Exploring Right Vs-Right Ethical Dilemmas: How Firefighters Experience and Manage Loyalty Tensions

Ginena, Karim, Business Administration - Darden School of Business, University of Virginia
Isabella, Lynn, Business Administration - Darden School of Business (Leadership and Organizational Behavior), University of Virginia
Wicks, Andrew, Business Administration - Darden School of Business (Ethics), University of Virginia
Detert, James, Business Administration - Darden School of Business (Leadership and Organizational Behavior), University of Virginia
Peterson, Randall, Organisational Behaviour, London Business School

In this dissertation, I explore an important phenomenon of loyalty tensions, defined as instances where the dictates of loyalty conflict for organizational members. I examine the nature of, approaches to, and impact of loyalty tensions across organizational levels, and develop process theory for loyalty tension management. The model helps explain how organizational members experience and manage these tensions, which are a case of right-versus-right ethical dilemmas, and the effects of members’ cognitive and behavioral strategies on substantive individual, interpersonal, and organizational outcomes. My findings suggest that members cope with their muddled loyalties by resorting to several instinctive and deliberative cognitive practices that are differentially associated with a number of behavioral strategies and multi-level outcomes. This study helps bridge the gap that exists in the literature between reason- and intuition-based ethical decision making by capturing both of these modes of processing. It also expands our understanding of ethical dilemmas by suggesting that a conflict between different moral values need not exist for there to be a right-versus-right quandary, but that a single moral value can conflict with itself in these predicaments when expressed toward multiple targets. Finally, it brings loyalty to the fore as a lens in moral decision-making by shedding light on this understudied duty-based lens and away from more commonly adopted lenses (e.g. autonomy, fairness, etc.).

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
loyalty tensions, ethical dilemmas, right-vs-right ethical dilemmas, ethical decision making, qualitative research, firefighting
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