Business Ethics: Cognitive Moral Development & Conflict Of Interest Issue

1 –Cognitive Moral Development :


PAG 104: EXERCISE:Understanding Cognitive Moral Development Molly has been a local newspaper reporter for over 10 years. She learned that Joe Thompson, a candidate for governor, had been arrested for shoplifting 20 years earlier. She also learned that early in his life, Thompson went through a confused period when he did things he later regretted. The shoplifting was treated as a minor offense and removed from his record. Since then, Thompson has had a distinguished career helping people and leading important community projects. Many people consider him to be the best candidate who will likely go on to other important leadership positions. Molly wonders whether she should write a story about Joe’s earlier troubles that could

ruin his chance to win. 

Can you characterize Molly’s thinking in terms of cognitive moral development

levels? Which of the following questions represents preconventional, conventional,

and principled thinking?

& Are there any laws against writing the story?

& Would getting “the scoop” help or hurt my career?

& If I don’t publish the story, wouldn’t another reporter write the story anyway?

& What action would best serve society in the long term?

& How would my boss react if I wrote, or didn’t write, the story?


& Aren’t reporters expected to report all the news regardless of the circumstances?

& Would Thompson pay me not to write the story?

& Would the election process be more just with or without reporting the story?



-Review the discussion of Cognitive Moral Development on pp. 76-80 in the text. Then read the exercise, Understanding Cognitive Moral Development on p. 104.

A) Should Molly write a story about Joe Thompson’s earlier arrest?

B) Which of the 6 stages of Cognitive Moral Development best justifies what you think Molly should do?

2-  Conflict of Interest Issue :


You’ve just cemented a deal between a $100 million pension fund and Green Company, a

large regional money manager. You and your staff put in long hours and a lot of effort to

close the deal and are feeling very good about it. As you and three of your direct reports

are having lunch in a fancy restaurant to celebrate a promotion, the waiter brings you a

phone. A senior account executive from Green is calling and wants to buy you lunch in

gratitude for all your efforts. “I’ll leave my credit card number with the restaurant

owner,” he says. “You and your team have a great time on me.”


Trevino, L.K,. & Nelson, K.A. (2014).  Managing business ethics: Straight talk about how to do it right (6th ed.). NJ, USA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.


Read the short case on p. 146, “Conflict of Interest Issue.” Suppose that you are one of the people invited to the lunch. Often your director would buy you and your staff lunch to celebrate the successful completion of a difficult project.

A)  Would you consider accepting a congratulatory lunch to be a conflict of interest? 

B)  Suppose that your company’s conflict of interest policy prohibits all but “small gifts identified with a vendor’s name or logo,” but does not specifically prohibit lunches. How would that impact your decision?


Trevino, L.K,. & Nelson, K.A. (2014).  Managing business ethics: Straight talk about how to do it right (6th ed.). NJ, USA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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