Ethics in Business

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The Necessity Of Ethics In Business
Ours is a business-centered society. “No group in America is more influential than businessmen” (Baumhart xv). Their influence, for good or evil, enters every life and every home many times each day. If this influence is good, the nation is strengthened; if it is evil, the nation is weakened. Obviously, the myriad decisions of businessmen will significantly determine our national health; ethical, as well as economic. “Business ethics are discussed not only in board rooms, but at dinner tables, in university faculty rooms and on the floor of Congress” (Garrett 1). Many, especially the impressionable young, imitate the mores and manners of successful businessmen. How important are business ethics? In what ways are business ethics defined? The ethical standards of businesses shape America and are key to a business’ functioning. Ethics are the backbone of American industry, well, they should be. Whether an organization has good or bad ethical standards, ethics is an issue for all people. “Ethical problems arise not only from the difficulties experienced in making a valid moral judgment, but also from practical obstacles to the execution of even a correct decision” (Pastin 1). Often, it is harder to go through with a morally correct decision even though you know it is the right thing to do. More often than not, the temptation to take the easy way out is overwhelming. There are many definitions of ethics, but, according to author Herbert Johnston, ethics is concerned with two things: human conduct and what ought to be done (Johnston 1-2). It also involves people’s perceptions about what “should” be done. People have duties to do what is right and to not hurt other people. More or less, ethics involve obligations. Johnston also defines ethics as “ a practical, philosophical science by which we may reach conclusions concerning the rightness or wrongness of voluntary acts as related to our last end” (Johnston 25). Johnston is saying that ethics are judgments based on society’s set moral standards that result in good outcomes or bad outcomes, depending on the goodness or badness of the judgment. More specifically, business ethics are an attempt to develop and apply basic principles in the area of human economic relations (McLennen 5).

With the definition of ethics now clarified, the reasons for being ethical arise. Why do/should businessmen act ethically? Based on Ray Baumhart’s 1998survey of 1,031 businessmen, the most influential incentive for being ethical was a man’s personal code of behavior. Most people are ethical because of what they believe to be right. Most people want to take the credit for doing the right thing when they will be recognized or even rewarded. The true test is seeing what people do when no one is looking. The following list are the other top 5 choices in descending order of importance to the surveyed businessmen: 2. formal company policy, 3. the behavior of a man’s superiors, 4. the ethical climate of the industry, and 5. the behavior of a man’s equals in the company (Weaver 97). From these rankings, it appears that when a businessman acts ethically, he attributes it to his own ability to resist pressure and temptation, with some credit due to his superiors and the company policy. People want the reputation of being ethical. They feel like they are a good person if they are known as being ethically good. On the other hand, the human reluctance to blame oneself for ethical failings helps to explain why our respondents [to the survey] rank personal financial needs as least important of the five factors influencing unethical behavior (Baumhart 46). (See chart on page 10) In some instances, people believe “good business is good ethics” (Lewis 48). Of those Baumhart surveyed, 98% believed that “sound ethics...