Elements of ethics for professionalsJuly 2009
W. Brad Johnson and Charles R. Ridley. 200 pages. Palgrave Macmillan. £12.99.
The publishers say this book is a must-have for ‘business leaders striving to create an ethical workplace’. And they could be right.
The authors have successfully reduced much of the accumulated wisdom of applied ethics into 75 succinct statements (they call them ‘truths’) about how to approach and resolve many types of ethical dilemmas that are encountered in business and professional life.
Each of the statements is introduced by a short case study and, after a brief commentary, each ‘truth’ is summed up with a number of ‘key components’.
As an example, consider ‘Truth’ No.44: ‘Think twice about accepting gifts’. The case study features Lars, who is a financial adviser. Grateful clients, particularly those whom he judged to be worthy of pro bono work, offer gifts, and there is a description of how he reacts to these. The ensuing commentary notes ruefully that ‘as the ancient Greeks discovered on accepting the Trojan horse, gifts have the potential to wreak havoc’. And there follow six key components, one of which is to ‘remain sensitive to the meaning of gift giving from the client’s cultural perspective’.
While the book mainly concentrates on professional ethics, many of dilemmas it describes will be familiar to business ethics practitioners. It is particularly interesting, for instance, on the increasingly prevailing culture that relies on the phrases ‘it is within the rules’ and ‘ I did nothing wrong’.
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