The possibilities of ethical behaviour in organisations: a study of managerial selves

Cefai, Michael J. (2012) The possibilities of ethical behaviour in organisations: a study of managerial selves. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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This thesis is a study of managerial selves and their possibilities for ethical behaviour within organisations. It explores the risks to managerial ethical behaviour and also the possibilities for doing ethics within organisations.

The research investigates managers' ethical reflexivity in their managerial roles and the nature of the ethic they deploy in their daily managerial responsibilities. It also investigates the value they attach to their personal ethical dimension as individuals and the origins of their ethical values or principles.

The research adopts an interdisciplinary approach, with a broad range of literature pertaining to issues of managerial ethical and moral behaviour. A review of the literature revealed two significant gaps, which are addressed by this research. First, the need for more empirical research, which specifically focuses on individual managers within organisations rather than on organisations themselves; and secondly, the need to research and to understand the individual's "self' and its ethical dimension - the "ethical self' - as arguably a determining factor for guiding and upholding an individual's ethical stance within organisations.

The research is underpinned by a subjectivist ontology, an interpretative epistemology, and a qualitative methodology. This methodology is based on a notion of reciprocity, which implies a "give and take" negotiation between participants and researcher for the generation of rich data. The research is exploratory and inductive with data gathered from two separate sets of semi-structured interviews with executive managers from across a variety of organisations. All the data provide a deeper understanding into the ways managers construct their "ethical selves" and provide an insight into their ethical reflection at their place of work. The data identify as well some of the values and principles managers resort to when seeking to resolve the complexities of their managerial ethical dilemmas.

This research has resulted in a range of contributions, which primarily highlights the ethical awareness and sensitivity of managers in executing their daily responsibilities. The thesis provides evidence that ethics is an important dimension of a manager's job and that ethics ultimately emanates from an individual's "self' to reach out in response to a call from an "other". The research also shows the constant danger that managerial ethical behaviour faces by an organization's functional rationality, while on the other hand it also illustrates the possibilities of managers to do ethics.

This research contributes to knowledge by providing conceptual and empirical insights into the notion of ethics, as the reflexivity of the "ethical self', and finds expression in the "practical wisdom" of the "good" manager, as a principled yet pragmatic individual, ever mindful not to forfeit ethical responsibility.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Moon, J.W.
Keywords: Executives, attitudes, management, moral and ethical aspects, business ethics
Subjects: H Social sciences > HF Commerce
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > Nottingham University Business School
Item ID: 14117
Depositing User: EP, Services
Date Deposited: 04 Apr 2014 13:09
Last Modified: 22 Dec 2017 17:23

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