more ethically than men”. Their words are not always connected and reflected in their actions.

The research held by Rafik I. Beekun can be improved by analyzing such personal characteristics as self – discipline; compassion, innovativeness; and ambitions. These characteristics are also very important for exploration of reflection of ethical decision making in business. It is notable, that women and mend have also different understandings of ethical and unethical ways of performing their job and cooperation with colleagues. For example, 66 per cent of women and only 47 per cent of men consider that compassion is a necessary feature of effective leadership. Moreover, 61 per cent of women and only 51 per cent of men deem that organizational leaders should be creative and innovative individuals. Women and men also have different understanding on combination of abitions and business: 57 per cent of women and only 48 per cent of men say that “ambitions are an essential trait for a leader”. Kum Chang explained these differences by the idea, that women, unlike men, “taught to adhere to strict family teachings and cultural values”.

Below is provided the visualization of differences in compassion and decisiveness between women and man provided in the Chapter 2:What Makes a Good Leader, and Does Gender Matter?

Graphic 1.

Graphic of compassion and decisiveness between women and men

Graphic of compassion and decisiveness between women and men

So, the above figures clearly show considerable differences between ethical behavior of women and men. The An Exploration of Ethical Decision-making Processes in the United States and Egypt can be improved by separate examination of women and men. The obtained figures should be also assessed and evaluated separately. Two outcomes (one for women and one for men) will provide more thorough and reliable understanding of decision making process.

Much attention should be paid to age differences, especially influence of age on ethical perceptions of particular person. Christine Noel stated that “older respondents are much more ethical than younger” ones and “the role of judgement strengthens with age”. This is based on the understanding that a person gains some experience in course of life. His or her visions became more grounded. The consequences of any breaches of morality and ethics became more evident. People try not only to reflect themselves as personalities; they intend to secure themselves and their group form unethical behavior of others. So, they are more likely to report about any reflection of unethical behavior.

The ethical awareness of older people is considered to be higher than the ethical awareness of the youth. But it should be mentioned that Christine Noel in her investigations found out that there is some kind of ethical drop of the people aged from 40 to 44. Below the dependence of the scores on “judgment, awareness and intent to behave unethically” from the age will be graphically represented.

Graphic 2.

The dependence of awareness, judgment and intent to behave unethically from the age of respondents

The dependence of awareness, judgment and intent to behave unethically from the age of respondents

The above figure shows that ethical judgement and decision making is highly dependent form the age of respondents. So, I think that the research performed by Rafik I. Beekun et el can be significantly improves by separating the outcomes of respondents on different groups depending of their age. Such separation will provide deeper understanding of personal behavior of different people and motives of their actions in various situations.

In the same time the main background of research the Exploration of Ethical Decision-making Processes in the United States and Egypt should be saved. It is reflected on assessment of numerous situations by different ethical perspectives, like justice, utilitarianism, relativism and egoism. The great variety of situations and perspectives decreases possibility of mistakes and doubtful interpretation of answers of respondents. The questionnaires introduced by Rafik I. Beekun et el provides grounded and relevant outcomes of analyzing ethical decision – making process of Egyptians and Americans.

I think he same survey should be considerably amended before it could be used in my University. First of all, much attention should be paid to the age of respondents. Above I described the dependence of ethical perceptions form the age. So, the respondents should be divided onto several groups according to their age. The answers of respondents from different groups should be analyzed separately.  Secondly, the gender of respondents should be taken into account in the process of formation of outcomes of research held in the university. As it was shown above, ethical perceptions and actions of women and men are also differ greatly. The third amendment concerns to change of scenarios. They should be less business oriented. Majority of students have no any considerable practice in business conduction. So, some of their visions can be based on theoretical understandings, but not on their own real life experience. The questionnaire may be conducted for determination ethical perceptions of students of different nationalities. However, some issues may arise: not enough amount of respondents for conducting relevant research; numerous nationalities; similar social conditions of living of students which blur the distinction between people of different nationalities and etc.

Decision making and consideration of what is ethical and what is unethical are highly influenced by social status of people. Paul Kriff in his work Higher social class predicts increased unethical behavior supported this idea by describing his researches of behavior of people of different social classes. He and his fellow – thinkers made seven studies of behavior of representatives of upper – class and lower – class. Examinations proved that: “upper-class individuals were more likely to exhibit unethical decision-making tendencies, take valued goods from others, lie in a negotiation, cheat to increase their chances of winning a prize, and endorse unethical behavior at work” compared to representatives of lower class. Paul Kriff also paid much attention to investigation of background of greed, because people motivated by greed are more likely to take unethical decisions. Some of moral principles can be abandoned by them .They can cheat, deceive and even swindle, because personal self-interest is putted over the interest of other individuals or a group of people. According to Higher social class predicts increased unethical behavior, upper class individuals are more likely to be greedy. These researches are supported by examinations held by PK Piff and described in the article Having Less, Giving More: The Influence of Social Class on Prosocial Behavior. According to this investigation of behavior of representatives of different social classes, an individuals of lower class are more likely to make utilitarianistic decisions, i.e. they consider that the happiness of a group of people is more important than the happiness of one particular person. These people try to “adapt to their more hostile environments and that this orientation gives rise to greater prosocial behavior”. Their actions are more “generous, charitable, trustful, compassion and helpful” than actions of upper – class individuals.

In the same time the performing of the research make bring great benefits to university authorities. An exploration of ethical decision making can understand perceptions of different students towards current educational system and educational process; towards existing de-juro and de-facto rules and regulations of the educational institutions; towards methods of punishment for breaches of academic rules. As it was mentioned in the very beginning people due to their cultural and national characteristics, gender and age difference can have different reading on the same situation. Marty Ludlum in his article Examining Ethical Behaviors by Business Studentsstated that even after formulation of one general vision, “there are variances in the outrage some subgroups of students have on specific behaviors”.

So, performing the research described in this paper will help to improve current educational system and implement effective and efficient ethic programs. These innovations will be more understandable and acceptable to all the students and will lead to decreasing of pressure, lowering of misconduct and increase reporting. This is supported by outcomes from the 2011 National Buisness Ethics Survey shown on the graphic 3.

Graphic 3.

Reflection of decreasing of ethic risk after implementation of strong ethic programs

Reflection of decreasing of ethic risk after implementation of strong ethic programs

Conclusion

This essay provides thorough analysis of An Exploration of Ethical Decision-making Processes in the United States and Egypt and the ways of assessment of American and Egyptian behaviors. Some improvements are proposed after the analysis, like paying more attention to age, gender and social status of respondents, because these factors also influence on decision – making process. The similar research can be performed in my unviresity for investigation student’s attitudes to current educational system.

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