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Investigating the interaction between corporate bureaucracies and employees’ moral identities in explaining moral behaviour

Adewale, A. A. (2016) Investigating the interaction between corporate bureaucracies and employees’ moral identities in explaining moral behaviour. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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How CAN organisations make ‘good’ people do ‘bad’ things? This question has become more pertinent with rising cases of corporate scandals emphasising the importance of understanding the role of organisational context in behavioural ethics involving individuals and groups in organisational sociology. Few empirical studies exist in the literature that examines the role of context in workplace morality of employees and managers. This dissertation aims to develop this research on the role of context in morality, by offering an exploration of bureaucracy and its effects on employee morality drawing on two theories: Moral Identity Theory (Aquino and Reed, 2002) and Kohlberg’s (1961) Cognitive Moral Development (CMD). My key findings suggest that a bureaucracy is not merely a cluster of related characteristics or general typology as it is often abstracted in the literature and relevant theory (e.g Weber, 1978). Instead, even within the characteristics of a common type, there are subtle differences. Six multinational pharmaceuticals paired into three matched case groups were investigated along two Weberian dimensions - Rules and Managerial Control from which four different hybrids of bureaucracies were discovered namely: Traditional Bureaucracy (a context of strict rule-based compliance and personalised managerial control); Caste Bureaucracy (a culturally charged rule-based bureaucracy that fosters a caste controlled structure); Charismatic Bureaucracy (a system of unwritten rules and personalised managerial control underpinned by the charisma of leaders) and Entrepreneurial Bureaucracy (a hierarchical structure without rules and managerial control supporting opportunism). The effects of these hybrids on employee morality were found to be generally negative except the charismatic bureaucracy, which encouraged moral awareness in employees through the visible charisma of its leaders. Other hybrids typically encouraged a general pattern of inflated moral identity through rule compliance for instance that inspired an inflated sense of moral and professional competence in employees. By this, the bureaucracies were discovered to encourage conventional reasoning level (Kohlberg Stage 3) in individual employees such that conformity is the norm, to the detriment of individual critical moral inquiry - the vital component of ethics. Finally, all these helped the bureaucracies influence an overwhelming number of persons within them to become socialised in displaying loyalty to their organisations rather than to their professions, implying that the bureaucracies encouraged ‘expertise’ over ‘professionalism’ (Koehn, 2006). It was therefore concluded that for bureaucracies to empower employee morality, tacit means rather than explicit rule compliance methods must be employed.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Akrivou, K. and Fenton, E.
Thesis/Report Department:Henley Business School
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Henley Business School
ID Code:66518


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