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Sensemaking of managers' ethical work orientations


  • Christina Reis


Purpose - Regarding managers' sensemaking of ethical content, this paper aims to help understand how managers come to believe what is important for business ethics and to improve understanding about their ethical work orientations. Design/methodology/approach - The method used was a qualitative approach that analyzed 23 in-depth interviews conducted with managers in various settings. Findings - Three categories of ethical sense-making orientations were identified: the proactive managers; the institutional managers; the technical managers. The study follows a discussion of the significance of these categories in terms of ethics in management, focusing on the extent to which the individual or the organization appears to drive ethical dilemmas. Research limitations/implications - Five main limitations are discussed. It was not the aim of the study to provide an explanatory model for the process of ethical sensemaking and managers' work orientations. The sample of managers used in the study is only indicative of managers' ethical work orientations. Practical implications - Managers have different ethical work orientations that relate to their personal identities. These categories may provide a framework for future research on additional types of professionals, organizations and cultural settings. For example, the institutional ethical managers are easier for organizations to control since they seem to rely on company rules. Originality/value - The paper is valuable for management scholars and practitioners in the field of management. Since not much has been written about the sensemaking of managers and business ethics, the paper examines how some managers were more proactive than others in identifying ethical content in unexpected situations.

Suggested Citation

  • Christina Reis, 2010. "Sensemaking of managers' ethical work orientations," Social Responsibility Journal, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 6(1), pages 143-155, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:eme:srjpps:v:6:y:2010:i:1:p:143-155

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    Business ethics; Managers; Ethics;


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