Practical Business Ethics for the Busy Manager

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9780130481092: Practical Business Ethics for the Busy Manager

With a conversational writing style, rather than the language of formal ethical theories, this short, readable book suggests to its readers that they should plan how be better business people than they would otherwise be. It contains a common sense, practical approach to doing good work—emphasizing the need to prepare in advance for ethical dilemmas, long before they arise. KEY TOPICS Chapter topics cover American corporate and organizational culture, identifying personal values, moral mentors, getting the facts necessary for good work, determining the issue that requires good work, locating the relevant law, identifying the alternative options, and applying personal ethical principles to doing good work. For business people—and people who will one day be business people—who want to make a difference in business practice and improve behavior in their selves and business environment.

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From the Back Cover:

M. Neil Browne, Andrea Giampetro-Meyer, and Carrie Williamson have written a lively, straightforward book showing people how to be ethical in business. It contains a commonsense, practical approach to doing good work-emphasizing the need for people to prepare in advance for ethical dilemmas. The authors take an honest, realistic view of how managers can help improve ethical behavior in the rushed, output-driven business environment.

Important features of Practical Business Ethics for the Busy Manager.
  • A practical perspective.
    – Makes text concepts and ethical principles something people can apply to their lives.
  • Student-friendly writing style.
    – Saves the formal theories for an appendix in Chapter 4.
    – Enables students to easily understand learned concepts throughout the text.
  • Global boxes.
    – Provides students with international examples of business ethics and essential information for today's global business manager.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Many college students aspire to careers in business organizations. Professors who teach ethics classes assign reading material giving students some awareness that they are likely to struggle with dilemmas pitting their own values against the ethical norms of the organizations that employ them. For those of us who teach graduate students with careers already underway, we hear story after story confirming our perception of ordinary business life and our fears for our undergraduate students who do not appreciate the stress they may face beyond college.

The stress of everyday ethical dilemmas is overshadowed by news stories of serious corporate misconduct, scandal, and failure. Students are bombarded with depressing evidence of managerial amorality. As professors, we want to give students the tools they need to respond to the ethical dilemmas they will or currently face. Our primary objective in writing Practical Business Ethics for the Busy Manager is to present a practical, action-oriented approach to business ethics that will help prospective managers respond to business problems in a range of areas, including accounting, finance, marketing, and management.

As professors with a passion for lifelong learning, we appreciate many of the business ethics books that are currently available for use in higher education. Many excellent business ethics texts take an academic approach, explaining complex ethical theories to prospective managers. We find this academic approach meaningful to our own thinking. Unfortunately, though, we have discovered that this approach does not work for most of our students. At best, students play along with us when we use an academic approach, realizing that what they perceive to be overly complex, decontextualized reading is simply "stuff from school." They endure the lessons, pass the class, and move on to the next course.

At worst, a highly academic approach to business ethics pushes students down the road to cynicism. "Yeah, right. Let's imagine what Aristotle would say if he ran WorldCom." Sometimes, students rebel and refuse to play along with the complex reasoning academic business ethics books present. Instead, they trash all the material as remote, otherworldly, and useless. The worst students then resort to simplified, often relativistic, responses to ethical dilemmas. These responses show a very low regard for reason and lead to despair among faculty.

Practical Business Ethics for the Busy Manager is written in two parts. Part One includes five chapters laying the foundation for the practical, action-oriented approach to business ethics we present in Part Two. The book's first chapter introduces students to our general approach for considering ethical dilemmas. It emphasizes the need for individual business leaders to identify and develop their personal ethical perspective. This introductory chapter explores what it means to "do good work" from an ethical perspective. Chapter 2 aims to help students understand the context in which ethical dilemmas arise. It describes American business culture in an attempt to encourage students to see why they might be vulnerable to corporate cultures that are motivated by goals other than doing good work.

The book's third chapter introduces students to basic language units of ethics, including interests, roles, and values. Chapter 3 encourages students to identify their personal value priorities and consider how to act upon these priorities in daily business practice. Chapter 4 presents classical ethical guidelines that are initial steps toward good work. The final foundations chapter, chapter 5, presents material we believe is unique to our business ethics book. Chapter 5 encourages students to find, emulate, and become moral mentors—individuals who model "good work" and bring out the moral best in others.

Part Two of Practical Business Ethics gives explicit advice about what to do in the face of probable conflict within the business organization. Chapters 6 through 10 present the individual components of the FILOP process we outline (e.g., facts, issues, law, options, principles). The book's final chapter, chapter 11, shows students what the FILOP process looks like in action. FILOP directs prospective managers toward good work by asking them to develop an awareness of the facts of an ethical dilemma, an appreciation for the scope of the issue, and an understanding of the relevant law governing the issue, a consideration of the options available, and a selection of applicable ethical principles.

Throughout both Part One and Part Two of Practical Business Ethics, we are mindful of our intent to write a book that is readable, understandable, crisp, practical, and optimistic. Each chapter includes examples from a range of business disciplines. This book can be used across the business curriculum. Another motivating factor was our desire to write a book that any business professor can incorporate into the current course plan. We wanted to the book to be small, and largely self-teaching. We wanted the book to make a significant impact on students' business education, with minimal cost to the already overloaded professor. Finally, we wanted the book to be filled with current and classic examples from the business world to give the reader a sense that we are standing in the trenches with them as they face dilemmas.

Given our interest in making the book small, we selected features that would provide the most value-added material to the book. We designed features that would allow us to highlight key themes and emphasize the relevance of our approach to our students' working lives. Practical Business Ethics includes the following text boxes.

  1. Global. As a business manager, prospective managers will communicate with businesspeople from various countries and cultures. Legal and social norms within these different cultures may influence their business interactions in ways they might not expect. Thus, we have included global boxes in each chapter to heighten students' awareness of the role of culture in ethical decision making. For example, chapter 5's Buddhism Global box demonstrates the role of religion in shaping beliefs about ethical work behavior. Other boxes explain Islam's prohibition of charging interest and the creation of relationship obligations in China.
  2. Values in Action. Values, such as honesty, efficiency, fairness, security, and freedom, may conflict with regard to a particular business dilemma. To help students better identify the role of values in business decisions, chapters contain a "Values in Action" box that presents a business leader or company emphasizing the role of values. For example, chapter 3's Values in Action box explains how Dr. Jeffrey Wigand's key values of honesty, collective responsibility, and security led him to blow the whistle on the tobacco industry.
  3. Meet the Leader. While we frequently hear examples of clearly wrongful ethical behavior, we do not so often hear about instances when successful businesspeople engage in ethical business behavior. One way prospective managers can learn to resolve ethical dilemmas is to mimic the ethical behavior of others. Thus, each chapter contains a "Meet the Leader" box that introduces the student to a successful businessperson who behaves ethically and articulates what it means to be a responsible, ethical employee. For example, chapter 2 presents Alfred P. Sloan, Jr., former head of General Motors, and his unique management style.
  4. Critical Thinking. Ethical dilemmas frequently involve conflicting facts and interests. Consequently, students need to use reasoning skills to identify information in order to make an ethical decision. Therefore, each chapter contains critical thinking boxes to provide opportunities for students to develop these reasoning skills.

Who would find Practical Business Ethics especially beneficial? Our primary audience is the business professor with almost no ethics training, who wishes to supplement his or her marketing, management, accounting, or finance course with a readable book that addresses the problem of the distressing lack of concern about ethics among business majors. Similarly, a business school dean who wants to encourage conversations across a curriculum may suggest that faculty members assign the book in core business courses.

Business ethics professors who have grown weary of negative, anti-capitalism books may see this book as a refreshing change. We believe that improving ethical decision making is a worthwhile goal. We do not see the point of telling students they are morally corrupt simply for working in business. We are counting on the excellent students we encounter on a daily basis to do and model good work in the business world. Finally, prospective managers and managers currently working in business may find this book useful, especially when someone is asking them to respond to an ethical dilemma now.

Several of our students have offered suggestions for how to improve the book, and we thank them. We are especially thankful for students in two classes who used the manuscript when it was in rough draft form—(1) students in Professor Nancy Kubasek's undergraduate Introduction to Business course at Bowling Green State University in Fall 2002, and (2) students in Professor Andrea Giampetro-Meyer's graduate ethics and social responsibility class at Loyola College in Maryland in Spring 2003. We also offer thanks to Nancy Kubasek, who provided helpful constructive feedback.

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