Discriminating Ethics

Sage Publications
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Human Relations, 2005, 58 (6), pp. 799 - 824
Issue Date:
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This article examines ethics in work organization and in academic, particularly Critical Management Studies, research. It is centred on empirical data exploring the actions of three employees of a higher education institution who variously failed to resist and/or colluded in the sex discrimination of a colleague. We bring ethics to bear in our analysis of these data in three ways. First, reflecting upon our own methodology, we highlight the difficulties of balancing competing ethical responsibilities when engaging in critical research in contexts defined by adversarial relationships. Second, we highlight how research subjects, who we interpret as exercising problematic agency, draw upon discourses of care, friendship and responsibility to discursively construct their behaviour as moral. Third, drawing upon feminist theory, we reflect upon the ethical warrant of academic critiques of research subjects agency. Our analysis raises unsettling implications both for the ethics of Critical Management Studies research and for the function of ethics in organizations. We end by being as concerned by the capacity of ethical discourse to enable and legitimize discrimination as we are reassured by its utility to enable us to discriminate right from wrong behaviour in organizations.
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