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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

versión On-line ISSN 2224-7912
versión impresa ISSN 0041-4751


BISSCHOFF, Christo. Consumer ethics behaviour of South African managers. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2021, vol.61, n.4-2, pp.1379-1396. ISSN 2224-7912.

This study aimed to analyse the consumer ethics behaviour of South African managers when they make business decisions in their personal capacity. This means the decisions have a direct and personal impact on the manager; the manager suffers the consequences or gains benefits from their decisions and not the company they work for. The literature base explores rationalisation of unethical behaviour to sensitise the reader to defence mechanisms for unethical behaviour. The mechanism neutralisation and normalisation are used to explain unethical behaviour and why the boundaries are always pushed. The literature also seeks to identify demographic variables and their relationships to respondents as a guide to determine where potential relationships in this study could be identified. The population consists of graduate managers with at least three years of management experience. A snowball sample was used online to invite South African managers with three years managerial experience and a university degree to partake in the study; 102 completed the questionnaire. The data was subjected to testing sample adequacy using the Kaiser, Meyer and Olkin test (KMO=0.790), sphericity as per Bartlett's test was significant (x2(91) = 396.550, p < 0.05) and the reliability according to Cronbach alpha (a=0.853). The results show that both the ethical attitudes and ethical behaviour are well below the midpoint of 3.5; this signifies acceptable ethical attitudes and behaviours. However, closer scrutiny shows that in nine of the 14 scenarios, the managers' behaviour is statistically significantly less ethical than their attitude profile. In one scenario (keeping the extra change), the unethical behaviour is also moderately practically significant (d=0.58) as measured by Cohen's d-value. No significant correlations were identified between the demographic variables and the scenarios. Exploratory factor analysis (explaining a cumulative variance of 60.52%) extracted three factors. These are misleading behaviour (37.04% variance), untruthful behaviour (13.71% variance), and price benefit (9.77% variance). All three factors have excellent reliability coefficients. The results show that although the managers have ethical attitudes and behaviours well within the ethical boundaries, their behaviour is less ethical than their attitudes. Here, three scenarios are specifically worrisome because all three are regarded (attitude) as acceptable behaviour (when they are not), and the managers indicated that they also act unethically upon these scenarios. These scenarios are to keep quiet if a product is incorrectly priced, test products in shop but order from elsewhere, and misuse limited offer specials. The study also shows that although the managers know better, overall, they are pushing the boundaries and behave less ethically; albeit still within the general ethical sphere, it is less ethical than their attitudes indicate. The ethical basis is good. It is promising that managers know what the right thing to do is, and behave accordingly, especially for a country like South Africa where corruption, state capture and personal gain in business decisions are rife. The measurement of attitudes provides a barometer of the business ethical atmosphere of South African managers. Attitudes are strong behavioural drivers. This means that behaviour in consumer ethics can be positively influenced if attitudes are showing a positive inclination towards ethical consumer decisions.

Palabras clave : ethics; behaviour; managers; South Africa; perceptions; profile; attitudes; consumer; decision-making.

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