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Business Ethics assignment

Written by: Written for:

Laurel Hubber University of Bristol Graduate School of International Business MBA in International Business March 3, 1997 Henri-Claude de Bettignies

Date: Professor:

"People who think they will be true to their ethics have probably never examined their ethics".

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Badaracco, J. & Webb, A., Business Ethics: A View from the Trenches, California Management Review, Vol 37, No.2 Winter 1995, p 21

How do you differentiate between "Doing what is right" and "Doing the right thing"?
"If all of your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?" Children often find themselves faced with this question after having been caught doing something that, at the time, seemed right to them; probably because "everyone" else i.e., their peers, was doing it. And, much to their chagrin, children know that the answer to the above question is "no". Even at an early age, they are expected to have the ability to separate their own values from those of their friends. Without defining or analyzing, they are expected to know the difference between "doing the right thing": according to the values of those around them and "doing what is right": according to their own set of values. How does a child know when something is right or wrong? What guidelines does he or she use; especially as she becomes an adult and the rules become less clear? She will have an enormous list of examples to follow; those set out by political leaders, by her favourite celebrities, by her teachers, by an inspirational speaker, by her parents, siblings, close friends or even a religious leader. But, in the end, her decisions will be based on only one person's values. Hers. How will she know if she's made the correct decision? How will she know if she's done what is right, as opposed to having done the right thing? She'll be able to take the sleeping test, the newspaper test 2 or the "Golden Rule" test; but these will simply be tools pushing her towards one thing. Self awareness. This awareness of herself will prove invaluable when she finds herself in unfamiliar situations or ethical dilemmas. 3 Thus, if "doing what is right" is decided by you, and "doing the right thing" is determined by those around you, then it follows that the less you have to depend on the opinions around you, the higher the possibility that you'll "do what is right" more often. But why is it necessary to even consider this differentiation? The importance of this question becomes evident when considered within the context of the next question.

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de Bettignies, H.C., class notes, MBA University of Bristol de Bettignies, H.C., From Vision to Action: Business Schools and the Development of Responsible Leaders, INSEAD, January 11, 1995, p.12

What is likely to be the role of "ethics" in tomorrow's society?


The role of ethics in tomorrow's society will depend on whose "society" is the one in question. Is it the society in which war and death are part of life? Is it the one in which people live in cardboard communities? Is it all over populated society or one that is on the verge of extinction? Will self awareness help someone in a have not society to choose between "doing what is right" and "doing the right thing"? Is the issue of "ethics" important to the member's of have not societies - where basic needs are not being met? (Maslow would argue that the answer is no). Thus it appears that the future role of ethics will be left in the shaky hands of those who have. However, for those who have a little; a "decent" job (part-time? full-time? flexitime? voluntary? involuntary?), a "nice" family (one mother? one step-father? two mothers? one brother? no one?), the role of ethics may get pushed aside. Why rock the boat? But what about those societies in which people have a lot? Or even have too much? Too much money, too much power, too much information, too much knowledge ....how will those societies who have not or who just have a little impose any kind of control over those societies who have too much? How long will it take the members of the societies who have too much to decide that they need to control themselves? Will they ever want to? They must. In an ideal society, it is the responsibility of each member to "do the right thing", to act in an "ethical" manner. However, this is a fragmenting, globalizing, shrinking, merging ... changing world. "Ethics" is of little importance to many, and of utmost importance to all. But someone must take responsibility for "it", and invariably this responsibility will remain in the hands of those who have. Changes are happening so quickly that it is difficult to imagine even trying to stop them, or at the very least, trying to do something more than react to them. Even those who have may not be able to control the world around them (whether they want to or not); perhaps the best they can do is learn how to control the world within themselves. Only when "doing the right thing" is a conscious and consistent decision, will the distance between the "haves" and the "have nots" seem a little shorter.

"We must, therefore, consider the right way of performing actions, for it is acts, as we have said, that determine the character of the resulting moral states ... "4 (Aristotle)

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Shaw, W., Classical Theories, Social and Personal Ethics, 1993, p. 40

REFERENCES
1. Shaw, W., Classical Theories, Social and Personal Ethics, 1993. 2. de Bettignies, H.C., class notes, MBA University of Bristol 3. de Bettignies, H.C., From Vision to Action: Business Schools and the Development of Responsible Leaders, INSEAD, January 11, 1995. 4. Badaracco, J. & Webb, A., Business Ethics: A View from the Trenches, California Management Review, Vol 37, No.2 Winter 1995. 5. Chryssides, G. & Kaler, J., Essentials of Business Ethics, McGraw-Hill, (HF5387.C488), 1996.