Unethical, neurotic, or both? A psychoanalytic account of ethical failures within organizations

Business Ethics 29 (1):167-179 (2020)
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Abstract

This paper aims to integrate insights from psychoanalytic theory into business ethics research on the sources of ethical failures within organizations. We particularly draw from the analysis of sources and outcomes of neurotic processes that are part of human development, as described by the psychoanalyst Karen Horney and more recently by Manfred Kets de Vries; we interpret their insights from a stakeholder theory perspective. Business ethics research seems to have overlooked how “neurotic management styles” could be the antecedents of unethical behavior within organizations. After showing the connection between five managerial neuroses and the corresponding potential ethical failures within organizations that have been already identified within business ethics research, we suggest three organizational strategies to counteract these failures. First, we argue that managers should pay greater attention at the complexity of human motivation, avoiding the simplistic view of compliance‐based approaches. Second, we discuss the importance of developing a conversation around values within organizations, enabling healthy individual growth and limiting the emergence of neurotic processes. Finally, we discuss the role of the business ethicist in facilitating such a process, suggesting a parallel between the role of the business ethicist and that of the psychoanalytic therapist.

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Robert Edward Freeman
University of Virginia

References found in this work

The Politics of Stakeholder Theory.R. Edward Freeman - 1994 - Business Ethics Quarterly 4 (4):409-421.
Corporate Roles, Personal Virtues.Robert C. Solomon - 1992 - Business Ethics Quarterly 2 (3):317-339.
Ethical Decision-Making Theory: An Integrated Approach.Mark S. Schwartz - 2016 - Journal of Business Ethics 139 (4):755-776.
Corporate Roles, Personal Virtues.Robert C. Solomon - 1992 - Business Ethics Quarterly 2 (3):317-339.

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