The subject of ethics and business has been an enduring debate in both the business world and thecommunity. The two articles reviewed add valuable insights into the debate.
Due to recent ethical scandals (eg. Enron), some authors (e.g., Ghoshal, 2005; Mitroff, 2004) have criticized business education, claiming it has been responsible for the absence of ethical behavior and social responsibility by managers. As a result Neubaum, Pagell, Drexler, Mckee-Ryan, and Larson responded to thosecritics and aimed to prove empirically that there is no evidence to sustain the fact that business education has affected negatively the personal moral philosophies of students.
The principal criticism about business education is related to behaviors of some managers who show a lack of ethics in their decisions. This unethical behavior is believed a result of their academic training on theoriesbased on “profit first” and shareholder maximizations, putting aside social or environmental considerations.
A personal moral philosophy is defined as a set of beliefs, values and attitudes that provide a basis for decision making in ethical dilemmas (Barnett, Bass & Brown, 1994). Neubaum et al. base their study on two dimensions of personal moral philosophies described by Forsyth (1980):relativism which manifests in the adherence of a person to universal laws and societal norms regardless of the situation. Idealism on the other hand is reflected in individuals who want to avoid harming other people, regardless of the outcome of doing do. The authors build a series of hypotheses: in the first study they contrast business and non business students, evaluating their personal moralphilosophies and attitudes toward profit and sustainability. The results of the study show that there is no difference on the levels of relativism and idealism between those who are studying business or those who are not. The second study examines the self-selection of business students which questions the assumption that most business students enter business school with a lack of morality and lowethical levels. In this study the authors compare the personal moral philosophies and attitudes toward profit and sustainability between freshmen starting in business education and freshmen starting in nonbusiness education. The results reflect that in terms of idealism and relativism, business freshmen are not different from nonbusiness freshmen.
Finally the authors compare the personal moralphilosophies and attitudes towards profit and sustainability between business freshmen and business seniors, expecting that the moral philosophies are different between those students who spend more years in business education, compared to those who are starting out. The outcome of the study shows that there is a difference between those two groups, however not in the way one would expect; businessseniors actually present higher levels of idealism and lower levels of relativism than the freshmen business students.
Neubaum et al. conclude that before making changes in their curriculum, “…business schools need to develop a much fuller picture of why their students… make unethical decisions.” (p.20). Authors believe that the criticisms toward business education are made with unsupportedevidence. They suggest that educators should spend less time in teaching ethical frameworks, and spend time in teaching students to analyze ethical cases from a practical point of view. In this way their behaviors in the real business world might be more ethical.
John F. Veiga, Timothy D. Golden, and Kathleen Dechant. A Survey of The Executive's Advisory Panel: Why managers bend company Rules....