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Philosophy of Management

Volume 1, Issue 3, 2001

Articulate Action

James McCalman
Pages 57-66

But I Did It for the Company! The Ethics of Organisational Politics

Organisational politics traditionally gets a ‘bad press’. It has generally been under-researched mainly because of concerns about image. Managers dislike discussing subjects such as organisational politicking, believing that it reflects badly on themselves as managers and on their organisation and they cling to a purely rationalist model of decision-making. Sometimes, even the presence of politics is denied. But, as this paper argues, while some managers may claim to have no taste for politics they readily engage in it and justify it. The processes of managing organisational change more often than not result in conflict and resistance, requiring political engagement in response. This paper analyses political activities in the context of change, using an ethical decision-tree to examine practical cases. It presents them in the managers’ own terms and assesses them against three criteria: utility, rights and justice. The findings raise questions about how managers themselves construe ethical behaviour and about the adequacy of the criteria they use. There is room for further research in this area and analysis of the ethical frameworks used to evaluate what managers do.

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