Means versus Ends in Business Ethics: A Behavioural Trade-off Between Compliance and Achievement [of Corporate Ethics Programmes]

Publikation: Bidrag til bog/antologi/rapportKonferencebidrag i proceedingsForskningpeer review


The academic discussion on decoupling commonly centres on the macro level, distinguishing between policy-practice and means-ends decoupling. The former concerns the merely symbolic adoption of policies; the latter refers to compliant adopters not achieving intended goals. I build on prior propositions of a trade-off between policy-practice and means-end decoupling in highly opaque fields where causal complexity undermines the understanding of institutional actors. Specifically, I argue that a similar tension exists on the micro level regarding the ethical behaviour of employees. Norm ambiguity in organisations is prone to trigger ethical blindness among ethically bounded humans, whereby their moral values and intentions fade away. This drives corporations to introduce tight control elements in form of clear rules, stringent monitoring and sanctioning to induce substantive compliance with specific aspects of ethics programmes. However, such tight controls fail to address overall field opacity by undermining the moral awareness of target individuals. Thereby, they hinder the achievement of an organisation’s broader value-oriented ethics goals. The resulting tension points towards an inherent trade-off: addressing policy-practice decoupling may aggravate means-ends decoupling and vice versa. I conceptualise this tension and define conditions for a behavioural ethics approach in corporations under which the trade-off can be reduced.
TitelAcademy of Management Proceedings
RedaktørerSonja Taneja
Antal sider6
UdgivelsesstedBriarcliff Manor, NY
ForlagAcademy of Management
StatusUdgivet - 2022
BegivenhedThe Academy of Management Annual Meeting 2022: Creating a Better World Together - Seattle, USA
Varighed: 5 aug. 20229 aug. 2022
Konferencens nummer: 82


KonferenceThe Academy of Management Annual Meeting 2022


  • AOM annual meeting proceedings 2022
  • AOM Seattle 2022
  • Best paper