Managerial Responsibility as Negotiated Order: A Social Construction Perspective

Journal of Business Ethics 101 (S1):17-31 (2011)
This article examines how employees form their perceptions of managerial responsibility in a concrete organizational setting. Drawing on negotiated order theory, it shows that these perceptions are the result of complex processes of social construction and negotiation, rather than the application of predetermined ethics models or norms. Employees’ perceptions appear to be unstable; they are subject to constant alterations, fluctuating with the organizational circumstances, and are likely to create considerable organizational perturbations, especially when managers make complex and ambiguous decisions. This process is illustrated through an ethnographic study that analyzed the evolution of employee perceptions during a three-year crisis—one that led managers to repeatedly postpone salary payments to save jobs. The process approach adopted by the study highlights important dynamics that traditional business ethics approaches overlook, such as the fragility of the construct of managerial responsibility, which cannot be coherent unless it is constantly renegotiated among an organization’s various employee groups
Keywords Managerial responsibility  Ethical judgment  Negotiated order  Ethnography  Organizational crisis
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DOI 10.1007/s10551-011-1172-7
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