Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 136, Issue 1, pp 89–100 | Cite as

The Moral of the Story: Re-framing Ethical Codes of Conduct as Narrative Processes

  • Matt Statler
  • David OliverEmail author


This paper re-frames business ethical codes (BCEs) as narrative processes by reflecting critically on key ontological assumptions underpinning the existing research, and introducing new and relevant concepts based on alternative assumptions. The first section draws on recent decision-making research to develop a theoretical account of BCEs as complex, socially embedded sensemaking processes. The second section addresses the content of codes, and differentiates between narrative and logico-scientific modes of reasoning. The third section focuses on the quality of code communication and identifies several distinct types of narrative process. We provide research directions for how this new understanding of BCEs may be further developed, as well as implications for practitioners. In response to the call for new conceptual models (O’Fallon and Butterfield, in J Bus Ethics 59:375–413, 2005), the paper provides organizational researchers with a more nuanced understanding of how BCEs enable or constrain ethical behavior in organizations.


Code of conduct Business code of ethics (BCE) Sensemaking Narrative Storytelling 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.NYU Stern School of BusinessNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Discipline of Work and Organisational StudiesThe University of Sydney Business SchoolDarlingtonAustralia

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