Professor Katie Bailey’s paper ‘Building an ethically strong organisation’ co-authored with Amanda Shantz of Trinty College Dublin, has won the MIT Sloan Management Review’s annual Richard Beckhard Memorial Prize.
The prize recognises the most outstanding article published by the journal on planned change and organizational development in the last year, and is judged by a panel of the MIT Sloan School of Management’s senior faculty members.
Professor Bailey and her co-researcher examined why persistent unethical conduct occurs and what managers can do about it. Their field research encompassed surveys, interviews, focus groups, and in-depth case studies of five UK organizations.
They found that an organization’s ethical tone was determined by how employees addressed common dilemmas in their everyday work and that doing the right thing was not always the most expedient or profitable approach.
Handling dilemmas in the right way, they concluded, requires management to acknowledge ethically ambiguous situations, clarify the trade-offs, model the desired behaviours, create and enforce robust corporate policies and procedures, empower employees to speak up when breaches occur, and embrace a higher purpose that transcends self-interest.
“By openly acknowledging and carefully managing murky situations that come up again and again,” says Professor Bailey, “organizations become much less susceptible to egregious lapses in judgment — and less likely to incur the associated reputational and financial costs.”
Adds Amanda Shantz: ““Leaders need to set a strong ethical tone in the organisation by generating a common understanding of what the organisation values, clearly communicating the consequences of behaving (un)ethically, and ensuring that employees have the ability, motivation and opportunity to do the 'right thing'. “
You can read Professor Bailey and Amanda Shantz’s paper online.