Bounded autonomy and behavioral ethics: Deonance and reactance as competing motives

Robert Folger, Deshani B. Ganegoda, Darryl B. Rice, Regina Taylor, David X.H. Wo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

21 Scopus citations

Abstract

We analyze business behavioral ethics in terms of bounded autonomy, namely the result of tensions between the countervailing motivations of reactance (tendencies that involve the freedom of behaving in certain ways as a right) versus deonance (tendencies that involve the appropriateness of behaving in certain ways as an obligation). We focus in particular on how the resolution of such tensions (i.e. establishment of a boundary between rights and duties-"free" behaviors versus "non-free" behaviors-in a state of dynamic equilibrium) can cause behavior to be seen as ethical by the person performing the behavior (the actor), but seen as unethical by impartial observers. That discrepancy comes from the actor's assessment of the behavior in question as having either an inherent status (the type of behavior it is) or an instrumental status (what it does). This analysis leads us to a discussion of the following four types of situations involving unethical behavior: freedom expansion based on a behavior's inherent status or on its instrumental status; and freedom contraction based on a behavior's inherent status or on its instrumental status. We outline propositions consistent with those distinctions and conclude with theoretical implications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)905-924
Number of pages20
JournalHuman Relations
Volume66
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 1 2013

Keywords

  • behavioral ethics
  • bounded autonomy
  • deonance theory
  • duties
  • organizational justice
  • reactance theory
  • rights

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation

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    Folger, R., Ganegoda, D. B., Rice, D. B., Taylor, R., & Wo, D. X. H. (2013). Bounded autonomy and behavioral ethics: Deonance and reactance as competing motives. Human Relations, 66(7), 905-924. https://doi.org/10.1177/0018726713482013