The Magic Punchbowl: A Nonrational Model of Ethical Management
Marshall Schminke Creighton University
Organizations are not rational places. They teem with egos, politics, and hidden agendas. Under these conditions, it is unreasonable to expect that managers should always behave like rational decision makers: impartially identifying problems, gathering full information, and making optimal decisions. In fact, we know that often they do not.
However, many traditional approaches to ethical decision making assume that managers engage in a rational, linear decision process when addressing ethical dilemmas. That is, managers first correctly identify ethical dilemmas, then evaluate alternative solutions to them, and finally, choose the best alternative. But if that process does not reflect how managers actually make other decisions, it may not accurately describe how they make ethical decisions either.
In this chapter, I propose an alternative nonrational approach. I begin by briefly reviewing several recent rational models of ethical decision making. These provide the backdrop against which several themes in our current thinking about ethical decision making become clearer. Next, I contrast these with several models of nonrational decision making. These provide some context in which to better understand how our thinking about nonrational decision processes has progressed. Finally, I integrate these two approaches, and propose a nonrational punchbowl model of ethical decision making.