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Ethics and morality in human resource management

John Simmons (HRM Subject Group Leader, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, UK.)

Social Responsibility Journal

ISSN: 1747-1117

Article publication date: 7 March 2008




The paper seeks to focus on operationalising corporate social responsibility in the context of employee governance. Its purpose is to evaluate critically the ethics of “mainstream” human resource management (HRM) and to propose an alternative stakeholder systems model of HRM.


Stakeholder theory is utilised to critique modes of employee governance, in the light of concepts of stakeholder accountability and organisational justice. Conceptual analysis attests to the need for a different philosophy of employee governance – in particular within knowledge‐intensive organisations.


The paper identifies the concept of “the responsible organisation” as a means of assessing organisational maturity in employee governance, and relates this to dimensions of organisational justice. Linkage enables employee perceptions of equitable treatment to be combined with effectiveness measures in the employee governance model proposed.

Research limitations/implications

The paper demonstrates the significance and application potential of a stakeholder systems development of current modes of managing people. Conclusions confirm instrumental and ethical rationales for the greater involvement of and accountability to employee stakeholders.

Practical implications

The paper demonstrates a business‐based rationale for the adoption of ethical corporate governance and HRM.


The stakeholder systems model represents a holistic approach to human resource management by its incorporation of employee perspectives at HRM system design, operation and evaluation stages. It responds to the need for a new philosophy of HRM in an era of stakeholder‐accountable organisations.



Simmons, J. (2008), "Ethics and morality in human resource management", Social Responsibility Journal, Vol. 4 No. 1/2, pp. 8-23.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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