Values and Ethics

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Values are our fundamental beliefs. They are the principles we use to define that which is right, good and just. Values provide guidance as we determine the right versus the wrong, the good versus the bad. They are our standards. Consider the word “evaluate”. When we evaluate something we compare it to a standard. We determine whether it meets that standard or falls short, comes close or far exceeds. To evaluate is to determine the merit of a thing or an action as compared to a standard. Typical values include honesty, integrity, compassion, courage, honor, responsibility, patriotism, respect and fairness. Morals are values which we attribute to a system of beliefs, typically a religious system, but it could be a political system of some other set of beliefs. These values get their authority from something outside the individual- a higher being or higher authority (e.g. society). In the business world we often find ourselves avoiding framing our ethical choices in moral terms for fear that doing so might prove offensive (lacking in respect or compassion) to some. Many of us find our values are strongly influenced by our sense of morality - right as defined by a higher authority. Yet we refrain from citing that authority because doing so may seem less rational and more emotional to others who do not share our belief system. The lack of public reference to morals does not diminish the power of moral authority. Avoiding a morality-based rationale is a social convention and one that is not universally practiced. By that definition one could categorize the values listed above (honesty, integrity, compassion …) as “moral values” - values derived from a higher authority. That is a convenient way to differentiate them from what are often called utilitarian or business values, such as excellence, quality, safety, service, which define some elements of right and good in a business context. Ethics is about our actions and decisions. When one acts in ways which are...
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