University of Jyväskylä

Dissertation: 13.4.2018 Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Middle Managers' Ethical Decision Making and Behaviour in the Organizational Context (Hiekkataipale)

Start date: Apr 13, 2018 12:00 PM

End date: Apr 13, 2018 03:00 PM

Location: Seminaarinmäki, S212

HTM Minna-Maaria Hiekkataipale defends her doctoral dissertation in Management and Leadership "Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Middle Managers' Ethical Decision Making and Behaviour in the Organizational Context". Opponent Professor Johanna Kujala (University of Tampere) and Custos Professor Anna-Maija Lämsä (University of Jyväskylä). The doctoral dissertation is held in Finnish.

This study increases knowledge and understanding of middle managers’ ethical decision-making and behaviour within the context of Finnish higher education. The aim of the research is to develop a new framework for ethical decision-making and behaviour by combining prior theories and empirical knowledge. This dissertation consists of an introductory essay and three articles. The main argument of this research is that through organisations’ socialisation processes, middle managers adopt socially defined managerial roles, which affect their ethical decision-making and ethical conduct.  We can say that especially the ethical organisational culture is significant for middle managers’ understanding of ethical accountability and for their actual ability to behave ethically when facing ethical problems. Another key argument of this research is that middle managers, as effective moral agents, can change and develop the existing organisational culture.

This research draws on the phenomenological research tradition and it was conducted by using the critical incident technique (cit). The data consists of interviews collected in four knowledge organisations, all of them institutions of higher education in Finland.

The empirical findings of this dissertation suggest that ethical problems that require managerial decision-making are of an everyday nature in the knowledge organisations studied here, and that middle managers handle the problems in various ways, often on the basis of what they think is expected from them in their middle management position.  In addition to meeting the role expectations held by upper management, middle managers also try to meet the expectations of their highly skilled staff members when making decisions. Moreover, managers themselves can act as influential decision-makers who set an example of ethical behaviour for others to follow. This result underlines the importance of open and honest dialogue between all managerial levels, and especially between managers and employees in knowledge organisations, concerning what is expected in terms of ethical decision-making and ethical behaviour.

In this introductory essay, a new theoretical framework for ethical decision-making and behaviour is developed. What is called the appropriate agency framework for ethical decision-making combines the theories of logic of appropriateness and moral agency and takes into account the dimensions of the ethical culture of organisations. The framework demonstrates how situational elements, the centrality of moral identity, and organisational rules together influence ethical behaviour, and how reflection and learning affect this process.

The dissertation is published in the series Jyväskylä Studies in Business and Economics Report number 186, Jyväskylä 2018, ISSN 1457-1986, ISBN 978-951-39-7382-7 (PDF), ISBN 978-951-39-7381-0 (print). Link to the dissertation:

Keywords: ethical decision-making, ethical culture of organisations, ethical problems, middle manager, higher education, logic of appropriateness, moral agency, moral identity, qualitative research

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Minna-Maaria Hiekkataipale
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