Guanxi and the ethical judgements and moral reasoning of Hong Kong managers

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Conference Proceeding
Proceedings of the 21st ANZAM 2007 Conference: Managing Our Intellectual and Social Capital, 2007, pp. 1 - 15
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The importance of personal connections and relationships, or guanxi , when doing business with the Chinese is widely acknowledged amongst Western academics and business managers alike. However, aspects of guanxi related behaviours in the workplace are often misunderstood by Westerners with some going so far as to equate guanxi with forms of corruption. This study investigates the underlying modes of moral reasoning in ethical decisions relating to aspects of guanxi, amongst Hong Kong managers. Managers ethical judgements and underlying moral reasoning relating to a series of guanxi related behaviours, were recorded. Content analysis yielded categories that correspond with categories of moral reasoning described in Kohlberg s (1969) model. As hypothesised, it was found that harsher ethical evaluations of guanxi-related behaviours were positively correlated with the stage of moral reasoning. The most common types of reasoning were those corresponding to Kohlberg s stages four and five which relate to moral reasoning based on law and order, and on reason rather than emotion. Stage six, concerned with universal moral principles, was utilized considerably less than other stages. This finding supports the literature on ethical ideology across countries and cultures whereby Eastern cultures are generally found to be more relativistic or less universal than their Western counterparts.
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