Monash University
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Perceptions of ethical decision-making : a study of Thai managers and professionals in Bangkok and provincial Thailand

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posted on 2017-01-19, 01:36 authored by Youngsamart, Daungdauwn
Academics and social commentators have emphasised the importance of religion and specific cultural characteristics in influencing or explaining the perceptions, values and behaviours of cultural groups. The quantitative empirical research into ethical perceptions, intentions and behaviours has used culture and religion to define cultural groups, or compare and contrast two national cultural groups. Little focus has been placed on intra-cultural differences. While there has been some quantitative empirical research into the role of Thai Buddhist religiosity in ethical decision making, there has been no such research that deals with the unique Thai cultural characteristics of greng jai and patron-client relationships or differences between urban and provincial Thai managers and professionals. In the research conducted for this thesis, I explore the relationship between Thai Buddhist religiosity, patron-client relationships and greng jai, and ethical intentions, expectations of other’s behaviour and the nature of ethical dilemmas (ethical or unethical). In addition, intra-cultural differences between ‘Thai managers and professionals in Bangkok and ‘less developed’ provinces on these items are investigated. Survey responses from 522 Thai managers and professionals from Bangkok and provincial Thailand were obtained in the research conducted for this thesis. The instrument used includes five scenarios from previous research, two new scenarios that address greng jai and patron-client relationship dilemmas, demographic and cultural measures, and measures of ethical intentions, behaviour of others, and the nature of the ethical problem. Neither patron-client relationships nor greng jai were found to influence ethical intentions, perception of other’s behaviour or perception of the nature of ethical problems. This suggests that importance of these cultural characteristics has been exaggerated in previous qualitative research, that these previously important characteristics are no longer important, or that Thai managers and professionals insulate their ethical perceptions in business settings from Thai cultural influences. The latter explanation would indicate convergence of Thai business culture with a more modern globalised perception of business ethics. Thai Buddhist religiosity did not consistently play a role in perceptions of ethical intention, behaviour of others or the nature of the problems. In scenarios in which it did play a role, the effect was small. Again, this suggests that the importance of religiosity may have been exaggerated in the past, was once important but is no longer so, or that Thai managers and professionals compartmentalise the role of religion in business and non-business settings. No differences were found between Thai managers and professionals in Bangkok and provincial Thailand. Again, this suggests a convergence with a modern globalised perception of business ethics.


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Hartel, Charmine

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Doctor of Philosophy

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Faculty of Business and Economics

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