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Most extant studies of organizational ethical decision making have been remiss in doing one or more of the following: (a) building theoretical foundations; (b) encompassing the individual, contextual, and issue-specific determinants impacting ethical judgments; (c) offering testable hypotheses; and/or (d) establishing methodological rigor. This study confronted those challenges aiming to understand the decision intentions of top managers in the metal finishing industry concerning the treatment of hazardous wastewater. This study employed an extended version of Ajzen's (1988) theory of planned behavior. The theory accommodatingly modeled the individual (i.e., attitudes, self-efficacy, personal moral obligation), contextual (subjective norms, organizational climate, and financial cost), and issue-specific (i.e., moral intensity) factors relative to the top managers' decision intentions. Hypotheses were developed and tested for each of the seven influences. The development of the decision scenarios and instrument necessitated iterations with diverse information sources. Data collected from 140 top managers was assessed using correlational and hierarchical multiple regression analyses. The findings showed that managers' attitudes toward the treatment of hazardous wastewater, subjective norms influence, perceptions of the instrumentality of their respective climates, and financial cost considerations significantly influenced the managers' decision intention concerning the treatment of hazardous wastewater. Contrary to previous studies, the personal moral obligation factor did not contribute to the power of Ajzen's model. However, Jones' (1991) moral intensity construct did moderate the relations between Ajzen's other determinants and the managers' decision intention. Specifically, under conditions of high moral intensity--defined as harmful consequences to either persons and/or nonpersons--the determinants of the extended theory of planned behavior contributed less to explaining top managers' ethical decision intention than under the low moral intensity condition. In conclusion, this study's results revealed to practitioners and researchers the complex interplay of individual, organizational, and issue-specific factors upon individual's ethical decision intentions. Implications for future investigations, training, and the influence of contextual information (e.g., organizational climate) were discussed.


Management and Entrepreneurship



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