TAKING AWAY THE MYSTERY
We want to take the mystery out of business ethics. In other situations (romance, for example?) mystery may stimulate interest. But mystery only serves to make ethicsinaccessible to most students and managers. For most people, the word “ethics”means something esoteric and far removed from reality. But organizational ethicsisn’t mysterious. It’s about
—people making decisions in organizations every day.All of us belong to organizations. We’re members of schools, fraternities, sororities,clubs, sports teams, religious organizations, and work organizations. As members of these organizations, we frequently find ourselves facing ethical dilemmas—
situationsconcerning right and wrong where values are in conflict
.As a student, you may have observed a friend cheating and wondered what to do.Which is the more important value—sticking by a friend, or complying with thehonor code that requires you to turn in a cheater? In a work setting, perhaps you’vebeen tempted to do something you believe is wrong (for example, lie to a customer about a delivery date) because your boss encourages you to focus on short-term finan-cial results. Which is more important—honesty to the customer or adherence to your supervisor’s expectations? Loyalty is an important value for most of us. But, whathappens when one of your employees (a good friend) hasn’t been meeting agreed-onperformance expectations for some time? Which is more important—loyalty to theorganization or loyalty to your friend? All of these examples represent values in con-flict. All are ethical dilemmas.Until about fifteen years ago, so little was known about the topic of organiza-tional ethics that a book like this probably couldn’t have been written. With rareexceptions, knowledge was limited to a few surveys saying that, yes, ethics is a prob-lem in organizations. But in recent years, researchers have begun to rigorously studyorganizational ethics as social science. Although there is much left to learn, we’rebeginning to understand the factors that influence ethical conduct in organizations,and what works and what doesn’t in ethics management. That’s the kind of informa-tion we’ll share with you so that you’ll understand yourself and others better, andyou’ll be a better manager who will understand how to influence others’ behavior inan ethical direction.
MOVING BEYOND CYNICISM
Cynicism has become an epidemic throughout society and is manifested in a “con-temptuous mistrust” of business leaders.
Irving Kristol, writer, educator, and editor,said, “One of the reasons the large corporations find it so difficult to persuade thepublic of anything is that the public always suspects them of engaging in clever pub-lic relations instead of simply telling the truth.”
Such cynical attitudes toward busi-ness have been exacerbated by repeated organizational restructurings, accompaniedby high executive compensation and layoffs.
Many believe that executives are not
CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCING STRAIGHT TALK ABOUT MANAGING BUSINESS ETHICS
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