Visual Ethics: Volume 19

Cover of Visual Ethics

Table of contents

(12 chapters)

Although organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) is widely known to have a positive ethical impact in work organizations, the causal antecedents that influence the likelihood of such behaviors among employees is understudied. We addressed this gap by examining the influence of visual images of people on relevant work-related behavior in a work-like setting using the theoretical frame of the social identity perspective. We found that students in a university setting, who were exposed to religious-themed student images, exhibited slower helping behaviors toward the organization than those who were exposed to organizational-themed student images. The results of the current study provide the first-known experimental confirmation of organizational identity as a causal antecedent of OCB.


With the shift from an industrial to a knowledge economy, organization theorists continue to address the role and nature of control in organizational structure. The continuing utility of bureaucracy in new organizational forms was a focal point for this discussion. Research on this shift contributes to the ongoing debate on the role of ethics in bureaucratic and post-bureaucratic organizations. This paper suggested that the work of the artist Joseph Cornell provides a visual representation of the dimensions of this debate. First, the paper introduced Cornell to the reader. Next, the paper reviewed the research on bureaucratic and post-bureaucratic organizations with a focus on ethics, control, and enchantment in organizations. To provide visual reflections of the literature, this paper embedded examples of Cornell’s works throughout the discussion. Cornell’s art not only provides representations of these organizational forms, but also demonstrates how conflicts of an artist capture the development of thought within this area of organizational analysis.


This chapter examined portrayals of the morality of organizations using the lens of Western films. The work explored six decades of film, analyzing the organizational contexts and their agents, in order to understand filmmakers’ and audiences’ perceptions of organizational settings. In order to examine the organization as an entity within film, this chapter provided a content analysis of plot summaries from a purposefully selected body of top grossing box office films spanning 60 years. The plot summaries constituted a strong basis for identifying the characteristics of the organization as they are largely descriptive in nature and as such do not offer any evaluation or analysis of the film. Any assumptions about the character of organizations (or their members/employees) are unconscious, and as such they constitute a verbal description of what competent observers would say has occurred within the film. The plots were coded to reveal perceptions of positive, neutral, or negative organizational contexts and actions. This approach exposed the filmmakers symbolic placing of the organization in order to provide backdrops for the narrative. The plot analysis revealed that throughout the decades there has been a sophisticated portrayal in film of the role of the organization and the agents therein. A generally negative view of organizational contexts was demonstrated, with only religion and education shown as positive within the films selected. It was recognized that there would be value in extending this research to analyze a larger body of works. The selection criteria resulted in a wide but not comprehensive corpus of film genres. The body of works was sufficient to reveal the complexity of attitudes to organizational values and delivery which has evolved through time. Different selection criteria and more substantial narrative text could serve to confirm these results. Further implications for future research were discussed. While in the real-life sphere, there has been an emphasis on organizational standards and “corporate governance” delivering ethical exemplars, the film contexts highlight the complexities of delivering trusted organizations. The reality that there remains the potential for organizational corruption is well understood by the general public and clearly depicted within the film world. The conceptual contribution is original as limited work has been conducted on the organizational context in films. This work revealed the possibility of using this approach to further develop a greater understanding of perceptions of organizations.


The purpose of this paper was to examine and reflect on the visual social research method of photovoice, which is a qualitative research process increasingly being used by government and nongovernment organizations to enable participants who are often from disadvantaged groups, to capture their lives, experiences, and issues through photos and associated written stories. Visual methods such as photovoice provide both opportunities and risks with ethical considerations and concerns that are both ethical in nature for those taking the photographs, and for those in the photographs. There are also associated ethical challenges for researchers to conform to ethical guidelines, while conveying stories that are in the public interest. Ascertaining why visual information should be considered in relation to ethics can be argued as important, as the receiver processing the visual information will process, perceive, and respond in a variety of ways, and possibly in different ways to what the sender aimed to convey. It was argued here that due to the strong ethical guidelines for photovoice projects, it is more of a deontological-based research approach. A key ethical concern associated with photovoice is that it is touted to participants as a vehicle to achieve social change, yet there is no guarantee that this change will occur, as ultimate power rests in the hands of decision makers. Photovoice ethical processes were discussed, with reflections by the author on ethical issues that have occurred in her own research, and suggestions to organizations on what to consider to ensure a photovoice project proceeds with ethical consideration to ensure an empowering experience as an influencer for social change.


The notion of accountability carries with it an implicit sense of objectification, in which schools, teachers, and students represent the objects of measure by which policy makers judge schools. Reframing the notions of accountability requires a critical interpretation of the accountability system that challenges competitive notions of achievement while cultivating compassionate views of student performance. Drawing from the principles of critically compassionate financial literacy, this chapter discusses how discipline-based art education may provide an instructional vehicle for facilitating dialogues that reframe notions of accountability in education.


The aim of this paper was to describe the aesthetics of self-realization as a way to overcome depersonalization, routinization, and linear temporality in the organizational setting. Artists’ self-portraits (Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and Dali) are used as metaphors of organizational life. In doing so, they could enable organizational members to reinvent modes of thinking, speaking, and behaving in the workplace. Philosophical novels (Kafka, Proust, and Murakami) could also unveil hidden aspects of human existence that are quite relevant for the organizational life. Artists’ self-portraits and philosophical novels could then help organizational members to avoid estranged depersonalization, while designing their own project of self-realization. Reinventing the real world of organizational life implies to emphasize both moral imagination (against routinization) and openness to all kinds of temporality (against linear temporality). Describing the aesthetics of self-realization could make organizational members more aware of their capacity to endorse radical humanism without destroying the organization itself.


This article emphasized the singularity of political ethics, in general, and of the ethics of public organizations, in particular, in regard to personal ethics. For the first one, the real problem was not the aim to be achieved, but the means to be used, with the available resources and taking into account the real conditions. There are two aspects that have been emphasized over time: the appeal to the ends (in the classical period) and the invocation of individual responsibility (from modernity onward). The question to be elucidated here was whether in the period in which we are living, responsibility is no longer just an individual factor but it also has to become a responsibility of the public organization as a whole.


In the past decade, the effectiveness and efficiency foreign aid (Aid Industry) has generated considerable debate in both of the academic and popular press. Despite spending billions of dollars in foreign aid well over a billion people remain in extreme poverty. This paper did not intend to question the magnitude of the effort or the motives of donors or aid agencies, but rather why the aid programs have not been more effective.

Certain research in behavioral economics, pathological altruism, and emotional empathy may help provide answers. Common to these theories is the idea that well-intentioned actions or policies may cause unintended, harmful consequences to either the donors or the intended beneficiaries of these actions or policies. This paradoxical result is typically due to the altruist’s inability to properly analyze the situation for a variety of reasons. The Aid Industry may be particularly susceptible to these behavioral biases and thus is likely to suffer to some extent from unintended adverse consequences.

This paper focused on ethical considerations at the microlevel, that is, the paper considered the impact of aid on individual’s economic utility and human dignity as opposed to macromeasures such as gross domestic product. Our purpose was to examine how behavioral theories can improve foreign aid efficiency and effectiveness. Using specific examples and considering ethical arguments based on utility and rights theories, we illustrated how these behavioral theories help explain the Aid Industry’s suboptimal results.


This paper explored the relationship between the embeddedness of a firm’s managerial values and corporate financial performance in Swiss small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) by developing a conceptual maturity model of managerial values (MM-MV). The MM-MV articulates the extent to which managerial values are embedded within organizations, allowing the analysis of the interrelationship between the degree of values-embeddedness and financial performance in SMEs. The findings suggested that as managerial values become more embedded, financial performance increases; therefore, SMEs exhibiting highly embedded managerial values such as customer-minded, team spirit, innovation-driven reliability, persistency, competency, and engagement tend to financially outperform SMEs that have not fully embedded managerial values throughout the firm.


Issues, which have negatively impacted a diversity of business stakeholders, suggest that business thinking and leadership behaviors surrounding a desired strategic business focus appear increasingly inadequate. For example, that integration strategies and differentiation strategies are mutually exclusive. Three issues appear to contribute to such circumstances.

First, Western strategic business frameworks are largely based on quantitative foci, and remain largely unchallenged. Second, balance between key leadership team agendas and external stakeholder expectations is usually absent. Third, there is minimal connection between what organizational cultures reward, and how human resource management prescriptions provide support.

To address such concerns and implant a renewed strategic business focus, Porter and Kramer (2006, 2011) have identified the notion of shared value, which seems an appealing means to redress business problems represented by negative multistakeholder relations; moreover, an absence of any contemporary acknowledgment of the social contract. Nevertheless, a number of elements appear to be missing from the how shared value is portrayed by Porter and Kramer (2006, 2011).

Based on Maslow’s notion of Eupsychia, and employing an Ideation approach, a renewed strategic business focus supporting the notion of shared value is presented. The renewed focus seeks to enhance Porter and Kramer’s (2011) framework, by including key features to enhance shared value, including elements of Eastern and Western philosophy, and Western organization theory.

Problematic examples, identifying the absence of shared value, and including research propositions are identified.

Cover of Visual Ethics
Publication date
Book series
Research in Ethical Issues in Organizations
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
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