Ethics, work and organisations

Projects in this area overlap with a number of other Group for Research in Integrity and Governance (GIG) projects. They also include work by Chris Provis on the ethics of negotiation and on ethics in organisational politics.

Ethics and organisational politics

Despite the fact that organisational politics is sometimes thought of as inherently unethical, it is possible to analyse the processes and ethics in a way that allows important practical distinctions to be made. Chris Provis' work on this area is contained in a number of books and articles, beginning with his book Ethics and organisational politics, published in 2004 by Edward Elgar.

Recent publications in this area include:

  • Provis, C., 2011, Individuals, groups and business ethics, London: Routledge.
  • Provis, C., 2008, 'Guanxi and conflicts of interest', Journal of Business Ethics, 79(1–2), 57–68.
  • Provis, C., 2007, 'Ethics and issues in public policy', Policy and Society, 26(3), 21–33.
  • Provis, C., 2006, 'Industrial relations, ethics and conscience', Business Ethics: A European Review, 15(1), 64–75.

The ethics of negotiation

This project grew from experience of practical negotiation dilemmas and dissatisfaction with some academic writing about negotiation (see for example PC Cramton and JG Dees, 'Promoting honesty in negotiation: an exercise in practical ethics', Business Ethics Quarterly, vol 3, no 4, 1993, pp 359–394 and JG Dees and PC Cramton, 'Shrewd bargaining on the moral frontier: toward a theory of morality in practice', Business Ethics Quarterly, vol 1, no 2, 1991, pp 135–167).

Writers like Dees and Cramton argue that by and large the use of 'aggressive, deceptive bargaining tactics' is morally acceptable in negotiation. The arguments rest on empirical claims about what negotiators expect of one another, and on ethical claims about alleged rights we have to take pre-emptive action if other negotiators have not given us reasons to trust them. Both those sorts of claims are dubious. There are a number of reports of negotiators' behaviour that give evidence of negotiators practising careful, principled behaviour themselves, and expecting it of others. And if others have not yet given us reason to trust them it seems best to act carefully to allow trust to develop if possible, rather than to engage in pre-emptive competitive tactics.

These arguments are worked out in more detail in the articles Chris Provis, 'Honesty in negotiation', Business Ethics: A European Review, vol 9, no 1, 2000, pp 3–12 and Chris Provis, 'Ethics, deception and labor negotiation', Journal of Business Ethics, vol 28, no 2, 2000, pp 145–158. Those articles contain references to a number of other writers who present the sorts of views being criticised, as well as to sources of evidence about actual negotiating practices and detailed argument about some relevant ethical principles.

Related work by Chris Provis can be found in the article 'Ethics and industrial relations', in the proceedings of the 13th AIRAANZ Conference (Adelaide, 1999), ed C Leggett and G Treuren, vol 1: pp 193–206, and the article 'Why is trust important?', in the proceedings of the conference Trust in the Workplace (Newcastle, 2000), ed J Connell and R Zeffane, pp 75–84, together with the brief article 'Competition, cooperation, trust and values', in the Business Higher Education Roundtable News for March 2000.

Areas of study and research

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