Nudge, shove, push – when is influencing employees beyond their immediate work duties morally permissible?

About the event

The final of the Trinity term's R:ETRO - Reputation: Ethics, Trust, and Relationships at Oxford - seminar series.

Rebecca Ruehle, Assistant Professor, School of Business and Economics, Management and Organisation, Vrije Universiteit will be the guest speaker for a seminar being hosted by Alan Morrison, Professor of Law and Finance at Saïd Business School, and Rita Mota, International Research Fellow (IRF) at Saïd Business School and Assistant Professor at ESADE Business School, as part of the R:ETRO seminar series - Reputation: Ethics, Trust, and Relationships at Oxford.


Companies often influence their employees beyond their immediate work duties, eg by suggesting plant-based lunch choices, incentivising environmentally-friendly commuting, implementing workplace giving schemes, or mobilizing them for political activities. This raises the question in how far companies may use their power to interfere with employees’ work-unrelated decision-making. 

Based on earlier work, I argue that employees have a right to justification, consisting of a provision and an exchange of reasons, when their autonomy is presumably infringed. Yet, it remains unclear how conflicting interests can be balanced in reason provision and exchange. Relying on Scanlon’s contractualism, I suggest that for an influence to be morally permissible the supporting reasons need to form a principle no one can reasonably reject. 

The resulting framework not only categorizes different reasons, it also suggests a hierarchy of influences and proposes an ideal provision-exchange-process which can be implemented in the workplace.