Reinforcing Ethical Decision Making Through Organizational Structure

Abstract

In this paper I examine how the constituent elements of a firm's organizational structure affect the ethical behavior of workers. The formal features of organizations I examine are the compensation practices, performance and evaluation systems, and decision-making assignments. I argue that the formal organizational structure, which is distinguished from corporate culture, is necessary, though not sufficient, in solving ethical problems within firms. At best the formal structure should not undermine the ethical actions of workers. When combined with a strong culture, however, the organizational structure may be sufficient in promoting ethical conduct. While helpful, ethics training and corporate codes are neither necessary nor sufficient in promoting ethical behavior within firms.

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James, H.S. Reinforcing Ethical Decision Making Through Organizational Structure. Journal of Business Ethics 28, 43–58 (2000). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1006261412704

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  • culture
  • ethical dilemmas
  • incentive systems
  • organizational ethics