Ethics. We know when it is there, we know when it is not. How will our actions be guided by our beliefs? What impact and legacy will we leave with the people we lead, the people who follow and those who we serve? Ethical conditions, dilemmas and boundaries are crossed every day in our personal and business lives. Listed below are several views on ethics and social responsibility.
Business ethics are guiding principles that help us decide on appropriate actions. We may say the right thing but our actions will speak louder. You never know who is watching. A short term gain, a selfish pursuit can be the beginning of a long term loss down the money hole in terms of team engagement, personnel retention, customer base declines and even outside intervention. There are no absolute or indisputable rules or principles for deciding whether an action is ethical or unethical.
The Institute for Certified Professional Managers (ICPM.biz) condenses the ethics paradigm into the following figure:
Does my decision fall within the acceptable standards that apply in business today?
Am I willing to see the decision communicated to all people and groups affected by it?
Would the people with whom I have a significant personal relationship approve of the decision?
Application of ethics however is more complicated. In the business world the following additional ethics philosophies will have bearing on our decisions. The strength of our convictions will determine if we will sway from them.
Business ethics (a good example is the MBA oath outlined above)
Individual ethics (what does my heart and soul tell me is the right thing to do?)
Managerial ethics (How do I maintain procedural or distributive justice?)
Occupational ethics (what are the guiding principles I have sworn to abide by in my profession if I am a lawyer, a doctor, a priest?)
Societal ethics (what are the expectations of my community, my neighbors?)
Traditions also play a role in our ethical thought process with folkways, mores and values
Our behaviors and our responses will tell the world who we are as individuals.
Ethics Theories on a Macro Level
In the book, Basic Moral Philosophy, Robert L. Holmes (Wadsworth Publishing Company, Belmont, California 1993) suggests that in general, based on environmental conditioning, individuals will subscribe directly or subliminally to a variety of ethical theories such as those given below:
One ought always to maximize one's own personal good
Divine Command theory
Whatever God commands is right
One ought always to act on maxims that can be universalized
One ought to always maximize the general good
Principal of Justice
One ought always to act justly
Ethics of Love
One ought to always act lovingly
Ethics of Nonviolence
One ought always to act nonviolently
At first glance, all of these theories have merit but the "Principal of Justice" for example, could be in conflict with "Utilitarianism" if the just act serves the few, and not the majority. In traditional politics, one can see many examples of "Ethical Egoism" being in conflict with "Utilitarianism" between Republicans and Democrats, and with the candidates themselves.
As a universal premise though, individuals are oblivious to ethical theories and the ramifications of each. On a national scale, these same tug-of-war dialogues take place between the Executive and Legislative branches in the United States. Fortunately, the Founding Fathers created a third equally powerful branch in the Judicial system (Principal of Justice) to render judgment and balance out the powers.
In 2009, Harvard Graduate students created two versions of an MBA Oath that have circulated the world. The following is the shortened version:
As a manager, my purpose is to serve the greater good by bringing people and resources together to create value that no single individual can build alone. Therefore I will seek a course that enhances the value my enterprise can create for society over the long term. I recognize my decisions can have far-reaching consequences that affect the well-being of individuals inside and outside my enterprise, today and in the future. As I reconcile the interests of different constituencies, I will face difficult choices.
Therefore, I promise:
I will act with utmost integrity and pursue my work in an ethical manner
I will safeguard the interests of my shareholders, co-workers, customers, and the society in which we operate
I will manage my enterprise in good faith, guarding against decisions and behavior that advance my own narrow ambitions but harm the enterprise and the societies it serves
I will understand and uphold, both in letter and in spirit, the laws and contracts governing my own conduct and that of my enterprise
I will take responsibility for my actions, and I will represent the performance and risks of my enterprise accurately and honestly
I will develop both myself and other managers under my supervision so that the profession continues to grow and contribute to the well-being of society
I will strive to create sustainable economic, social, and environmental prosperity worldwide
I will be accountable to my peers and they will be accountable to me for living by this oath
On the surface these two terms appear to have the same meaning but they do not and their application has subconscious effects on our interactions. People can "feel" the underlying belief factor and disparate views create unspoken subliminal tensions. The main difference between intercultural and multicultural is interaction versus representation. Within the U.S., the term multicultural is used more frequently, whereas internationally, the term intercultural is preferred.
Multicultural Societies: Different cultures, nationalities, ethnicities, religious groups, etc. all living within the same territory BUT not necessarily coming into contact with each other. A multicultural society is one where difference is often viewed negatively and forms major justification for discrimination. Minorities may be tolerated passively, but not accepted or valued.Intercultural Societies: Different cultures, nationalities, ethnicities, religious groups, etc. living together within a territory, who maintain open relations of interaction, exchange and mutual recognition of their own and others' respective values and way of life. InterCulturalism is a process of active tolerance and the maintenance of equitable relations where everyone has the same importance, where there are no superiors or inferiors, or better or worse people.
At times, it seems like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together. Argument turns too easily into animosity. ... Too often we judge other groups by their worst examples, while judging ourselves by our best intentions.
President George W. Bush. July 12, 2016
"I help people make quality decisions in situations where there are differences, similarities and related tensions."
R. Roosevelt Thomas, Jr Diversity Consultant, Author
The statement above implies an earnest evaluation of the possibilities and an amalgamation potential for a win-win outcome.
Mensa Magazine, HR.com, Society for Diversity, CNN, Management World, National Management Association Breaktime and other publications
Your leadership and drive are clearly evident in these outstanding scores. I have never seen the VA give such high scores out of the shoot - unprecedented... thanks again for all you do. Sean Murphy, T-Rex Corporation COO (February 2016)
What an amazing conference! And thank you for your contributions in the form of your outstanding presentation. Our side-bar discussions were both enjoyable and enlightening too.
Any discussion of diversity has the potential of being very controversial. Your discussion of diversity, however, put the topic in a very positive light without sugar-coating. It was believable and in so being it was highly beneficial. Your discussion of your personal past and your perspectives as your career developed was the quid essential piece that made your presentation both engaging and believable and thus provided the conduit to be impactful. Gerry Mahon, Lockheed Martin Mission Systems & Training
Your commitment to diversity has been exemplary and your judgment
and input on this committee will add significant value to the corporation. Judy Marks, Lockheed Martin TSS President
Thank you ... for the hundreds of hours and all the experience you brought to leading the Baltimore FSS project. Very well done indeed. It's a real honor and pleasure working with you... Randy Cox, PM - Systems Made Simple
I would work for you any day and any time I could! You inspire others to greatness! THANK YOU!!!!! Judd Sloan, CM
Transformational Leadership Architect,
NMA National Director,
ICPM Instructor of the Year
The eyes believe themselves; the ears other people.
We judge ourselves by our motives and others by their actions.
Dwight Morrow, American businessman, ambassador and senator
If you look for the bad in people expecting to find it, you surely will.
Abraham Lincoln, 16th US President
Though all society is founded on intolerance, all improvement is founded on tolerance.
George Bernard Shaw, Irish Playwright
In the end, all business operations can be reduced to three words; people, product and profits. People come first.
Lee Iaccoca, American businessman
The biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis, but rather the feeling of being unwanted.
Mother Teresa, Albanian-Indian Roman Catholic Missionary
Everyone believes very easily whatever he fears or desires.
Jean de la Fontaine, French poet
The trouble with the world is not that people know too little, but that they know so many things that ain't so.
Mark Twain, American author and humorist
If everyone is thinking alike, someone isn't thinking.
General George Patton Jr, World War II US Army Commander
I have never in my life learned anything from any man who agreed with me.
Dudley Field Malone, American statesman and lawyer
Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.
Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy, Russian writer and pacifist
I can live for two months on a good compliment.
Mark Twain, Samuel Langhorne Clemens, American author and humorist
Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?
Abraham Lincoln, 16th US President
No one has been barred on account of his race from fighting or dying for America - there are no "white" or "colored" signs on the foxholes or graveyards of battle.
John F. Kennedy, 35th US President
I pay the schoolmaster, but 'tis the schoolboys that educate my son.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, American philospher
Vision is the art of seeing things invisible.
Jonathan Swift, Anglo-Irish satirist and essayist
In every man there is something wherein I may learn of him, and in that I am his pupil.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, American philosopher
When you talk, you repeat what you already know; when you listen you often learn something.
The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold onto two opposed ideas at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.
F. Scott Fitzgerald, American writer
Progress is impossible without change; and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.
George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright
Honest differences are often a healthy sign of progress.
Mahatma Gandhi, Indian pacifist and leader
I am more of a sponge than an inventor. I absorb ideas from every source. My principal business is giving commercial value to brilliant but misdirected ideas of others.
Thomas Edison, American inventor and businessman
If we always view it from the same perspective, we will tend to notice the same things.
Frans Johansson, Author and businessman
Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought.
Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, Hungarian physiologist
One can resist the invasion of armies; one cannot resist the invasion of ideas.
Victor Hugo, French playwright and activist
Every new opinion, at its starting, is precisely in a minority of one.
Thomas Carlyle, Scottish writer and historian
No man is good enough to govern another man without that other's consent.
Abraham Lincoln, 16th US President
You do not lead by hitting people over the head - that's assault, not leadership.
Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th US President
The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own.
Benjamin Disraeli, British statesman
The voice of the intellect is a soft one, but it does not rest until it has gained a hearing.
Sigmund Freud, Austrian psychiatrist
The rich would have to eat money, but luckily the poor provide food.
Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly and they will show themselves great.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, American philosopher
One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man.
Elbert Hubbard, American writer and philosopher