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Deconstructing Code Stories: Versions of Corporate Morality based on Stories of Corporate Codes of Ethics
2014 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Abstract: The underlying assumption in this paper is that an organization consists of versions of ethics; what is considered to be right or wrong, is constructed and re-constructed in various ways. One of the very important ways in which ethics is reconstructed is through the stories told about and in relation to the company’s corporate code of ethics. Organizations abide with stories, myths, fantasies, and dreams (Gabriel, 1995), however, the stories captured in literature are often about human subjects. In this paper, we shall explore closely the corporate code of ethics as the protagonist in a story.

Research Question: What versions of corporate morality are found in what is said and not said about corporate ethics, about corporate good and bad, in stories about a Corporate Code of Ethics?

Theoretical Framework: The theoretical framework used in this paper is based literature stemming from the field of critical management studies. The main philosophical foundation of critical management studies is critical theory, but inspiration has also been drawn from labor process theory, poststructuralism, and critical realism (Alvesson, Bridgman and Wilmott, 2009; pg 29). The assumption of multiple versions of reality, which in this paper refers to versions of ethics, or what is seen as right or wrong, is based on Law’s (2004) and Mol’s (2002) ontological perspectives, arguing for fluidity, where realities, concepts, and practices  are shown to be plural, having many different faces (See also Law and Mol, 2004 and 2008).

Method: The choice to deconstruct a story narrated by the vice president of corporate responsibility at a Swedish Multinational Corporation (whom I from here onwards will be calling Anna) was made due to Anna’s position of power. Much of her daily work entails training managers and employees in business ethics, and the values stipulated in the corporation’s business code.  The deconstruction is inspired by Joanne Martin’s paper (1990) which is a deconstruction aiming at shedding light on the suppression of gender conflict in organizations. There are however, two significant differences. The first is that an inanimate object is here given life and a personality in order to highlight some of the effects that this object, a business code of ethics, can have. Some of these effects have been pinpointed by other authors (Jensen, Bauman etc). The second major difference is that whilst Joanne (1990) uses a feminist perspective in her deconstruction, the theoretical lens used in this paper is that of a general de-naturalization (Alvesson, Bridgman and Wilmott, 2009; pg 9) which entails questioning the existing order, the taken for granted.

Findings: The paper argues that in the deconstruction and reconstruction of the stories, when the code is seen as an agent, it clearly reinforces the idea of code as good, as a moral preacher and indirectly, resistance towards the code, as bad. The idea of the code is in stories about it often decoupled from the code as a material artifact, allowing separate versions of corporate morality to be enacted in stories about the code. indirectly, the content of the code becomes a part of the idea of the code, and when resistance towards the idea of the code is seen as bad, also resistance to towards the contents of the material artifact are seen as bad.  These findings suggest serious implications for the progression of ethics in corporations, as dialogue and disagreement with certain versions of corporate morality are discouraged. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2014.
Keywords [en]
Corporate code of ethics, Multiplicity, Morality
National Category
Business Administration
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-150159OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-150159DiVA, id: diva2:1233016
Conference
CRRC (Corporate Responsibility Research Conference), Leeds
Available from: 2018-07-13 Created: 2018-07-13 Last updated: 2018-07-13

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CiteExportLink to record
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Citation style
  • apa
  • ieee
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  • vancouver
  • Other style
More styles
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  • de-DE
  • en-GB
  • en-US
  • fi-FI
  • nn-NO
  • nn-NB
  • sv-SE
  • Other locale
More languages
Output format
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