On Tuesday, we began a discussion on the ethical desires of a leader. Today, we take a closer look at two distinguishing features of business ethic characters: (a) economic, and (b) environmental. In the book, Ethics and the Conduct of Business, John Boatright (2009) postulates that the first feature of any business, is its economic character and that it consists of many components. For one thing, in the business world, people must interact with one another not as family, friends, or neighbors, but as consumers and sellers, employers and staff members. In addition, commerce is often accompanied with strategies of bargaining, where either or both sides can choose to conceal their full intentions or may engage in tactics of misinformation as a integral component. A skilled salesperson, for instance, well versed in the art of arousing consumer attention, will use a kind of “puffery” strategy to close a deal, in spite of the “ethics of trading” that prohibit the use of deceptive or false claims and trickery as marketing strategies.
Employment is also recognized as a special relationship which includes its own standards of what is deemed right and wrong behavior. Employers, for instance, typically hire and promote staff members as they wish, while terminating other employees without taking consequences into consideration. That right, however, is continuously challenged by institutions who hold employers accountable, citing employers should only fire workers for just causes and must adhere to the rules of due process. Likewise, employees have rights to protect them from discrimination or other issues like exposure to hazardous conditions. To sum up, because the ethics of business consists in part to the ethics of an organization’s economic activity, which includes the conduct of their buyers, sellers, employers, and employees, leaders need to ask and then establish a set of ethical rules to govern their activities. Furthermore, they need to determine how these rules differ from those that are applied in other spheres of life.
The other distinguishing feature of business ethics, according to John Boatright’s (2009) research, is that it typically occurs at the place of an organization. “A company,” Boatright contends, “according to organizational theory, is a hierarchical system of functionality with defined positions designed to achieve a set of goals. In addition, members of the business assume particular positions – like the Sales Representative, Research and Development Manager, Vice President of Advertising, or the CEO – and are committed to the obligations of the firm in pursuit of their goals” (Boatright, 2009). This means the marketing executives are not free to act solely on their own accord at the expense of sales for their company. Furthermore, the CEO rightfully cannot ignore the interests of shareholders or consider a merger without taking into consideration the impact on their employees or the community anymore than they can consider their own personal interests.
Because a business involves economic relations and transactions that take place in markets and also within organizations, ethical issues are raised that everyday life does not always prepare us for. Although the ethical rules about honesty, fairness, keeping promises that we are familiar with, are applied in business, it is necessary in many instances that people in leadership roles must rethink how they apply ethics in business situations. This is not saying that the ethics of business is different from the ethics in everyday life, only that businesses present new situations that require us to think through ethical issues.
Ernest Holmes (2001) suggests that there is nothing harder than keeping our thoughts clear while maintaining composed behavior daily in a chaotic world, so that we don’t come undone. In fact, he urges individuals to find support and the means to seek help so that they can always control their intellect and emotions. This strategy may help prevent them from responding recklessly. Wouldn’t it be different world if we all waited until our intellect (the Mr. Spock side of ourselves) gives us a “green light” when it is safe to proceed and respond in an ethical manner. In fact, Holmes states that anyone capable of doing this, can help guide their own destiny (Holmes, 2001). Is that because they are backed by the immutable ethical power of positive thinking? As Mr. Spock would say, “Something to ponder, indeed.”
Well that’s a wrap for this week. Until next time! Keep working on your organizational management skills, ethically … and live long and prosper!
Change is the essential process of all existence.
–SPOCK, Star Trek: The Original Series, “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield”
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Boatright, J. R. (2009). Ethics and the conduct of business. New Jersey: Pearson Education.
Holmes, E. (2001). 365 science of mind. New York: Penguin Group.