Power in Knowledge: The Effects of Motivation and Information on Ethical Decision-Making


Paul was a third year faculty member at a community college in the Midwest. While working with the Chancellor on several committees in his brief tenure he struck up a good rapport with administration. During his third year, Paul was asked by the Chancellor to be one of 2 faculty representatives on the budget committee that spring. At the meeting, Paul learned that a larger than normal merit pay pool was available that year, and that unused monies in the merit pool would be transferred back into the general fund. As a third year faculty member, Paul felt he was underpaid compared to some of his other colleagues and had a decision to make regarding what he was going to do with the information he obtained in the meeting. This case illustrates the impact of fairness and motivation on individual decision-making. It also illustrates how people make decisions depending on which ethical model – utilitarian, rule-based, virtue-based, or relativism – they use as their ethical base.

This case was prepared for inclusion in SAGE Business Cases primarily as a basis for classroom discussion or self-study, and is not meant to illustrate either effective or ineffective management styles. Nothing herein shall be deemed to be an endorsement of any kind. This case is for scholarly, educational, or personal use only within your university, and cannot be forwarded outside the university or used for other commercial purposes.

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