Business and the Greater Good
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Business and the Greater Good

Rethinking Business Ethics in an Age of Crisis

Edited by Knut J. Ims and Lars J.T. Pedersen

With cutting-edge insights from leading European and North American scholars, this authoritative book addresses the fundamental problems of business in an age of crisis whilst presenting radical, but practical, solutions.
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Chapter 10: Personal responsibility for the greater good

Knut J. Ims and Lars Jacob Tynes Pedersen


This chapter deals with the phenomenon of personal responsibility in organizational life. Specifically, we aim to shed light on the process by which individuals in organizations arrive at radical acts of personal responsibility despite inflicting considerable costs on themselves (and potentially on others). Thus, we investigate a particular variety of personally responsible behavior – acts that are characterized by autonomous, value-driven choice. The chapter relates personal responsibility to moral concerns for the broader implications of organizational action. As such, we address the relationship between personal responsibility and conceptions of the greater good. In doing so, we explore the nature of personal responsibility, and in particular, how the individual translates one’s moral values into action. The chapter builds on previous work by Ims and Pedersen (2013; Ims 2006), who discussed strategies of personally responsible behavior in organizations. Depending on the circumstances, Ims and Pedersen (2013) argue, different strategies can be considered as instances of personal responsibility. Voicing concerns to managers or colleagues when it may be personally costly to do so, exiting the organization, or staying in loyalty to the organization while attempting to change its practices from the inside, can all constitute responsible acts depending on the situation (cf. Hirschman 1970). In this chapter, we investigate the case of exiting the organization as responsible action by providing an in-depth analysis of a top manager’s choice to resign from an organization for ethical reasons.

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