Doctor of Philosophy
Dr. Henry T. Clark
This study revealed whether training programs designed to improve the moral reasoning of business-to-business salespeople in large company settings have an effect. It also revealed whether there were differences in the moral reasoning of two categories of those salespeople: marketers of products (tangible; produced, then sold) and services (intangible, perishable; can be produced, sold, and consumed simultaneously). Finally, it assessed salespeople's perceptions of company-provided ethics training programs.
Representing 21 different Fortune-1000 companies scattered across the Mid-Atlantic, Northwestern, and South-Central United States, 100 salespeople agreed to serve as study participants. Approximately half the participants were products marketers and half were services marketers.
The study utilized a multi-method design. To assess marketers' moral reasoning as well as potential differences in their scores, the researcher had four groups of approximately 25 salespeople each self-administer the Defining Issues Test-2. Comparisons of scores were made in both salesperson categories between those who had participated in company-provided ethics training and those who had not. Data revealed no significant differences between any of the four groups of salespeople at the postconventional, or principled level, of moral reasoning. However, at the preconventional and conventional levels of moral reasoning, data revealed differences between salespeople's scores and those of the DIT-2 population. Salespeople found test descriptors used in those levels to be far less salient than the population as a whole.
To understand salespeople's perceptions of company-provided ethics training programs, the researcher, utilizing the phenomenonological tradition of inquiry, conducted in-depth interviews with nine of the 100 DIT-2 participants. Three broad themes, representative of all nine interviewees, emerged from the data. Salespeople shared their views of their profession's, and their own, ethicality. Describing company ethics programs to which they had been exposed, salespeople revealed their views of their employers' rationale for the training as well as their own estimation of its relevance and value. These emerged against a backdrop the researcher named "The Sales Ethos." Salespeople revealed aspects of their values and character which helped explain their views of ethical issues in the sales profession. The researcher drew five broad observations from the interview data and closed with recommendations for human resource development practice and further research.
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