CAREER AMBITION VS. CONCERN FOR OTHERS: THE RELATIONSHIP OF PERSONAL VALUES TO EGREGIOUS ACCOUNTING AND FINANCIAL DECISIONS
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In recent years, it has become evident that ethical decision making by accountants and other individuals within business organizations is a relevant social issue. Extensive research suggests that individuals act in their own self-interest (i.e., Vroom, 1964; Jensen & Meckling, 1976, 1994); however, opportunistic economic behavior is often constrained by altruism or virtue (Jensen, 1994; Rutledge & Karim, 1999). The current study examines whether two different personal values are determinants of unethical decision making in an accounting context. Based on the fundamental ethical conflicts internal to the individual as described by Adam Smith (1976), the research model incorporates employee incentives to maximize career-related rewards (termed "Career Ambition") and a measure of altruism and virtue derived from the spirituality literature (termed "Concern for Others"). Using a web-based survey and LISREL analyses, we find that individuals with higher degrees of Career Ambition are more likely to make Egregious Decisions; while alternately, individuals that express a greater Concern for Others are less likely to make these unethical decisions. In light of various corporate and regulatory efforts to improve business practices, our findings suggest that elements of Career Ambition and Concern for Others are indeed associated with unethical decision making and should be appropriately considered by organizations and governing bodies. Emerald Group Poblishing Limited.
Research on Professional Responsibility and Ethics in Accounting
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