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.

    File URL: https://libkey.io/10.1007/s10551-013-1986-6?utm_source=ideas
    LibKey link: if access is restricted and if your library uses this service, LibKey will redirect you to where you can use your library subscription to access this item
    ---><---

    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. Eric Fay & Lucas Introna & François-Régis Puyou, 2010. "Living with numbers: Accounting for subjectivity in/with management accounting systems," Post-Print hal-00771160, HAL.
    2. Andrew Jones & Owen O'Donnell, 2007. "Guest editors' introduction," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 16(9), pages 871-873, September.
    3. 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.
    4. Roberts, John, 2001. "Corporate Governance and the Ethics of Narcissus," Business Ethics Quarterly, Cambridge University Press, vol. 11(1), pages 109-127, January.
    5. 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.
    6. 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.
    7. Hopwood, Anthony G., 1987. "The archeology of accounting systems," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 12(3), pages 207-234, April.
    8. 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.
    9. Etsuo Yoneyama, 2007. "Phenomenology of life, Zen and management," Post-Print hal-02311785, HAL.
    10. 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.
    11. 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.
    12. 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.
    13. 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.
    14. 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.
    15. Ian Thynne & Burns, 2007. "Editorial Introduction," Asia Pacific Journal of Public Administration, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 29(1), pages 1-2, June.
    16. Eric Faÿ & Lucas Introna & François-Régis Puyou, 2010. "Living with numbers : Accounting for subjectivity in/with management accounting systems," Post-Print hal-02312445, HAL.
    17. Michel Aglietta & Antoine Rebérioux, 2005. "Corporate Governance Adrift," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 3675.
    18. Mar Perezts & Jean-Philippe Bouilloud & Vincent De Gaulejac, 2011. "Serving two Masters : the contradictory organization as an ethical challenge for managerial responsibility," Post-Print hal-02313063, HAL.
    19. 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.
    20. Barbara Townley, 2004. "Managerial Technologies, Ethics and Managing," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 41(3), pages 425-445, May.
    21. 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.
    22. 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.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. Christoph Endenich & Rouven Trapp, 2020. "Ethical Implications of Management Accounting and Control: A Systematic Review of the Contributions from the Journal of Business Ethics," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 163(2), pages 309-328, May.
    2. Frémeaux, Sandrine & Puyou, François-Régis & Michelson, Grant, 2020. "Beyond accountants as technocrats: A common good perspective," CRITICAL PERSPECTIVES ON ACCOUNTING, Elsevier, vol. 67.

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Cameron Graham & Martin E. Persson & Vaughan S. Radcliffe & Mitchell J. Stein, 2023. "The State of Ohio’s Auditors, the Enumeration of Population, and the Project of Eugenics," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 187(3), pages 565-587, October.
    2. Mar Pérezts & Jo-Anna Russon & Mollie Painter, 2020. "This Time from Africa: Developing a Relational Approach to Values-Driven Leadership," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 161(4), pages 731-748, February.
    3. 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.
    4. Bay, Charlotta, 2018. "Makeover accounting: Investigating the meaning-making practices of financial accounts," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 44-54.
    5. Carl Rhodes & Robert Westwood, 2016. "The Limits of Generosity: Lessons on Ethics, Economy, and Reciprocity in Kafka’s The Metamorphosis," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 133(2), pages 235-248, January.
    6. Silvia Gherardi & Oliver Laasch, 2022. "Responsible Management-as-Practice: Mobilizing a Posthumanist Approach," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 181(2), pages 269-281, November.
    7. Albert D. Spalding & Gretchen R. Lawrie, 2019. "A Critical Examination of the AICPA’s New “Conceptual Framework” Ethics Protocol," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 155(4), pages 1135-1152, April.
    8. Chenhall, Robert H. & Hall, Matthew & Smith, David, 2013. "Performance measurement, modes of evaluation and the development of compromising accounts," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 51294, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    9. Armstrong, Peter, 2015. "The discourse of Michel Foucault: A sociological encounter," CRITICAL PERSPECTIVES ON ACCOUNTING, Elsevier, vol. 27(C), pages 29-42.
    10. Mar Pérezts & Sébastien Picard, 2015. "Compliance or Comfort Zone? The Work of Embedded Ethics in Performing Regulation," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 131(4), pages 833-852, November.
    11. Maroun, Warren & Solomon, Jill, 2014. "Whistle-blowing by external auditors: Seeking legitimacy for the South African Audit Profession?," Accounting forum, Elsevier, vol. 38(2), pages 109-121.
    12. Lorino, Philippe & Mourey, Damien & Schmidt, Géraldine, 2017. "Goffman's theory of frames and situated meaning-making in performance reviews. The case of a category management approach in the French retail sector," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 32-49.
    13. Jeff Everett & Constance Friesen & Dean Neu & Abu Shiraz Rahaman, 2018. "We Have Never Been Secular: Religious Identities, Duties, and Ethics in Audit Practice," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 153(4), pages 1121-1142, December.
    14. Joel Hietanen & Antti Sihvonen, 2021. "Catering to Otherness: Levinasian Consumer Ethics at Restaurant Day," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 168(2), pages 261-276, January.
    15. Englund, Hans & Gerdin, Jonas, 2014. "Structuration theory in accounting research: Applications and applicability," CRITICAL PERSPECTIVES ON ACCOUNTING, Elsevier, vol. 25(2), pages 162-180.
    16. Maya Todeschini, 2011. "“Webs of Engagement”: Managerial Responsibility in a Japanese Company," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 101(1), pages 45-59, March.
    17. Englund, Hans & Gerdin, Jonas & Burns, John, 2011. "25 Years of Giddens in accounting research: Achievements, limitations and the future," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 36(8), pages 494-513.
    18. Casarin, Veronica, 2023. "Calculative frames, compromising metrics, and the multiple values of innovation: The case of technology incubation in the UK," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 111(C).
    19. Himick, Darlene, 2016. "Actuarialism as biopolitical and disciplinary technique," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 22-44.
    20. Jackie Krafft & Jacques-Laurent Ravix, 2008. "Corporate Governance in Advanced Economies: Lessons in a Post Financial Crash Era.. Introduction to the Special Issue," Recherches économiques de Louvain, De Boeck Université, vol. 74(4), pages 419-424.

    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.

    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 bibliographic 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.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Sonal Shukla or Springer Nature Abstracting and Indexing (email available below). General contact details of provider: http://www.springer.com .

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

    IDEAS is a RePEc service. RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.