Event

Does Money Motivate You? How top managers handle moral accountability in the media

  • Wed 14 Dec 22

    12:00 - 13:00

  • Online

    Join this seminar

  • Event speaker

    Professor Andrea Whittle, Newcastle University Business School

  • Event type

    Lectures, talks and seminars
    Centre for Work, Organisation and Society (CWOS) Research Seminar Series

  • Event organiser

    Essex Business School

  • Contact details

    Dr Sophie Hales

Since 2004 The Times (UK) newspaper has published profiles of senior executives from the corporate world, public sector and third sector in the business section of their Saturday edition. The ‘Question & Answer’ section of these profiles includes answers to a series of journalists’ questions. One of those questions is “Does money motivate you?” In this seminar, we use discourse analysis to analyse the way that moral accountability was handled in articles published during a 15 year period. The analysis focuses on how the top managers orient their answers to the moral scrutiny implied in the question, in the context of wider discourses of ‘fat cat’ pay.

Seminar abstract

Since 2004 The Times (UK) newspaper has published profiles of senior executives from the corporate world, public sector and third sector in the business section of their Saturday edition. The ‘Question & Answer’ section of these profiles includes answers to a series of journalists’ questions. One of those questions is “Does money motivate you?” In this paper, we use discourse analysis (Potter & Wetherell, 1987; Edwards & Potter, 1992; Potter, 1996; Edwards, 1997) to analyse the way that moral accountability was handled in articles (n=513) published during a 15 year period (January 2004 to December 2018).

The analysis focuses on how the top managers orient their answers to the moral scrutiny implied in the question, in the context of wider discourses of ‘fat cat’ pay. The analysis identities five discourses through which top managers managed their moral accountability. These discourses were: discourses of what money can buy, discourses of money generating benefits for others, discourses of ‘privilege’ and inequality, discourse of money as a moral problem and finally discourses concerning the honesty of those answering the question with a “no”. These discourses were articulated through a set of related discursive devices for constructing the account, defined as the micro-linguistic ‘tools’ used for interactional purposes (Mueller & Whittle, 2011). In this context, the ‘interactional purpose’ can be understand to involve ‘face-work’ (Goffman, 1967) and ‘impression management’ (Goffman, 1959) in the context of public accountability.

To contextualise these findings, we discuss the role of the discursive devices we have identified in managing moral accountability in the context of the increasing public scrutiny of executive pay and the widening gap of income inequality (High Pay Commission, 2011), scrutiny which has intensified in the wake of the global financial crisis and the period of austerity that followed (Rowlingson & Connor, 2011; Thomas, 2016; Kelsey et al., 2018). We conclude by proposing that the five discourses are used to construct distinct discursive positions vis-à-vis the moral accountability of senior executive pay. These positions involve embracing, acknowledging, justifying, or denying their ‘immorality’ as a ‘fat cat’.

 

How to attend this seminar

This seminar will be held online and is free with no need to register in advance.

We welcome you to join us online on Wednesday 14 December at 12pm.

 

Speaker bio

Professor Andrea Whittle

Andrea Whittle is Professor of Management and Organization Studies at Newcastle University Business School. Before joining Newcastle University in 2013, Andrea held a Chair in Organization Studies at Cardiff University. Her research is driven by a passion for understanding the role of language in management settings and is informed by theories and methodologies from the fields of discourse analysis, narrative, discursive psychology, dramaturgy, and ethnomethodology. She has conducted research on management consultants, identity, branding, organizational change, strategic change and public accountability following accidents and crises.

 

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