Moral Mazes: The World of Corporate Managers
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This classic study of ethics in business presents an eye-opening account of how corporate managers think the world works, and how big organizations shape moral consciousness. Robert Jackall takes the reader inside a topsy-turvy world where hard work does not necessarily lead to success, but sharp talk, self-promotion, powerful patrons, and sheer luck might. What sort of everyday rules-in-use do people play by when there are no fixed standards to explain why some succeed and others fail? In the words of one corporate manager, those rules boil down to this maxim: "What is right in the corporation is what the guy above you wants from you. That's what morality is in the corporation." This brilliant, disturbing, funny look at the ethos of the corporate world presents compelling real life stories of the men and women charged with running the businesses of America. This anniversary edition includes an afterword by the author linking the themes of Moral Mazes to the financial tsunami that engulfed the world economy in 2008.
Corporation sold millions of dollars of their company’s stock to diversify their own personal portfolios just before New Century’s stock buckled. Later, Countrywide’s president, who had unloaded $200 million of Countrywide’s stock while leading the company into a wilderness of bad debt, landed on his feet along with a dozen of his former colleagues. Exemplifying men who understand that “’tis an ill wind that blows nobody good,” they established PennyMac to buy at cents on the dollar delinquent
233 Citigroup, 231–32 stock market, 230 Tax scofflaws, 234 Taylor, Frederick, 145–47 Team play, 23, 63, 66, 123, 209 main dimensions of, 53–60 metaphorical basis of, in football, 53–54 See also Dissent Tedlow, Richard, 178 Theodicy disenchantment and collapse of traditional, 161–63 and old Protestant ethic, 204 Three Mile Island (TMI, TMI-1, TMI-2), 118–24, 144, 159 TMI. See Three Mile Island TMI-1. See Three Mile Island TMI-2. See Three Mile Island Tönnies, Ferdinand, 148
is that it allows individuals to retain bewilderingly diverse private motives and meanings for action as long as they adhere publicly to agreed-upon rules. Even the personal relationships that men and women in bureaucracies do subsequently fashion together are, for the most part, governed by explicit or implicit organizational rules, procedures, and protocol. As a result, bureaucratic work causes people to bracket, while at work, the moralities that they might hold outside the workplace or that
or the opportunity to routinize decisions when possible, can only make one vulnerable to the charge of “managing by the seat of the pants.” All of this, of course, is complicated by the difficulties of assessing to what extent functionally rational devices actually are used in making decisions, particularly by higher-ups. Vocabularies of rationality are always invoked to cloak decisions, particularly those that might seem impulsive when judged by other standards. The CEO of Covenant Corporation,
dust becomes an “air-borne particulate” and byssinosis or brown lung a “symptom complex.” In the chemical industry, spewing highly toxic hydrogen fluoride into a neighboring community’s air is characterized as a “release beyond the fence line.” The nuclear power industry, precisely because of its publicly perceived danger, is, of course, a wonderland of euphemisms. For example, the “incident” at Three Mile Island in March 1979 was variously called an “abnormal evolution” or, perhaps better, a