A Summary of Robert Jackall's Moral Mazes

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A summary of Robert Jackall’s Moral Mazes
The theme of this work is that managers constantly adapt to the social environments of their organisations in order to succeed. In such contexts, they have no use for abstract ethical principles, but conform to the requirements of bureaucratic functionality. What implications follow for the ethical leader in business?
Jackall found that managers assess their decisions against contextual criteria.
Essentially, managers try to gauge whether they feel “comfortable” with proposed resolutions to specific problems, a task that always involves an assessment of others’ organisational morality and a reckoning of the practical organisational and market exigencies at hand. The notion of comfort has many
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“the systematic application of functional rationality to the self to attain certain individual ends”. Such a manager “dispassionately takes stock of himself, treating himself as an object, as a commodity. He analyses his strengths and weaknesses and decides what he needs to change in order to survive and flourish in his organization. And then he systematically undertakes a program to reconstruct his image ...” (p.59) “The continuous uncertainty and ambiguity of managerial hierarchies, exacerbated over time by masked conflict, causes managers to turn towards each other for cues for behaviour. They try to learn from each other and to master the shared assumptions, the complex rules, the normative codes, the underlying institutional logic that governs their world. ... Normally, of course, one learns to master the managerial code in the course of repeated, long-term social interaction with other managers” (p.37-8) “... one makes oneself alert to expediency by projecting outward the objectifying habit of mind learned in the course of self-rationalization. That is, the manager alert to expediency learns to appraise all situations and all other people as he comes to see himself - as an object, a commodity, something to be scrutinized, rearranged, tinkered with, packaged, advertised, promoted, and sold.” (p.119)
Managers project themselves as “men and
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