New article by Tao Wang in Journal of Business Ethics.
Building on the emerging literature on the ethics of social enterprises (SEs), this paper advances the underexplored role of frontline workers (FLWs) as embedded agents at the interface between communities and SEs. Specifically, we uncover the subjectivity of FLWs as they navigate moral ambiguities while performing their professional roles, dealing with rules and regulations within the organizational hierarchy and living as members of local communities. Based on an inductive case study of a microfinance organization in Cameroon, we find that FLWs engage in three rationalization strategies: cautious disengaging, safeguarding self-interest, and justifying relevance. Our findings offer a better understanding of the ethics of SEs by unpacking the subjectivity of FLWs. We highlight a bottom-up account of caring SEs, identify a boundary condition to subjectivity, and present a nuanced view of FLWs in embedded organizations. We also discuss the practical implications for SEs to improve their compassion and cater for the mental wellbeing of FLWs.
Rose Both, Tao Wang, Corine Genet (2023). You Say Social Agenda, I Say My Job: Navigating Moral Ambiguities by Frontline Workers in a Social Enterprise. Journal of Business Ethics. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-023-05526-6