New Delhi: "Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do." ~ Potter Stewart
Business is all about the innumerable everyday decisions that managers need to make. These decisions influence the way organizations are managed, having myriad long-term effects on organizational success and survival. The consequences of these decisions are best understood through a moral lens.
Business ethics plays a decisive factor for an organization in building credibility and trust with its stakeholders and "Managing for Organizational Integrity".
Michael Josephson was undeniably right in affirming, "Using the phrase business ethics might imply that the ethical rules and expectations are somehow different in business than in other contexts. There really is no such thing as business ethics. There is just ethics and the challenge for people in business and every other walk in life to acknowledge and live up to basic moral principles like honesty, respect, responsibility, fairness and caring."
The corporate world has witnessed various mammoth scandals and ethical lapses that have led to organisations' disrepute and leadership. The continued ethical misconduct by the corporate from 2001.
Enron Scandal for fraudulent accounting, the 2010 environmental disaster caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the emission scandal of 2015 by Volkswagen, The Wells Fargo creation of 1.5 million fake accounts of 2017 and the like plainly reflect an absolute disregard of ethical considerations in business decision-making. Businesses have too often been censured for wrong-doings, clearly revealing the utter lack of moral conscience. American physicist and entrepreneur Robert Noyce had rightfully stated, "If ethics are poor at the top, that behaviour is copied down through the organization." If the tone at the top is corrupt, then the entire corporate culture is denigrated and generates a toxic corporate culture.
This is where management institutions need to step in to include a value-based ethics curriculum to educate and train management students, who are the future corporate leaders. Management education is not merely confined to imparting knowledge and sharpening the intellect, but about honing skill sets that advance the true astuteness of management students.
Business schools have the fundamental responsibility to instil sound moral and ethical values in their students and prepare them for leadership roles. They must be taught to capably manage a highly socially diverse society and a rapidly changing business landscape that may pose several ethical dilemmas and conflicts.
Teaching Ethics in Management Education
What is the responsibility of B-schools in creating an ethical corporate culture? Business schools are the preliminary training platform for future C-suite managers and executives; hence, the emphasis on ethics and values in the curriculum is an elemental factor. However, teaching ethics does not guarantee an individual's possession of a moral compass!
Management education must expose students to the good and bad incidents of the corporate world. Further, they must be made aware of the differing conducts of behaviour that will prevail at the workplace and sensitized on the benefits of taking an appropriate stand. Another important aspect is that management education must not view ethics as a stand-alone course but rather integrate it with other courses across disciplines. Students must recognize that ethics is essentially an integrated approach.
A business school is a perfect platform to delineate best business practices for its students. Further, it can lend clarity on how practising business ethics benefit the bottom line. The business ethics curriculum must provide hands-on learning of ethics and ethical issues that will enable students to deal with the grey areas in business adroitly.
Pedagogy to teach Business Ethics
Case-study based learning is a fitting way to demonstrate actual business challenges. It stimulates students' critical thinking and ethical reasoning abilities through discussions on various ethical dilemmas faced by businesses, preparing students for the real business world challenges that they may have to face in the future.
It is equally important to provide students with opportunities to participate in ethics case competitions and ethical debates. These enable students to confront several ethical conflicts and dilemmas that actual businesses tackle.
A simulation is a skilful approach for ethical learning. It allows students risk-free learning through application, using technology to simulate ethical dilemmas. This permits students to assess their own values and ethical boundaries. Most often, the simulations are team-based, displaying one of the challenges of real businesses when confronted with ethical predicaments.
Learning through examples from industry leaders invited as guest speakers is another means of enriching ethics learning. Experiences with the ethics of business leaders broaden the students' understanding, which is beyond their classroom learning of ethical students and frameworks.
Teaching ethics in management education does not guarantee behavioural change. However, it exposes students to the challenges businesses face and equips them with the tools to confront business dilemmas through an ethical approach.
"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." – Nelson Mandela.
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