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Title of the Article

Information Technology Professionals’ Perceived Organizational Values and Managerial Ethics: An Empirical Study


Gregory K. Jin, Ron Drozdenko and Rick Bassett

Source Name and Date

Journal of Business Ethics, volume 71, 2007

Main Issue or Problem that the Authors Are Focusing on in the Article

The authors investigate the linkage between significant organizational values as independent variables and ethical attitudes that IT managers have as dependent variables. In addition, the authors also look into the differences that exist among Information Technology non-managerial professionals, upper level managers and mid-level managers and their respective attitudes and perceptions.

The Main Purpose of the Article

In addressing the above issues, the authors summarize the results of an empirical data analysis related to the studies they undertook on ethical stand of managers and professionals and with respect to central values of an organization, specifically in the Information Technology Industry. The main purpose of the article is to find out and inform the reader about issues of ethical values and organizational core values in the IT industry. The article compares different types of IT organizations with respect to behaviors and attitudes of managers in these organizations. Therefore, the main purpose of the article is to differentiate between ethical and unethical behaviors and investigate how these behaviors occur. For instance, the authors state, “research results indicate that IT professionals from mechanistic organizations were much more likely to report, compared to those from organic organizations, that managers in their corporate environment engage in behaviors considered unethical and that successful managers were more unethical relative to unsuccessful managers” (Jin, Drozdenko, & Bassett, 2007, p 149).

Information Used by Authors and Their Relationship to the Main Issue

The authors use various forms or pieces of information, when addressing the main gist of the article. The authors have extensively reviewed past research studies that were focused on the issue of IT professionals’ ethical behaviors and attitudes and their perception on shared key organizational values. Some of the examples of authors utilized in the article include Beyer and Trice (1981), Hint and Vitell (1986), Ferrell and Skinner (1988) and Finegan (2000) (Jin, Drozdenko, & Bassett, 2007).

The authors also refer to the management literature and various organizational experiences to carry out a further study and draw their own conclusions. According to the management literature, two main sets of key organizational values have been manifested in mechanistic and organic IT organizations. Referring to Burns &Stalker (1961), Bennis (1977), Hummel (1982) and Adler & Borys (1996), the authors assert that in an organic environment, managers are prone to perceiving an organization as openly creative, collaborative, encouraging, relationship-oriented sociable, trusting and equitable among others. These aspects are believed to be the values that are generally accepted as an ideal social norm that is applied in a democratic society (Jin, Drozdenko, & Bassett, 2007). On the other hand, in a mechanistic environment, managers tend to believe that organizations are cautious, rigid, task-oriented and use hierarchical values that are inclined towards the power, pressure, centralization and procedural processes. Again, in this context, the authors refer to the research done by Bennis (1977), Hummel (1982), Sjoberg, Vaughan, & Williams, (1984) and Adler & Borys (1996) (Jin, Drozdenko, & Bassett, 2007). While relying on recent studies of the information technology industry, the authors state that mechanistic organizations that are characterized as bureaucratic can be differentiated into two sub groups that include enabling mechanistic organizations and coercive mechanistic organizations. These divisions are done based on the formalization of rules and procedures that are used within these organizations in addition to the routine of work that has been established and governs the work flow of the organizations. Using this information, the authors assert that investigations of the bureaucratic subtypes of mechanistic organizations as variables in relation to issues of organizational ethics are not only significant for the current study, but also for future studies. Utilizing the information, the authors agree that the assessment or perception of IT managers in terms of organizational values is linked to their personal values that form work related and personal ethical attitudes and behaviors. Therefore, these perceptions are formed by deontological and teleological evaluations. The references to the researches done help the authors in focusing on the main issue, the effect perceived core organizational value clusters on the ethical considerations of IT managers (Jin, Drozdenko, & Bassett, 2007).

The authors also conducted an online survey, where they sent e-mails to 3,700 professionals and members of the Association of Information Technology Professionals (AITP). It is imperative to point out that these sources of information are significantly related to the main issue of study for the authors. These is because these pieces of information are related to the experiences of the IT professionals in their work set-up and also bring in the experience of the authors, who have done researches and written extensively on ethical issues and attitudes of managers in the IT profession. Therefore, they are significant pieces of information that bring factual issues that are informative of the main issue under study. It is also essential to mention that these pieces of information are crucial in terms of the main issue as they bring information from varied times of study and organizations enriching the study of the main issue (Jin, Drozdenko, & Bassett, 2007).

The online survey is a significant aspect in relation to the main issue under study. This is because it links the studies that have already been done and the actual data that exists on the ground. The authors used the surveys to get the valuable and factual data from respondents with regard to the main issue of the article. For instance, the authors asked the respondents to evaluate the extent, to which the aspects pertaining to organizational characteristics and values described their organization (Jin, Drozdenko, & Bassett, 2007, 151). This helps the authors in collecting information about the presence of values in the organizations, and whether the values and ideological perceptions of managers are implemented towards them. However, the authors tie this to the research studies conducted by Beyer & Trice (1981) and Harrison (1988). Again, this information helps them to divide and characterize organizations on organic and mechanistic basis. The authors also asked respondents to indicate the extent, to which they agree with the items related to personal ethics and organizational ethics generally. This helps the authors to tie the relationship between personal considerations of ethics and organizational ethics and draw conclusions. The online survey also required respondents to provide information about their organizations and themselves. This is a significant aspect, because it relates to the main issue through the inclusion of aspects such as the existence of a code of ethics and household income. This is crucial in proving whether successful IT managers are the most unethical as initially stated by tying their level of education, income, age and sex to the organizational role, number of employees and category of industry that they serve in (Jin, Drozdenko, & Bassett, 2007).

The study is also an essential form of information in the sense that it includes questions on personal and organizational ethics, organizational values, characteristics and respondent demographics. It is also critical in relation to the main issue of the article in the sense that the survey helped the authors in gaining data from a wide range of organizations, including businesses, non-for-profits and government agencies. This is pivotal in understanding whether the issues are alike across all IT organizations or whether issues of the ethical compliance or defiance occur more in certain IT organizations than in others, and how these are represented.

Main Concepts Used by Authors that Relate to the Main Issue

The authors use certain concepts that relate to the main issue. The first main concept is the classification of organizations into organic and mechanistic ones. This classification is based on the rating of organizational value orientations. The classification of organizations in terms of organic or mechanistic levels helps in understanding the main issue of the article. Generalizing all IT organizations would not help in getting the accurate information, because, for instance, the way organic organizations structure their ethical and value principles are different from the way mechanistic organizations structure theirs. In addition, the organizational set-up in organic organizations is different as compared to the set-up in mechanistic organizations, and this is heavily reflected in the IT professionals working in the two sub groups of IT organizations. While one is considered to be democratic, the other is considered coercive. Therefore, when studying the impact of the perceived central organizational value clusters on the IT managers’ ethics, the division of the sub groups must be done in order to capture the real experiences of managers. In addition, organizational values are essential in this respect, because what organic organizations consider as values or ethical considerations, mechanistic organizations consider them as vice-versa, which means that these subgroups must not be generalized in order to acquire the required and unbiased information (Jin, Drozdenko, & Bassett, 2007).

The second concept relied on by the authors is that IT professionals in mechanistic organizational value settings report higher levels of the unethical behavior as compared to professionals in organic organizational settings. This is a crucial concept in studying the influence of perceived organizational value clusters on ethical attitude of IT managers, because it shows sub group differences. This concept is essential in terms of the main issue under study in the article. The authors focus on the impact of the perceived main organizational value clusters on the IT managers’ ethics. When studying this, the concept that comes in the fact that IT professionals in mechanistic organizational value settings report higher levels of the unethical behavior is essential for the main issue in the sense that it gives the authors a view of what should be proven in the study (Jin, Drozdenko, & Bassett, 2007). A critical question that this concept raises is whether differences in IT organizations sub groups have an effect on the perception that managers have no ethical standards. In addition, the concept brings up a significant question of whether organizational experiences occurring in the two sub groups influence the conception of ethical standards, attitudes and behaviors among IT managers. In order to understand the aspect of perceived organizational values and managerial ethics in the IT profession, researchers must understand every concept that characterizes the IT profession and professionals with respect to perceived organizational values and managerial ethics. This is why the authors included the concept. The concept informs the main issue in the article by helping the authors to identify and understand the differences that exist between managers in mechanistic and organic organizations. The organizational values that are perceived by IT professionals translate to the attitudes of IT professionals and managers on organizational ethics (Jin, Drozdenko, & Bassett, 2007). Therefore, when IT professionals state that mechanistic organizations have managers, who engage in behaviors considered unethical, these professionals tell of the same conception that IT managers experience in terms of their attitudes towards organizational ethics. It is essential to state that there are differences with respect to the upper managers, mid-level managers and between mid-level managers and IT professionals. These differences reflect the issue of unethical behaviors within IT organizations.

The other concept is that differences exist among IT non-managerial professionals, IT mid-level managers and IT upper-level managers with respect to their perceptions of organizational ethics. The authors also rely on the conception that the perception of shared key organizational values is one of the primary determinants of IT professionals’ ethical attitudes and behaviors. Deontological and teleological evaluations play a significant role in determining the perception that people have towards various issues. In this respect, IT managers also use deontological and teleological evaluations in determining the perception that they have in terms of organizational values and ethics (Jin, Drozdenko, & Bassett, 2007). Deontological evaluations refer to the evaluation based on acting rightly despite the consequences. On the other hand, teleological evaluations refer to assessing the actions of an individual with respect to consequences in the tradition of utilitarianism. In terms of deontological evaluations, the perception of IT managers in organizational values and ethics is tied to their individual and work related ethical attitudes. Personal values play a significant role in the sense that for one to consider something as ethical or unethical, he or she must have own perception of what they consider to be either ethical or unethical. Therefore, when making perceptions, IT managers rely on personal values; thus, whatever the organizations outline as organizational value systems, individual IT managers use their personal values to judge what they conceive as ethical or unethical (Jin, Drozdenko, & Bassett, 2007). This is similar to IT professionals in terms of the perceptions they hold on IT managers and the general organizational value systems and work-related ethical attitudes that they form. For instance, IT professionals state that the most successful managers, specifically in mechanistic organizations, are the most unethical. However, this is a perception that is tied to personal values and what the IT professionals conceive of the successful IT managers. Their perception does not mean that all successful IT managers are unethical unless they conceive all the organizational value clusters to support and provide loopholes for IT managers to engage in unethical behaviors without any regard. If IT professionals use teleological evaluations to link the success to the unethical behavior, then, the whole issue becomes complex (Jin, Drozdenko, & Bassett, 2007).

Assumptions Made by the Authors

There are several assumptions that have been made by the authors. One of the assumptions made by the authors is that they suppose that one of the core determinants of ethical attitudes of IT professionals is their perception of shared key organizational values. They base this assumption on the reviews of relevant past research studies. The authors assume that the key organizational values that are developed are supposed to be observed by both IT professionals and IT managers. The perceptions of IT professionals and managers in organic organizations differ significantly from the perceptions that IT professionals in mechanistic organizations have (Jin, Drozdenko, & Bassett, 2007). While IT managers in organic organizations might perceive an organization as collaborative, sociable and encouraging, IT managers in mechanistic organizations might view the organizations as cautious, rigidly structured and hierarchically oriented towards the power and procedures. Therefore, the difference that occurs in these attitudes stems from the fact that these two groups do not have shared key organizational values. Secondly, the authors assume that the values, such as sociable, relationship-oriented, encouraging, empowering, equitable and trusting, are the values that are widely accepted as ideal social norms that are pursued in a democratic society. Equally, the values in mechanistic organizations, such as cautious, task-oriented, rigidity and hierarchical orientation to the power and procedures, are values that are not considered as social norms in a democratic society, because they are somewhat coercive.

The authors state that the assessment or perception of organizational values is sometimes combined with personal values to form individual and work-related ethical attitudes. This is an ethical judgment that the authors assume to be an influence of deontological evaluations and teleological evaluations or a balance between the deontological and teleological evaluations (Jin, Drozdenko, & Bassett, 2007).

Conclusions Drawn by the Authors

The authors make several conclusions with respect to the study. First, the authors conclude that IT professionals report organizational value characteristics that are classifiable in terms of clusters that are represented either as organic or mechanistic forms. The authors assert that two types of organizations are identified and based on the factor analysis; one type of organization relies heavily on variables, including result-oriented, relationship-oriented, creative, sociable, encouraging, stimulating, equitable, while offering a personal freedom and enterprising, trusting, challenging and driving. On the other hand, the other type of organization was linked to values, including procedural, hierarchical, structured, regulated, power-oriented and ordered values (Jin, Drozdenko, & Bassett, 2007).

The second conclusion that the authors reached is that IT professionals, who work in a mechanistic organization, report higher levels of unethical behavior that are present in their organizations as compared to IT professionals in organic organizations (Jin, Drozdenko, & Bassett, 2007). The authors found out that organic organizations set a stronger ethical direction that is indicated by high levels of agreement that top management cannot tolerate the unethical behavior. However, despite the fact that there are high levels of supervisory control on mechanistic organizations, the control does not suppress the unethical behavior. The high level of the ethical behavior in organic organizations results from the gap between bureaucratic norms in mechanistic organizations and generally accepted norms in organic organizations.

The authors also conclude that differences exist among IT upper level managers, IT mid-level managers and non-managerial professionals. Results from their study suggest that mid-level managers in the IT profession perceive the ethical environment of the organization in different ways as compared with top-level managers and non-managerial professionals. The mid-level managers perceive the organization in a way, which is not supportive of the ethical environment. Thus, successful managers are less ethical than the mid-level managers and the non-managerial professionals are (Jin, Drozdenko, & Bassett, 2007). The authors agree with Posner and Schmidt (2984, 1992), who assert that executive managers were likely to believe that their organization was ethical, relative to the beliefs held by supervisory managers and mid-level managers. Upper level managers and non-managerial professionals share ethical perceptions that are consistent, but differ with those of mid-level managers. The authors interpret this as the fact that there are more mid-level managers; in this sense, those, who are in mechanistic organizations, are more cynical and understand the shortcomings and ethical problems that exist in organizations. These mid-level managers conceal these ethical problems through engaging in informal interactions with upper level managers and IT professionals. The upper management lacks a direct contact with IT professionals (non-managerial professionals). This is also the case with IT professionals, because they do not have a direct access to the upper management (Jin, Drozdenko, & Bassett, 2007).

Implications of the Conclusions

The conclusions that the authors have reached have certain implications. First, it is essential to state that in dividing IT organizations into organic and mechanistic organizations, the authors agree that mechanistic organizations experience much of the unethical behavior as compared with organic organizations. This fact is especially tied to the top management in the two sub groups. Therefore, it is noteworthy to state that this has an implication with regard to the manner, in which organizations are managed. When top management does not spell out clearly the issues that are supposed to be observed as ethical behavior, then, they let employees in whatever level engage in the unethical behavior. On the other hand, when the top management in an organization makes its workforce understand that no acts of the unethical behavior will be tolerated, then, all other employees will act or perform their responsibilities knowing this. Therefore, the implication here is that the top management in organizations has a significant role to play in determining ethical considerations and perceptions of the organization’s professionals. The top management has the responsibility of making organizational workforce responsible for the actions and inactions (Jin, Drozdenko, & Bassett, 2007).

Another implication of the conclusions made by the authors comes from the fact that moral considerations by employees decreases as the centralization increases in organizations. This is a fact that can be clearly seen in mechanistic organizations. The implication of this is that the decrease in moral considerations amongst employees is a dangerous aspect for the existence of IT organizations. It is widely understood that organizations establish organizational value systems, because they are needed for the organizational successful functioning, especially with respect to the guiding principles that are to be observed by employees. However, when employees choose not to abide by the set ethical and value standards that are established, then, the organization is destined to fail. This is clearly captured in the statement that the most successful managers in mechanistic organizations are the most unethical. Instead of making the organization successful, they are the ones, who become successful in terms of engagements they undertake in their respective organizations (Jin, Drozdenko, & Bassett, 2007).

The other implication that can be seen in the authors’ conclusions is that for organizations to function ethically and for managers to observe ethical realms of their respective organizations, all IT organizations must be diversified or transformed to be organic organizations that will have values such as humanistic and democratic values. This will reduce the potential risks and losses that organizations experience because of the unethical behavior. Therefore, all mechanistic organizations must confront the competing in a dynamic market and cope up with the lack of ethical considerations or change into organic organizations all together. Managerial leaders in the IT industry similarly to mid-level managers and non-managerial professionals have a role to play in achieving a more flexible environment. However, this lies heavily as the role of the upper level managers as they are the ones, who are highly unethical, yet, they run the organizations.

The View Point of the Authors

The viewpoint of the authors is that the perceived core organizational value clusters play an essential role in the ethical attitude of IT managers. There is indeed evidence of the unethical behavior, especially in mechanistic organizations, where much focus is placed on procedures and power as opposed to social norms. In addition, the point of view of the authors is that for ethics to be observed in IT organizations, the top management must make it clear that the unethical behavior cannot be tolerated (Jin, Drozdenko, & Bassett, 2007).

Significance of the Issue that Is the focus of the Article

The main issue, which is the focus of the article, is to find out whether perceived core organizational clusters have influences on the IT managers’ ethics. The study that the authors conducted revealed that the above is true and is manifested in the three hypotheses that have been proved. The first hypothesis that has been proven by the authors is that organizations in the IT industry are classified as organic or mechanistic, and this is based on organizational value orientations. The second hypothesis is that IT professionals, working in mechanistic organizational value setting, report higher levels of the unethical behavior in their organizations as opposed to organic value settings. The third hypothesis is that there are differences among IT upper level managers, IT mid-level managers and IT non-managerial professionals (Jin, Drozdenko, & Bassett, 2007). Thus, from the above hypotheses, the significance of the focus of the article can be clearly seen. The unethical behavior is an aspect that affects the performance negatively, especially considering the causes of the unethical behavior, for instance, in mechanistic settings. IT professionals in mechanistic settings have linked successful managers to unethical behaviors. This shows that unethical behaviors within the organization does not help the organization to be successful, but aids the success of managers. This has an effect on IT professionals, who may become IT managers at some point in time. Therefore, this promotes the culture of unethical behaviors in organizations something that is of negative value to the organizations. The other significance of the focus of the article is that when the top management makes it clear to its employees that the unethical behavior cannot be tolerated, employees respect this and abide by it, when delivering their roles and responsibilities. This is translated to their attitudes with regard to their organizations and management. For instance, as stated by the authors, in an organic organizational setting, where the unethical behavior is not tolerated, values, such as sociable, equitable, empowering, trusting and collaborative among others, are reported. These values are considered as social norms in a democratic society. This can be translated to the satisfaction of IT professionals within their work setting (Jin, Drozdenko, & Bassett, 2007).

Potential Problems of Authors’ Reasoning

There are certain potential problems that can be seen in the authors’ reasoning. The authors have concentrated on finding out the attitudes of IT professionals towards values of IT managers. This is a good point to start from; however, the problem comes in in the interpretation of this in the successful functioning of the organization. Does this represent the non-performance within organizations, or does it represent a trend that has no effect on the employees’ performance? The other problem in considering the authors reasoning pertains whether the attitudes of IT professionals represents a true aspect, judging from the fact that IT professionals do not have a direct contact to IT upper level managers (Jin, Drozdenko, & Bassett, 2007).

There are certain potential problems that could arise in the use of information. The authors clearly point out that IT professionals in mechanistic settings report higher levels of the unethical behavior in their organizational settings as compared to organic organizational settings. When using this information, one would wonder whether it is only in mechanistic settings that the unethical behavior occurs. In addition, a question arises whether the information should be used just in mechanistic settings, or it should also be applied in organic settings. The other potential problem in the use of the information originates from the contention of whether the information should be used to transform the whole organization, or it should be used to transform the managerial positions within the organization (Jin, Drozdenko, & Bassett, 2007).

The information is relevant, significant, sufficient and valid for the conclusion drawn by the author. The information drawn from the data collection reveals that perceived major organizational value clusters have influences on IT managers’ ethical stand (Jin, Drozdenko, & Bassett, 2007). The divisions of organizations in the two sub groups has helped in showing the perceptions and attitudes that are present in both organic and mechanistic organizational settings, and it also has helped the authors to draw relevant conclusions.

Points of View Ignored by Authors

The point of view ignored by the author is that attitudes or perceptions can sometimes not reveal the actual or truth-value of the matters on the ground. For instance, attitudes that IT professionals have on IT upper level managers cannot always be true. For instance, the authors point out clearly that IT upper level managers and IT professionals do not have a direct link to each other and vice versa. Only the mid-level managers have a direct link to the two groups (Jin, Drozdenko, & Bassett, 2007). Therefore, attitudes that IT professionals have towards IT upper level managers could be misplaced to a certain extent, and the authors should not have ignored this. In addition, the authors ignored the point of view that IT professionals could themselves be unethical and point out IT managers as such to conceal their unethical behaviors. However, the authors have not addressed this aspect, because the focus of the study is on the values of IT managers as opposed to the values of IT professionals. Therefore, the authors have ignored the points of view that are crucial (Jin, Drozdenko, & Bassett, 2007).

Evidence Available that Demands the Additional Points of View

There are certain evidences that demand these additional points of view to be included. The first evidence is that the authors rely on attitudes and perceptions of IT managers to make judgments about ethical values of IT managers. As stated by the authors, it is clear that the upper level management does not have a direct link with IT professionals. Likewise, IT professionals do not have a direct link with the upper level management. Therefore, relying on the responses of IT professionals, with regard to their attitudes and perceptions of the ethical standards of IT upper managers, could have been false and, therefore, must be observed. Another evidence is that IT mid-level managers have a direct link to both IT upper managers and IT professionals. Mid-level managers engage in informal interactions with top managers and IT professionals. This means that IT mid-level managers could be the most significant and relevant group to seek information from, because they understand organizational shortcomings from their direct link to other groups. Therefore, it is difficult to exactly tell whether perceptions and attitudes of IT professionals towards IT upper level managers reveal the real experiences with respect to unethical behaviors of IT managers (Jin, Drozdenko, & Bassett, 2007). The other evidence that demands that these additional points of view are included comes from the fact that the authors state that the perception of organizational values combines with personal values to form individual and work related attitudes. This aspect is highly significant, because it tells that personal considerations, especially aspects of deontological and teleological evaluations or a combination of the two, can influence objective perceptions of ethical standards of ethical values expected of IT managers in IT organizations. Therefore, the above evidences demand that the additional points of view are included (Jin, Drozdenko, & Bassett, 2007).

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