Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 11, Issue 11, pp 877–882 | Cite as

Fairness in hierarchical and entrepreneurial firms

  • Michael K. Green


Discussions of fairness in the workplace are built on assumptions about the organization of work and about fairness. Writers on business ethics have not appreciated that work is often organized differently in different stages of the life cycle of a firm. In this paper it is argued that the conceptions of fairness applied to a mature firm are often not applicable to a fledgling one. In a mature firm authority and responsibility are typically delegated and divided into specific jobs with relatively rigid boundaries. Thus, it has been argued that fairness in hiring requires specific job descriptions, fairness in remuneration requires standardized and graded salaries, and fairness in due process requires peer review. However, in the formative stages of a corporation, there may be very little differentiation or specialization. There is a continual re-definition of individual tasks through interaction with others as knowledge about products, production, and consumer demand are acquired by trial and error in the marketplace. Fairness takes a different form in this firm. The principle that similar people are to be treated similarly and different people differently can be operationalized in two ways. The mature firm typically focuses on differences; a fledgling, entrepreneurial one on similarities. How some of the issues of fairness in hiring, pay, and due process need to be reformulated once they are placed within the context of an entrepreneurial firm with its emphasis on similarity are then discussed.


Life Cycle Economic Growth Business Ethic Consumer Demand Formative Stage 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bennis, W. G.: 1966,Changing Organizations: Essays on the Development and Evolution of Human Organization (McGraw-Hill, New York).Google Scholar
  2. Bowers, D. G.: 1976,Systems of Organization Management of the Human Resource (The University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor).Google Scholar
  3. Brion, D. J.: (forthcoming), ‘Modern Witchcraft: The Semiotic Power of Community Cosmology’, in P. Lang,Law and Semiotics, Vol. 4.Google Scholar
  4. Burns, T. and G. M. Stalker: 1979,The Management of Innovation (Tavistock, London).Google Scholar
  5. Carter, N. M. and T. L. Keon: 1989, ‘Specialization as a Multidimensional Construct’,Journal of Management Studies 26(1) (January), 11–28.Google Scholar
  6. Drucker, P. F.: 1985,Innovation and Entrepreneurship Practice and Principles (Harper & Row, Publishers, New York).Google Scholar
  7. Drucker, P. F.: 1986,The Frontiers of Management (Truman Talley Books, New York —E. P. Dutton).Google Scholar
  8. Drucker, P. F.: 1989,The New Realities in Government and Politics/in Economics and Business/in society and World View (Harper & Row, Publishers, New York).Google Scholar
  9. Emery, F. E. and E. L. Trist: 1965, ‘The Causal Texture of Organizational Environments’, inHuman Relations 18, 21–32.Google Scholar
  10. Green, M. K.: 1986, ‘A Kantian Evaluation of Taylorism in the Workplace’, inThe Journal of Business Ethics 5, 165–169.Google Scholar
  11. Lawrence, P. R. and J. W. Lorsch: 1969,Organization and Environment (Harvard Business School Press, Boston).Google Scholar
  12. Long, C. R. and M. Snoeyenbos: 1983, ‘Ladd on Morality and Formal Organizations’, inBusiness Ethics Corporate Values and Society, edited by Milton Snoeyenbos, Robert Almeder, and James Humber (Prometheus Books, Buffalo), pp. 61–69.Google Scholar
  13. Miles, R. E.: 1975,Theories of Management: Implications for Organizational Behavior and Development (McGraw-Hill, Inc., New York).Google Scholar
  14. Nodding, N.: 1984,Caring, a Feminist Approach to Ethics and Moral Education (University of California Press, Ltd., Los Angeles, California).Google Scholar
  15. Perrow, C.: 1967, ‘A Framework for the Comparative Analysis of Organizations’,American Sociological Review 32, 194–208.Google Scholar
  16. Peters, T. J. and R. H. Waterman, Jr.: 1982,In Search of Excellence Lessons from America's Best-Run Corporations (Harper & Row, Publishers, New York).Google Scholar
  17. Peters, T. J.: 1987,Thriving on Chaos Handbook for a Management Revolution (Alfred A. Knopf, New York).Google Scholar
  18. Rawls, J.: 1971,A Theory of Justice (Belknap Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts).Google Scholar
  19. Snoeyenbos, M. and R. Almeder ‘Ethical Hiring Practices’, inBusiness Ethics Corporate Valus and Society, edited by Milton Snoeyenbos, Robert Almeder, and Janes Humber, pp. 194–207.Google Scholar
  20. Terreberry, S.: 1968, ‘The Evolution of Organizational Environments’, inAdministrative Science Quarterly 12, 590–613.Google Scholar
  21. Thompson, J. D.: 1967,Organizations in Action (McGraw-Hill, New York).Google Scholar
  22. Thompson, M., R. Ellis, and A. Wildavsky.: 1990,Cultural Theory (Westview Press, Boulder).Google Scholar
  23. Toffler, A.: 1990,Powershift (Bantam Books, New York).Google Scholar
  24. Weber, M.: 1964,Economy and Society, translated by A.M. Henderson and Talcott Parsons inThe Theory of Social and Economic Organization, edited by Talcott Parsons (The Free Press of Glencoe, New York).Google Scholar
  25. Weick, K. E.: 1968,The Social Psychology of Organizing, 2d ed. (Addison-Wesley, Reading, Mass.).Google Scholar
  26. Werhane, P.: 1985,Persons, Rights, and Corporations (Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, N.J.).Google Scholar
  27. Witten, M.: 1989, ‘Whatever Happened to Corporate Loyalty?’, inCanadian Business (February), 102.Google Scholar
  28. Woodward, J.: 1965,Industrial Organization: Theory and Practice (Oxford University Press, London).Google Scholar
  29. Wren, D. A.: 1987,The Evolution of Management Thought, 3rd Edition, (Wiley, New York).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael K. Green
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyState University of New YorkOneontaUSA

Personalised recommendations