IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/kap/jbuset/v128y2015i4p863-876.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

Cogs in the Wheel or Spanners in the Works? A Phenomenological Approach to the Difficulty and Meaning of Ethical Work for Financial Controllers

Author

Listed:
  • François-Régis Puyou

    ()

  • Eric Faÿ

    ()

Abstract

The aim of this paper is to propose a new perspective on the difficulty and meaning of ethical work for financial controllers. This is achieved by drawing on concepts from Michel Henry’s phenomenology of life in the field of business ethics. The French philosopher Michel Henry (1922–2002) is distinguished by his identifying two modes of appearing: ‘intentionality’ (appearing of the world through representations) and ‘affectivity’ (appearing of life). Henry suggests that relying only on abstract representations constitutes a specific ideology that causes individuals at work to ignore the actual experience of being affected, and hinders the appearance of life to guide their actions, in turn hindering ethics. Empirical illustrations are provided by a case study that explores the practices of management accountants in a travel retail corporation. By observing the empirical practices of management accountants, a body of professionals whose role is largely dependent on information technology, abstraction and technical expertise to trace organisational flows and transactions, we shed light on the difficult ethical issues associated with their role of surveillance and control of other managers’ work. The case study illustrates a wide range of everyday working practices among management accountants. Some convey the impression that they lack empathy and consideration for other individuals, while others engage in close cooperation and ethical practices despite the constraining configuration of their role. A significant result of this research is that it illustrates and interprets, based on Henry’s phenomenology, a wide range of working practices. Consistent with Henry, we argue that the source of business ethics lies beyond professional standards, codes and values. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Suggested Citation

  • François-Régis Puyou & Eric Faÿ, 2015. "Cogs in the Wheel or Spanners in the Works? A Phenomenological Approach to the Difficulty and Meaning of Ethical Work for Financial Controllers," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 128(4), pages 863-876, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:jbuset:v:128:y:2015:i:4:p:863-876
    DOI: 10.1007/s10551-013-1986-6
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1007/s10551-013-1986-6
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Andrew Jones & Owen O'Donnell, 2007. "Guest editors' introduction," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 16(9), pages 871-873.
    2. Michel Aglietta & Antoine Rebérioux, 2005. "Corporate Governance Adrift," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 3675.
    3. Vollmer, Hendrik, 2007. "How to do more with numbers: Elementary stakes, framing, keying, and the three-dimensional character of numerical signs," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 32(6), pages 577-600, August.
    4. Jensen, Michael C. & Meckling, William H., 1976. "Theory of the firm: Managerial behavior, agency costs and ownership structure," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(4), pages 305-360, October.
    5. Eric Fay & Lucas Introna & François-Régis Puyou, 2010. "Living with numbers: Accounting for subjectivity in/with management accounting systems," Post-Print hal-00771160, HAL.
    6. Andrew Jones & Owen O'Donnell, 2007. "Guest editors' introduction," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 16(9), pages 871-873.
    7. Andrew Jones & Owen O'Donnell, 2007. "Guest editors' introduction," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 16(9), pages 871-873.
    8. Max Baker & John Roberts, 2011. "All in the Mind? Ethical Identity and the Allure of Corporate Responsibility," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 101(1), pages 5-15, March.
    9. Quattrone, Paolo & Hopper, Trevor, 2005. "A 'time-space odyssey': management control systems in two multinational organisations," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 30(7-8), pages 735-764.
    10. Shearer, Teri, 2002. "Ethics and accountability: from the for-itself to the for-the-other," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 27(6), pages 541-573, August.
    11. Roberts, John, 2001. "Corporate Governance and the Ethics of Narcissus," Business Ethics Quarterly, Cambridge University Press, vol. 11(01), pages 109-127, January.
    12. Carnegie, Garry D. & Napier, Christopher J., 2010. "Traditional accountants and business professionals: Portraying the accounting profession after Enron," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 360-376, April.
    13. Andrew Jones & Owen O'Donnell, 2007. "Guest editors' introduction," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 16(9), pages 871-873.
    14. Corvellec, Hervé & Bevan, David, 2005. "The Impossibility of Corporate Ethics – For a Levinasian Approach to Managerial Ethics," GRI-rapport 2005:9, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg Research Institute GRI.
    15. Bernadette Loacker & Sara Muhr, 2009. "How Can I Become a Responsible Subject? Towards a Practice-Based Ethics of Responsiveness," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 90(2), pages 265-277, December.
    16. Free, Clinton, 2008. "Walking the talk? Supply chain accounting and trust among UK supermarkets and suppliers," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 33(6), pages 629-662, August.
    17. Ezzamel, Mahmoud & Willmott, Hugh & Worthington, Frank, 2008. "Manufacturing shareholder value: The role of accounting in organizational transformation," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 33(2-3), pages 107-140.
    18. David Knights & Majella O’Leary, 2006. "Leadership, Ethics and Responsibility to the Other," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 67(2), pages 125-137, August.
    19. Ian Thynne & Burns, 2007. "Editorial Introduction," Asia Pacific Journal of Public Administration, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 29(1), pages 1-2, June.
    20. Barbara Townley, 2004. "Managerial Technologies, Ethics and Managing," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 41(3), pages 425-445, May.
    21. Hopwood, Anthony G., 1987. "The archeology of accounting systems," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 12(3), pages 207-234, April.
    22. Mar Pérezts & Jean-Philippe Bouilloud & Vincent Gaulejac, 2011. "Serving Two Masters: The Contradictory Organization as an Ethical Challenge for Managerial Responsibility," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 101(1), pages 33-44, March.
    23. Andrew Jones & Owen O'Donnell, 2007. "Guest editors' introduction," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 16(9), pages 871-873.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:kap:jbuset:v:128:y:2015:i:4:p:863-876. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Sonal Shukla) or (Rebekah McClure). General contact details of provider: http://www.springer.com .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.