The process of making a moral or ethical decision is governed largely by the values that are applied when making the decision. In any case where a decision is being made, there are a range of values that can potentially impact the decision. These include personal values, organizational values, and cultural values. The value system that is most significant will depend on both the context of the decision and the nature of the decision. This will now be explored by considering how moral and ethical decisions are made and what kinds of personal, organizational, and cultural values impact on decision making.
Before describing how my values impact decision making, it is important to first define the basis on which I make moral decisions. This is based on the three levels of personal moral development: the preconventional level, the conventional level, and the postconventional level (Graham 1995). The preconventional level is the most basic level and relates to a state where decision making is based on following rules, being obedient, and avoiding punishment. The conventional level is the middle level and relates to a state where decisions are made based on living up to the expectations of others. The postconventional level is highest level and relates to a state where decisions are made based only on personal judgments of what is right, with this including having no regard for how the decisions will be viewed by others. In my own moral development, I am at the middle level. While at times I aim to be at the higher postconventional level, I am often motivated by the expectations of others and by a need to be accepted by others. Being at this level also explains why I am impacted by organizational and cultural values as well as personal values and why my decision making differs based on whether the decision relates to my personal life or my professional life.
One of the organizational values that impacts my decision making relates to the idea that I am part of a team and need to be a valued member of that team.