The Moral Muteness of Managers

by Frederick Bird, James Waters

Fall 1989

Volume 32
Issue 1

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This article examines the pervasive reluctance of managers to talk about moral issues of business in ethical terms. It examines several factors that give rise to this avoidance of moral talk, or "moral muteness." Moral talk is perceived by many business people as constituting threats to organizational harmony, to managerial effectiveness, and to their own images of power. Moral muteness, in turn, creates several long-term costs for managers, including moral amnesia about ethical dimensions of business practice, moral stress for individual managers, neglect of moral abuses, and decreased authority for ethical standards. This article concludes with a series of recommended interventions to reduce these problems.

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