The relationship between the emotional intelligence and ethical behaviour of attorneys
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Ethical behaviour is a significant topic of interest in the literature of business ethics and law. Many hypothetical models have been proposed in an attempt to clarify the process by which ethical decisions are made. Attorneys, who are responsible for the defence and implementation of the rights of the public, are often accused of unethical behaviour. Decision-making based on an ethical point of view is very important in the field of law but, the emotional intelligence of attorneys might be more important. Minimum research has been done to substantiate the statement that emotional intelligence plays a pivotal role in the ethical behaviour of attorneys. This study examines the relationship between emotional intelligence and ethical behaviour of attorneys. The results should assist managers to determine the importance of emotional intelligence and ethical behaviour as a competitive advantage. The results should further assist managers to determine the need for further academic research on different factors that might have an influence on ethical behaviour. The study population consisted mainly of white (65,90%), females (51,20%), working as associate attorneys (36,60%), between the ages of 21 and 30 (53,7%). Most the participants had less than 10 years’ work experience and 53,70% had at least a degree. Three questionnaires were administered, namely the Trait Emotional Intelligence Questionnaire – Short Form (TEIQue-SF) (Petrides, 2009), Virtue-Ethics Importance Scale (VAIS) (Swaim, 2004) and Consequential Scale (Tanner, et al., 2007). Ethical dilemmas were also included in the survey to which participants had to indicate their acceptance or rejection of the noted dilemma. Principal component factor analysis was performed on the three measurements. Acceptable KMO correlation matrix was found for the TEIQue-SF and the Consequential scale, however the KMO correlation matrix of the VAIS was found to be undesirable. The VEIS was therefore excluded in further statistical analysis. One factor was extracted from the TEIQue-SF, accounting 31,75% of the total variance. This factor was labelled Trait EI and had an acceptable Cronbach alpha coefficient of 0,79. Two factors were extracted from the Consequential Scale, explaining 51,85% of the total variance. These factors were labelled Deontological Beliefs and Utilitarian Beliefs and displayed Cronbach alpha coefficients ranging from 0,81 to 0,82. No correlation was found between Trait EI, Deontological Beliefs and Utilitarian Beliefs in the sample of attorneys. This finding was in line with the findings by Pathak and colleagues (2013:113). Statistical and practical significant correlations were however, found between utilitarian beliefs and some of the ethical dilemmas. This is indicative that the higher an attorney’s Utilitarian beliefs, i.e. believing that the end justifies the means, the more likely he or she may be to engage in behaviours that may not be perceived as ethical. From the results, it can be concluded, that although the relation between emotional intelligence and ethical behaviour could not be confirm in the current study, that attorneys, in their profession, are expected to act in an ethical/unethical way despite of their level of emotional intelligence. Further research is therefore needed to clearly indicate to the legal profession how being emotional intelligent as well as acting ethical, can create a competitive edge and improve the perception of the profession
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