The idea of constructive controversy and the theory of cooperation and competition together suggest the type of interaction that promotes satisfactory resolution of ethical conflicts and the conditions under which this occurs. A sample of 101 Chinese mainland employees described and rated a critical incident of an ethical conflict at work. Structural equation analyses indicated that when the employees had goals that were cooperatively related with those of other stakeholders in the conflict, rather than competitive or independent goals, this facilitated constructive controversy, i.e., open-minded discussion, which, in turn, led to effective outcomes in terms of substantive ethical impact and interactional justice. Results also indicated that high levels of moral intensity strengthened competitive goals and rendered constructive controversy less likely. Implications are that organizations should make it clear to members that conflict avoidance and moral muteness are inappropriate responses to ethically unsound practices and policies, that it is important to detect ethically questionable behaviours or policies at an early stage, and that wherever possible these should be discussed promptly, before an uncomfortably high level of moral intensity is reached. Constructive controversy is suggested as a process through which corporate codes of conduct may be developed.
- Constructive controversy
- Moral intensity