Academic journal article Communications of the IIMA

Ethical Framework for the IT and Business Professions

Academic journal article Communications of the IIMA

Ethical Framework for the IT and Business Professions

Article excerpt


Information Technology (IT) personnel's differences in value, locus of control, Machiavellianism, and cognitive moral development, will critically influence the ethical behavior of individuals in the IT environment and business enterprise as a whole. Extent of influence varies from an individual to another and from a business enterprise to another. Solutions to this influence are an IT firm may need to employ individuals who share the firm's core values, to hire those with low-Machas, and to include those with higher stages of cognitive moral development in the firm's hierarchy. In a real world, this strategy may present practical and legal problems. Study shows that continuing staff trainings and developments help enhance cognitive moral of the individuals and a firm's culture (McGeorge, 1974). Gradually, through a firm's systems, and educational seminars on caring and accountability help the individuals to move to a next stage of moral development.

Despite the growing concern of the modern businesses focus and emphasize on care, accountability and ethical behavior, most theoretical frameworks lack these concepts. Theoretical moral frameworks tend to be principles orientated. For example, both Rest's Defining Issues Test (Rest, 1973, 1976) and Kohlberg's Moral Judgments Interview (Kohlberg, 1969; Parker, 1991) merely laid down the stages of individuals' moral developments without considering impact of the external factors and expectations. More specifically, Kohlberg's moral theoretical framework merely focuses on studying the individuals' ethical reasoning has raised the question of the need to incorporate care and accountability to fit into modern business and societal needs, in particular the respective professional bodies and ethic rules.

This paper critically evaluates Kolhberg's model theory, and suggests the framework to include care and accountability to meet the modern business expectations and rules. We develop four hypothesis based on reviews of the literature and fill these by conducting two separate semistructured interviews with two IT professionals. We have selected a man and a woman interviewee to test the hypothesis on whether gender plays a role in the caring element of moral development. The interviews help us to further understand the values and usefulness of Kohlberg's moral theory for the IT and business professionals' ethical behavior from a caring perspective (referring to the content) and from a cognitive-structural perspective (referring to the basic assumptions of the model). Apart from cares, the model needs to incorporate both the accountability and integrity elements. The model's moral reasoning and behavioral approach may differ due to the required accountability imposed by the respective professional bodies while different gender may result a different moral reasoning and behavior approach. Results of the semi-structured interviews have implications to the IT profession, business practices, firms' and individuals' moral development and strategies, regulators and the stakeholders.

We organize the remaining of the paper as follows. In the next section, we evaluate the various stages of Kohlberg's moral framework and develop hypothesis. In the third section, we test the hypothesis and analyze the findings. We conclude the paper with recommendations and ways forward.


The Kohlberg's moral framework (1969, 1976) maps an individual's ability to make reasoned judgments about moral matters. The judgments are divided according to the individuals' intends to pursue for the acts, in some cases, deem right by the individuals (see Figure 1). This suggests that the individuals continue to change their decisions priorities over time, through education, surrounding influences, confidence, willingness to take risks, experiences, changes in values and ethical behavior. The surrounding influences include those arise from within the firm where the individuals have constant engaged or due to the profession or business practice. …

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