Sukumarakurup Krishnakumar, assistant professor of management, and Doug Rymph, co-wrote the paper, "Uncomfortable Ethical Decisions: The Role of Negative Emotions and Emotional Intelligence in Ethical Decision-making," which has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Managerial Issues.
"The intriguing relationship between morality and emotions goes a long way," Krishnakumar said. "The previous few years have seen a number of accounting/management scandals and ethical violations in the business world (e.g. Enron). In this paper, we examined how emotions could influence managerial ethical decision-making, and the impact of emotional intelligence on the ethicality of decisions. Though it is widely known that ethical dilemmas involving other employees/managers are inherently emotional, not many studies have looked at this phenomenon."
In two experimental studies, they found that such strong negative emotions as sadness and anger influenced individuals to make less ethical decisions, and that emotional intelligent individuals were able to make ethical decisions against the biasing influence of those negative emotions.
"As far as we are aware, this is the first empirical study to test the direct influence of emotional intelligence in ethical decision-making in a business context," Krishnakumar said. "In light of these findings, organizations should consider selection and training procedures that will enable the use of emotional intelligence at work. This includes using well-established and validated tests for selecting and/or re-assigning employees and training procedures to enhance emotional intelligence skills of existing employees."
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