Moral Courage & Manager-Regret

Journal article

Duckworth, C. (2022). Moral Courage & Manager-Regret. Business Ethics, the Environment and Responsibility. 32 (2), pp. 467-477.
AuthorsDuckworth, C.

It has been suggested that moral courage in the workplace supports more robust application of regulatory principles. A workforce with the courage to act on moral imperative, it is argued, can bolster corporate governance and promote both more stable business organisations and greater economic stability at large. Research in the area investigates the bases of moral courage, a central implication being that businesses should invest in ethical training as a matter of public policy. It is standard to present moral courage as the strength of will to do the morally right thing. From a managerial perspective, however, this distorts the normative character of the kind of issues managers typically face. Doing the morally right thing commonly entails inflicting permissible harms. Such harms, though permissible, can be a source of moral concern to the conscientious manager. A difficulty for the standard account, then, is that moral courage may be expected in scenarios in which the moral implications of the manager’s action have not been fully assessed. In this paper an alternative account of moral evaluation is presented that incorporates the concern around permissible harms. The basis of such concern is found to be manager-regret. Building on this foundation, we can establish a new definition of moral courage, that understands the right action to be that which entails defensible harms, and requires courage because those harms will likely have to be defended. It should be recognised in the academic literature that moral courage has this intellectual dimension. Further, managerial training and practice should reflect this understanding of moral courage if its benefits to public policy, in particular corporate governance, are to be realised. The thesis takes a novel approach to the topic that draws, centrally, on the work of Bernard Williams, Martha Nussbaum and Søren Kierkegaard.

KeywordsDirty Hands, Management Ethics, Martha Nussbaum, Moral Courage, Søren Kierkegaard, Bernard Williams
JournalBusiness Ethics, the Environment and Responsibility
Journal citation32 (2), pp. 467-477
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Print24 Nov 2022
Publication process dates
Accepted01 Nov 2022
Deposited17 Nov 2022
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