Ethics

"The true test of character is not
how much we know how to do,
but how we behave when we
don't know what to do."
-John Holt
What are ethics?
 Ethical vs. legal
 Who establishes what is “ethical”?
– Personally
– Professionally

Is it a problem?
 A national survey published in Education
Week found that:
– 54% of students admitted to plagiarizing from the
Internet
– 74% of students admitted that at least once
during the past school year they had engaged in
"serious" cheating
– 47% of students believe their teachers sometimes
choose to ignore students who are cheating.
Academic Ethics-
McCabe & Trevino (1993):
 2 out of 3 college students admitted to
engaging in some sort of “questionable”
academic behavior.
 38% of students admitted to “explicit test
cheating” while in college, and 84% admitted
to having cheated on written assignments.
Why Study Ethics?
 A recent survey of Fortune 500 companies
found ethics training to be the #1 recognized
need.
 U.S. industries lose $400 billion/ yr from
unethical and criminal behavior.
 20% of employees report they have been
asked to do something “unethical” at work, of
those, 41% complied.


What influences ethical behavior in
organizations?
 Internal Organizational Factors
 External Organizational Factors
 Individual Factors
Internal Organizational Factors
 Ethical code
 Organizational culture
 Organization size
 Corporate strategy
External Organizational Factors
 Political/ legal system
 National culture

Individual Factors
 Personality
 Values
 Others?

Business Ethics:
Forms of Moral Relativism
 NAIVE RELATIVISM-
– “I’m o.k., you’re o.k.”
 ROLE RELATIVISM-
– “I was only doing my job”
 SOCIAL GROUP RELATIVISM-
– “Everyone’s doing it”
 CULTURAL RELATIVISM-
– “When in Rome....”


Business Ethics:
Alternatives to Moral Relativism
 The UTILITARIAN view-
– Majority rule
– The greatest good for all (on average)
 The INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS view-
– Fundamental rights for each human being
 The JUSTICE view-
– Fairness on a case by case basis
– Fair distributions of costs and benefits

Codes of Ethics
 Company Codes of Ethics
 Professional Codes of Ethics
– General conduct and responsibilities
– Special topics
 Goal= alignment of actions with values

Managing Ethical Conduct
 Unconcerned
 Damage Control
 Compliance
 Ethical Culture
Overall: How to Improve Ethical
Climates
 Behave ethically yourself
 Screen potential employees
 Develop a meaningful code of ethics
 Provide ethics training
 Reinforce ethical behavior

Social Responsibility
 Duty to avoid harm to stakeholders
 Duty to consider overall betterment of society