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The Entrepreneur’s Dilemma of Ethics versus Professional Acceptability with Online Reputation Management Systems

Donald F. Kuratko, Travis J. Brown and Marcus Wadell

A chapter in The Challenges of Ethics and Entrepreneurship in the Global Environment, 2015, vol. 25, pp 17-38 from Emerald Publishing Ltd

Abstract: Abstract In e-commerce, consumers have begun to rely on the opinions of fellow consumers who posted through online consumer reviews to a reputation management system. An ethical concern has arisen in the use and abuse of these new systems. We examine the underlying ethical issues that entrepreneurs are confronting in this time of surging e-commerce. Using 32 vignettes, one for each cross-section of our research construct framework, followed by two Likert scales for respondents to indicate their agreement with the action described from both the perspective of ethicality and professional acceptability, we received responses for 1,252 vignettes, which generated a dataset of 2,504 data points. The results of our pilot study suggest that the ethical considerations for business professionals conducting business online are more nuanced and complex than conventional wisdom on the subject might suggest. While 60 research subjects are small, the use of paired vignettes in our survey allowed us to measure at least 1,000 paired responses for each research construct. The results have the potential of revealing how young professionals have been conditioned by the prevalence of web-based interactions and the anonymity they afford participants, as well as the degree to which they rationalize the misrepresentation of information by business professionals for the purpose of manipulating consumers’ purchasing decisions in order to drive sales. If consumers’ trust in reputation management systems erodes, the result could be a collapse of the entire system as a meaningful source of information. We also demonstrate the tolerance of what is deemed ethical versus professionally acceptable with online business practices.

Keywords: Ethics; entrepreneurs; reputation management systems; online practices (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2015
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