Years ago I taught a class called Management and Society to aspiring MBA students. It was a course that combined an introduction to ethics with tenth grade civics as applied to the business community. Lest you wonder about the tenth grade civics part, most of my students had not studied anything remotely close to American history, culture or government since junior high or high school. They were technical types well versed in the mathematics of making money. Toward the end of each semester I had the class work together to come up with a code of ethics they thought appropriate for the business community as a whole and their own prospective careers. To say it was a struggle would be an understatement.
One class was simply unable to do it. Their collective attitude was that if wasn’t blatantly illegal then anything goes to outsmart, outfox, out negotiate, and out flank the competition to get ahead. I’ve often wondered what happened to them and figure they all went to work on Wall Street. Most classes did their best with a variety of results that, I suspect, were presented mostly for my benefit without much ownership on their part.
But one class did a pretty good job of it. Here is what they had to say:
1. Be legal within the letter and spirit of the law
2. Do not allow yourself to be compromised by vendors or customers.
3. Maintain integrity and respect in dealings with customers, suppliers, employees and citizens.
4. Do ethical benchmarking.
5. Be consistent across all lines.
6. Provide value to customers first and then shareholders.
I often wonder what happened to them as well. They probably all got fired and are teaching school somewhere in New Jersey.