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Bharath Chandrasekaran 1

PGP 11 110

Ethics and Business


Journal Writing
Knowledge Reveals Ignorance We human beings have changed the face of the earth to such an extent that it is no longer recognizable to the earth a thousand years ago. Life was much simpler back then when all we had to worry about were food, shelter and security. The answer to the question Are we truly better off now compared to a thousand years ago? can be debated endlessly without reaching any consensus. Since, we HAVE come this far, we need not think about hypotheticals and just concentrate on the problem at hand. Ethics is the branch of study to determine the proper course of action. It helps in defining between the various courses of action available to us. At every point in time we are faced with a choice to do the right thing, to do the easy thing, to do nothing etc. The boundaries and extent of overlap between these are seldom clear and hence the course of action to be taken is not always clear. Also, we seldom stop to think about the required course of action and more often than not we take the most convenient path. During childhood, though we initially dont do anything wrong, we pick up the tendency from the people surrounding us. It becomes the responsibility of the parents & the teachers to infuse values and ethics in him/her and their action/inaction moulds his/her character. Before going through the ways of acquiring/cultivating Ethics, the need for ethics in todays context should be clarified. In the todays competitive world, its easy & tempting to be unethical to gain quick rewards. The law isnt too clear always regarding issues concerning ethics and in some rare cases, is against ethics. So, being unethical is not legally risky usually. Mahatma Gandhi said An eye for eye for an eyemakes the whole world blind Though this saying was said in the context of non-violence, I feel the same can be applied to concept of ethics too. All of us are interdependent on each other and any impact on ones life will cause some effect on everyone else around him. We human beings should collaborate with one another to achieve mutual benefit and create synergies. So, how can anyone be ethical? What does he/she have to do for this? Can Ethics be cultivated? A lot of literature is available on following the right path, taking the right decisions, doing the right things etc. But, all these can just provide a direction. It is the person who must actually walk the path and learn through personal experiences. As indicated in the earlier paragraphs, there is rarely any clear demarcation between right & wrong, good & bad, ethical & unethical. Different people perceive a particular decision/action differently and no particular perception is superior. But with each and every meaningful experience, a person becomes more & more comfortable in dealing with such situations and his decision making process also becomes more matured.

Bharath Chandrasekaran 2
PGP 11 110

There are various types of ethical dilemmas that a person can face. A person may have to sacrifice his career advancement or even risk his job to be ethical. Every person values ethics differently and this determines his behaviour in testing situations. A same person may behave differently under same conditions as his personal situation might have changed; forcing him to adopt a different path i.e. the context is one of the determinants of conduct of a person. For example, a person who might generally not accept bribe may accept the same when in dire need of money, say life threatening condition of a loved one. He/she may not disclose information of illegal activities of his firm as he might respect the confidentiality agreement or he might be jeopardizing his career. What should he do then? What should a person do if he knows for sure or doubts that one of the products of his firm is faulty and is unsafe? Should a person fire his close friend in the company if he is not performing? Should an executive fudge the accounts of his firm to show higher profits? These and other similar questions will need to be answered by a person during his tenure with the firm. The Four Spheres of Executive Responsibility by Joseph L. Badaracco, Jr can be used to analyse the role of an executive in a particular situation and hence, help in the decision making process. These spheres are Personal Ethical Values, Responsibilities as Economic Agents, Responsibilities as Organizational Leaders and Responsibilities in Cooperative Capitalism. There is no conflict if the requirements of each of the spheres are aligned with each other. But if there is any imbalance, conflict arises and the person is faced with an ethical dilemma. This framework doesnt solve the dilemma, but it helps in viewing the various possible roles and help in the decision making process. It is up to the individual to decide on his/her course of action. As a conclusion, this course according to me doesnt show the path that one should follow. No course, literature, framework or person can do this. Instead, this course helps us in uncovering the various course of possible action through a structured analysis of the situation (Identify stakeholders, their demands, concerns, impact on each stakeholder etc.). It is easy to sit in a class and pass judgements on a case study, though we try to put ourselves in the shoes of the various persons involved in the case. We should realize that we will soon be facing real problems, real issues and real dilemmas, with probably no previous incident to base our decision on. We also cant predict the real impact of our decision/action. But, the analysis of such previous cases provides us exposure to the problems of the real world, so that we are prepared. As we embark upon this journey of life, we will be facing such situations, and move one more step towards becoming better individuals with each experience.