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Ethical Decision-making in Organisations in Sri Lanka: A Buddhist Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis
Jayawardena, Thushini Shiranthi
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Ethical decision-making (EDM) in organisations has gained momentum amongst business ethics scholars in the last few decades due to an increase in unethical behaviour in organisations. EDM theories in behavioural ethics management have been developed through the social sciences, psychology, social psychology, and cognitive neurosciences. Yet, there is no consensus amongst these behavioural ethics scholars as to whether EDM is cognitive, non-cognitive or an integration of both the cognitive and the non-cognitive. Thus, some scholars have recommended redefining what ‘ethical’ means through moral philosophy and theology. Buddhism has been viewed as a religion, a philosophy, a psychology, an ethical system and a way of life. The practise of Buddhism as a way of life starts with an individual’s ‘saddha’ (or confidence) in Buddhism. ‘Saddha’ is a spiritual faculty which enables an individual to cultivate awareness, wisdom and insight. Prior research conducted in Sri Lanka has found a relationship between Buddhist entrepreneurs’ spirituality and their right decision-making. But, Sri Lanka has also been identified as a country with a high rate of corruption. Consequently, a question arises: ‘how does Buddhism influence EDM in organisations?’ In Buddhism, divine states assist individuals to overcome their negative emotions, such as anger, fear and delusion. Those states are specified as: loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity. They are so called because they enable individuals to develop ‘God-like qualities’. However, little is known of ‘what divine states managers experience during EDM’ and ‘how managers make meaning of these divine states through EDM’. Consequently, the aim of this thesis is to explore and understand how Buddhism influences EDM through the meanings which managers who practise Buddhist meditation assign to the divine states through their lived experience of EDM. This thesis is based on the conventional reality of Buddhism, which is most closely aligned with the interpretive paradigm. Theoretical sampling was used to recruit managers who practise Buddhist meditation, irrespective of their religious beliefs, and were working in organisations in Sri Lanka, with at least two years of managerial experience. Twenty semi-structured in-depth interviews conducted in Sri Lanka were used for the data analysis to answer the research questions above. The participants were: 17 Buddhists, one Hindu, one Muslim, and one non-religious person. A new EDM framework is developed through the findings, which indicate how Buddhism influences EDM. Firstly, the findings suggest individuals’ confidence in Buddhism, achieved through the practise of meditation, may influence their desire to cultivate the divine states and thereby their EDM. Secondly, the findings indicate that whether a decision is ethical or not may depend on an individual’s level of awareness, wisdom and insight. Thus, the theoretical contribution of this thesis is three-fold. Firstly, it defines what an ethical decision means in terms of the divine states. Secondly, it develops an EDM process which indicates a combination of the cognitive and non-cognitive aspects of EDM. Thirdly, it suggests how an individual’s confidence in Buddhism may inspire her/him to cultivate divine states and thereby EDM. Furthermore, the methodological contribution of this thesis is the development of Buddhist interpretative phenomenological analysis (BIPA), which is a method of interpreting texts from a Buddhist theoretical perspective.