Moral decision making in business: A phase-model

Aviva Geva

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The traditional model of ethical decision making in business suggests applying an initial set of principles to a concrete problem and if they conflict the decision maker may attempt to balance them intuitively. The centrality of the ethical conflict in the accepted notion of "ethical problem" has diverted the attention of moral decision modelers from other ethical problems that real-world managers must face - e.g., compliance problems, moral laxity, and systemic problems resulting from the structures and practices of the business organization. The present article proposes a new model for ethical decision making in business - the Phase-model - designed to meet the full spectrum of business-related ethical problems. Drawing on the dominant moral theories in business literature, the model offers additional strategies for tackling ethical issues beyond the traditional cognitive operations of deductive application of principles to specific cases and the balancing of ethical considerations. Its response to the problems of moral pluralism in the context of decision making lies in its structural features. The model distinguishes between three phases of the decision-making process, each having a different task and a different theoretical basis. After an introductory stage in which the ethical problem is defined, the first phase focuses on a principle-based evaluation of a course of action; the second phase provides a virtue-based perspective of the situation and strategies for handling unsettled conflicts and compliance problems; and the third phase adapts the decision to empirical accepted norms. An illustrative case demonstrates the applicability of the model to business real life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)773-803
Number of pages31
JournalBusiness Ethics Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2000


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