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The Cultural Dimension of Business Ethics

3.1 Ethics in moral choice : what is ethical? / what is an ethical issue?  

How can managers grapple with the problems establishing what constitutes the ethical in different cultures ? 

Before answering this question, a more preliminary question is : what is ethical ? , an ethical

issue ? We previously saw, that ethics was a set of customary principles and practices embodying some sort of a normative code (of behaviour, values) to adhere to being ethical would mean carrying out that code (putting it into practice).

An ethical issue/dilemma : when there’s a conflict between two or more parties where one is benefiting at the expense of another (put into other words : the means justify the ends). Is that all it is? An ethical dilemma can also arise when there’s a conflict between moral rules or when one is violated. For example, Being torn between moral rules: your best friend has a mistress and his wife raises the question of his fidelity to you. How would you respond ? The moral rules of loyalty and keeping one’s promise versus being honest are at stake. This example is particularly rich as it can be considered as an ethical dilemma in one culture but not necessarily in another. Having a mistress in one culture may not be considered immoral (France or in polygamous societies) whereas in others (U.S., England) it would. Is an ethical dilemma, an urgent cry to humanity for justice , a revalidation of moral beliefs ? 

What constitutes the ethical in different cultures depends on their perceptions of : 

Human nature :    good  good/evil  evil

Freedom    very important important  insignificant

Man’s relationship to nature :  dominant  harmony   subjugation

Activity     doing  controlling  being 
 
 Applying Mcgregor’s theory x and y based on the level of trust in employees two cultures perceive it differently. For example, if the manager trusts employees then he/she will act differently from the manager who doesn’t trust his/her employees; one will create an open environment with less controls, whereas his/her opposite would create an environment with lots of controls. Each reinforces his/her original perception through his behaviour. In a society that deems human nature good, trust would be easily granted and inversely in a culture that thinks of human nature as evil. Given an ethical dilemma in this context would just pronounce these two initial positions.  

Another example, is whistle blowing, a procedure to report peers misconduct : For Americans, it is considered a natural procedure usually set up with an anonymous hotline ( not risking one’s job) ; For the French, they are against using this procedure and see it as denouncing peers . As solidarity is important amongst colleagues, this procedure would undermine it. Fear of misuse or abuse of the whistle blowing policy also characterizes its refusal. Perhaps there’s also an uneasiness with their collective historical consciousness between the collaborators and the resistance, in which denunciation took on a negative aspect during World War II. The French are more human relations oriented and feel the management can discover the misconduct on their own, whereas Americans are more rule oriented and have a higher sense of responsibility to the company.

We would have to perform a cultural audit in order to discern what is ethical.  

1.0 Cultural dimensions of Business Ethics  
1.1 Cultural dimensions impact on management 
1.2  Management & ethics 
2.0 Culture & cultural dimensions
2.1 Culture as context of interpretation
2.2 Cultural dimensions
3.0 Ethics & ethical theories
3.1 Ethics in moral choice : what is ethical? / what is an ethical issue?  
3.2 Evaluating ethical situations
4.0 Cultural relativism / ethical universalism
About Gale Prawda
Footnotes


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Founder café philo in English : Paris, London
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