Formal and Informal Benevolence in a Profit-Oriented Context

  • Guillaume MercierEmail author
  • Ghislain Deslandes
Original Paper


Faced with the disenchantment and disengagement expressed by their employees, business leaders are considering ways of incorporating more benevolence into managerial practices. Nevertheless, ‘benevolence’—care and concern for the well-being of others—has not yet been studied in an organizational profit-focused context. In this paper, we seek to investigate the emergence and practice of benevolence with an eye on profit and performance. We begin by investigating the main ethical approaches to benevolence—virtue ethical, utilitarian, and deontological. Then, based on an empirical study (in the context of an upward feedback system in a consulting firm), we identify two distinct types of benevolence. On the one hand, formal benevolence is defined and monitored by the organizational processes and actions of leaders; it is understood by all concerned to be bounded by organizational performance. On the other hand, informal benevolence exists at the margin of these processes, in interpersonal and discretionary relationships. We set out to analyze these two types of benevolence and the complementarity between them. We also discuss to what extent they can be managed, teasing out some implications for managers and some potential avenues for further research.


Benevolence Formal benevolence Informal benevolence Altruism Virtue ethics Utilitarianism Consulting firm Upward feedback 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

Guillaume Mercier and Ghislain Deslandes declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in this study involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.IÉSEG School of Management (LEM-CNRS 9221)LilleFrance
  2. 2.ESCP EuropeParisFrance

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