Obedience to authority and ethical dilemmas in Hong Kong companies

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)Researchpeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This paper reports a phenomenological sub-study of a larger project investigating the way Hong Kong Chinese staff tackled their own ethical dilemmas at work. A special analysis was conducted of eight dilemma cases arising from a request by a boss or superior authority to do something regarded as ethically wrong. In reports of most such cases, staff expressed feelings of contractual or interpersonally based obligation to obey. They sought to save face and preserve harmony in their relationship with authority by choosing between “little potato” obedience, token obedience, and undercover disobedience. Only where no such obligation existed was face in relation to authority unimportant, and open disobedience chosen. In Kohlbergian terms, ethical reasoning at the conventional stages (three and four) predominated in dilemmas of obedience. Findings imply that if corruption were to originate at the top, codes of conduct recently introduced into Hong Kong may be of limited effect in stalling it.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)507-526
Number of pages20
JournalBusiness Ethics Quarterly
Volume9
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1999
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

Obedience
Hong Kong
Authority
Ethical Dilemmas
Ethical dilemmas
Obligation
Staff
Disobedience
Codes of Conduct
Conventional
Hong Kong Chinese
Potato
Boss
Corruption
Harmony
Undercover
Codes of conduct
Ethical reasoning

Bibliographical note

The research reported in this paper was supported by Strategic Research Grant no. 700-310, from the City University of Hong Kong.
The author extends his thanks to Ms. Almaz Man-kuen Chak, Senior Research Assistant in the Department of Business and Management, for conducting and transcribing the interviews and helping in the analysis. He also thanks Dr. Keith Taylor, Professor in the Department of Business and Management, for his extremely helpful comments on an earlier draft

Cite this

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Obedience to authority and ethical dilemmas in Hong Kong companies. / SNELL, Robin Stanley.

In: Business Ethics Quarterly, Vol. 9, No. 3, 07.1999, p. 507-526.

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)Researchpeer-review

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