Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 57, Issue 4, pp 311-326

First online:

Can Ethical Organizational Character Be Stimulated and Enabled?: “Upbuilding” Dialog As Crisis Management Method

  • Richard P. NielsenAffiliated withDepartment of Organization studies, Boston College Email author 
  • , Ron DufresneAffiliated withPh.D. candidate in the Organization Studies Department of the Carroll School of Management, Boston College

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Crisis management can be simultaneously a content specific problem solving process and an opportunity for stimulating and enabling an organization’s ethical tradition. Crisis can be an opportunity for ethical organizational development. Kierkegaardian “upbuilding” dialog method builds from within the internal ethical tradition of an organization to respond to crises while simultaneously adapting and protecting the organization’s tradition. The crisis itself may not be a directly ethical crisis, but the method of responding to the crisis is built upon the ethical foundations of an organization’s tradition. A limitation of this method is that it may be less applicable to organizations with questionably ethical traditions. The concept of “upbuilding” dialog is derived from Kierkegaard, but here is applied to organizational crisis management. The method is illustrated and discussed in the context of a wrongful death crisis of the Dana- Farber Cancer Institute, a nonprofit organization, and an economic survival crisis at Ben and Jerry’s, a business organization.


Ethics organizational character crisis Kierkegaard