Staying Aboard a Sinking Ship: The Role of Firm Ethicality and Employee Com...

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Staying Aboard a Sinking Ship: The Role of Firm Ethicality and Employee Commitment in Failing Organisations


The article explores the meanings attached to uncertainty, exploitation and ethical dilemmas in a professional service firm (PSF) as it entered a period of demise and eventual closure. Drawing from detailed interviews and observations, we examine the discursive resources to feature in participant accounts, demonstrating how although organisational uncertainty arising from precarious market conditions was significant, increasing individuals’ exposure to corporate and client demands, reducing professional autonomy, and heightening personal insecurities, an ethicality-of-firm discourse counteracted negative effects, enabling employees to craft positive accounts of self and of firm. Implications are that, even in failing temporary organisations, and despite potential catastrophic outcomes for careers, individuals may compromise personal career aims where firms articulate and embrace strong moral codes.

Key words: Professional services firms, precarious organisation, uncertainty, ethicality, positioning

Dr. Gary Brown

Lecturer in Management and Subject Group Director of Education at University of Liverpool

Gary’s current research interests focus on three main themes: identity and self-positioning at work; precariousness in professional services firms; and, the merits and limitations of dual interviewing methodology. His work in these areas draws variously upon traditional and contemporary anthropology, ethnography and aspects of cultural theory.

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