Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 96, Issue 2, pp 187–206 | Cite as

Giving Voice in a Culture of Silence. From a Culture of Compliance to a Culture of Integrity

  • Peter VerhezenEmail author


This article argues that attempting to overcome moral silence in organizations will require management to move beyond a compliance-oriented organizational culture toward a culture based on integrity. Such cultural change is part of good corporate governance that aims to steer an organization to enhance creativity and moral excellence, and thus organizational value. Governance mechanisms can be either formal or informal. Formal codes and other internal formal regulations that emphasize compliance are necessary, although informal mechanisms that are based on relationship-building are more likely to achieve moral excellence. Such a shift can be viewed as a transformative strategy for overcoming the destructive side effects and business risks of the tendency within corporate cultures to remain mute when faced with issues that violate personal or corporate values. Genuine dialogues and appropriate ethical decision-making training can deepen the understanding and create a mindful awareness (of ethical values) and induce trust that embrace both complying with rules and regulations, as well as inciting creative “ethical innovation” with respect to human interaction in multinational companies.

Key words

moral muteness or a culture of silence moral mindfulness integrity beyond compliance organizational culture corporate formal and informal governance mechanisms 


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The author would like to thank Dr. Cheryl Leis, previously International Ethics Advisor at Boeing and currently the Executive Director of the Centre for Leadership and Ethics at Winnepeg University in Canada for the numerous comments and discussions regarding the debate on “compliance versus integrity,” and for the exciting experience to scrutinize extremely valuable and useful concepts and ideas in practical environments that led to a well received joint presentation at the EBEN conference in Leuven (Belgium) in September 2007. Quite a number of ideas of those joint discussions and some of the critical reactions at the conference have been incorporated in this article. Obviously, all remaining inadequacies remain mine. He also likes to thank the anonymous peer reviewer and Professor Dr. Deborah Charmaine Poff, the Section Editor of BEJ.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia

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