‘There Are More Questions Than Answers’
By Michael Marshall, PhD
(‘Ask The Business Doctor’, www.AskTheBusinessDoctor.com)
I have been asked many times to talk about, advise and write about business ethics.
These requests have come from both nationally and internationally, from private businesses, business executives, the education sector, teachers/professors, business students, business consultants, business advisors and various staff in business organizations.
Normally, I just refer them to the courses in business ethics that seems to be popular and available in most community colleges, colleges and universities.
After continual requests, I am now writing on this subject.
In my 20+ years of a business career nationally and internationally, I have seen and experienced a lot.
In discussing this subject we will use ‘forward thinking’, ‘out of the box thinking’ and be posing some questions.
‘There are more questions than there are answers.’
Is the root of the business ethics issue, incompetence or is it simply lack of common morality?
Should business ethics be taught early in life in both elementary and high school?
Should business ethics be a mandatory class in college?
Should business ethics be promoted more with modern media; television, radio, digital media, road digital billboards and others?
Should business ethics misconduct have more severe punishment especially higher financial fines for both the individual with the misconduct and the business organization where they work?
How can business ethics be promoted and enforced better internationally?
Keep in mind that most countries have a significant amount of their manufacturing businesses moving out and relocating to other countries. Purchasing of such products does continue even though the provider s of products are now located in other countries. So business ethics is truly an international issue.
During the economic downturn and high unemployment, we often hear how so many seeking a job who are educated, skilled and experienced are being viewed as ‘over-qualified’. Having more education and experience certainly parallels age and being older. Their seeking employment struggles continue. Is this discrimination? Is this age related? Is this unethical? Should there be a specific new law written to manage this?
Business Ethics can vary internationally depending on the country along with local laws and regulations to manage such.
Local culture nationally and internationally is a variable in business ethics.
Some business ethics do have international laws and regulations but enforcing them is sometimes difficult and is quite lengthy in time. Often, only with a strong government and political involvement do such issues get proper attention.
In the United States, many of the common business ethics actually have laws and regulations to reinforce them.
A common problem is that these laws and regulations are not obeyed.
A formal complaint needs submitting to the appropriate federal authorities or the business organization’s human resources to start a formal investigation.
Some management level and executive level do not feel that business ethics, laws and regulations apply to them and that they are above such things. Power and money is their motivation for such.
I refer to this as SCDD, Social Conscience Deficit Disorder.
This term or diagnosis has not been submitted to the DSM Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders regulated by the American Psychiatric Association and Foundation for considering entering into it.
It was advised that doing so would offer those of business ethics crimes and infractions legal grounds of being found not guilty for such crimes due to a medical defense reason. It could also give them a medical and legal reason to obtain medications when such is not appropriate or beneficial.
This appears ridiculous but it is factual and has happened with other new diagnoses that were added in the past.
This will certainly stimulate discussions and debate.
Unfortunately, some individuals that deliberately do not follow the various business laws and regulations that reflect business ethics may comment, ‘we are only guilty and unethical if someone registers a formal complaint and a formal investigation finds us guilty’.
Other individuals may lack knowledge on business ethics, laws, regulations and other important business subjects.
The question now can be; ‘Should incompetence be a major crime in itself and have significant additional punishment and fines to both the offending individuals and the business organization so both are held accountable’.
Punishment for such is often weak and not substantial enough.
When business ethics legal issues are followed up on aggressively with business organizations, the offending business organization often just offers money to the individuals pushing the issues to silence them and make them drop their complaint and go away.
Incompetence is not an excuse but business management can be incompetent and lack adequate business skills and knowledge.
Stronger punishment financially could motivate business organizations to closely evaluate their staff’s skills and expertise and to hire the more appropriate level staff with the higher competence.
This may also motivate individuals to seek out continual education, training and experience to increase their level of knowledge, skills and competence.
Let us discuss some numbers and statistics to help understand the issues.
In 2007, the ERC Ethics Resource Center in the United States reported that business ethics misconduct is on the rise substantially.
Some studies and statistics indicate:
60% of employees observe business ethics misconduct
75% of employees are not willing to report business ethics misconduct
25% of employees feel that they work in a business environment conducive to excessive business ethics misconduct
1% of employees report business ethics misconduct on confidential whistle blowing hot lines
Many indicate that management is part of the business ethics misconduct.
Business ethics misconduct programs in business organizations decrease the misconduct but not substantially.
Business ethics misconduct include, lying, stealing, discriminations of age, religion, sex and origin, sexual, hiring practice, terminating and firing practices, safety, and more.
Business ethics misconduct applies to both private business and public government.
A popular and sensitive business ethics subject is the higher business executives’ personal compensation of several hundred thousand dollars and into the millions of dollars when employees are being laid off, many earning low wages, some near minimum legal wage and sometimes with the business struggling financially.
Again, I refer to this with SCDD Social Conscience Deficit Disorder.
This is a subject to itself.
Many business ethics do not have laws and regulations to reinforce them.
A company has an order from a business/customer for product but there is a lead time for making the product and delivering. In the mean time but later, a bigger and more important customer puts in an order for the same product and needs delivery immediately. Should the bigger favored customer be put ahead of the first order that came in? What is ethical?
A company has had a good profitable business year and wants to hand out special bonuses to management. Should the amount of money bonus given be based on the individuals’ efforts or based on popularity or favoritism to upper management? What is ethical?
I continue to highly recommend private study, research and attending local college courses on this subject.
There are several organizations and publishing’s that can help those interested in the subject;
Association for International Business Ethics
ECOA Ethics and Compliance Officer Association
ERC Ethics Resource Center
International Business Ethics Institute
Society for Business Ethics
Business Ethics Magazine
Journal of Ethics
Journal of Academic and Business Ethics
There are more associations and publications available that can easily be found with a simple internet search.
Business ethics is both a national and international issue that affects everyone around the world.
I think you can now see why I recommend taking classes in business ethics from the local colleges and universities and for private study and research.
There are just so many issues and subjects within the main title of business ethics subject.
There is significant amount of information to keep up with. All are worthy of discussions, study and debate.
A brief article on business ethics cannot come close to discuss business ethics in the United States or internationally.
Hopefully in this brief business article, I have presented some interesting information and ideas worthy of discussing and thinking about.
Michael Marshall, PhD
‘The Business Doctor’
Personal website: www.AskTheBusinessDoctor.com
Michael has 25 years of business experience in numerous markets with a variety of products and services. Prior to his extensive business career, he was a behavioral health counselor.
His education includes a PhD in business, MBA, BS degrees in psychology and social human behavior, Federal International Business Certification, and over 34 other advanced certifications in; business management, business development, sales, marketing, marketing communications, customer service, product management and development, training and business strategy.
Michael currently has 28 business publishing’s on various business subjects, internationally.
His passion is ‘Business Development’ and ‘Creatively Finding Ways to Grow the Business’ using his psychology and behavioral health background and training.