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Countess Markievicz Lecture 3 March 2005

It is a great honour for me at the end of my official working life to be asked to give the Countess Markievicz Lecture for 2005. I have for many years spoken out about the changes that have taken place in society and in business in particular. Obviously the changes in both have implications for all of us, whether we are in business or as members of a rapidly changing society trying to survive in the climate that prevails around us. The subject of tonight’s talk is the challenges facing industrial relations practitioners in the changing role of management today. Last year I was asked to give a talk in the Church of Ireland Parish Church in Rathfarnham on Christianity and Spirituality in Business. In the course of preparation for that presentation I began to realise that expecting companies to take into account spirituality and Christianity in the way they operate their businesses was unrealistic, given the climate that has prevailed and still prevails in society. Businesses operate to the norms of the society of the day. Indeed, changes in business over the years have to a large degree mirrored the changes then taking place in society. Companies have no heart, no soul. How the business is run and how it treats the shareholders, employees and customers, to a large extent, depends on the values or the integrity of those in power in the organisation at any particular time. Very often the culture of an organisation and the way it does its business is synonymous with the values of the CEO, or in the case of family businesses with the particular family values of the owners. Organisations and management reflect, to a large extent, the society of the day and the culture and practices that prevail at that time. When one looks back over the last thirty years it is quite clear that society has changed dramatically, as has business and...

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