This is a book that anyone concerned with ethics in the workplace—and we all should be—needs to read for a number of reasons and on a number of levels. It’s packed with practical information and telling anecdotes that together provide an easy, informative and enjoyable read. Most important, it explains not only what “the good ones” do to earn the title, but also how we can learn from their success and why we ought to try to emulate it. That will help us become better people and, yes, will help create a better and more profitable business. Continue reading
Have you ever tipped your auto mechanic for changing your oil? How about the surgeon who gave you a new knee? Or the cashier who toted up your grocery bill?
Then why does it make sense to tip your restaurant server?
I wish Harry Brighouse and Adam Swift hadn’t called their new book Family Values. The title makes it too easy to pass over this important examination of the ethics and morality of family relationships in the mistaken assumption that it’s just another empty contribution to what passes for political debate. I hope the subtitle, The Ethics of the Parent-child Relationship, will catch enough eyes to bring the book to the fore because this work has something important to say, and whether you agree or not, it’s worth a healthy debate.
On more than one occasion, Talking Ethics has looked at the ethics of telling so-called white lies that may seem like they’re not doing much harm—“Dinner was delicious.” “I like your new haircut.” In doing so, we found that our readers (a self-selected group who take their ethics seriously) generally frown on lying of any kind, though most reject the absolutist view of Immanuel Kant and others who insist lying is always wrong because it undermines trust and constructive discourse. Now comes a new study suggesting that not only is lying sometimes okay, but it actually can be the right thing to do.
The NFL season is still more than a month away, but here in football-crazed Washington, the Redskins already dominate the sports pages. And with that kind of coverage staring me in the face every morning, I can’t help thinking anew about the team’s controversial name—specifically, whether its continued use constitutes unethical behavior.
When we conducted an informal survey last year asking people when it’s okay to tell a white lie, a large majority, 71%, came down hard on politicians, saying it’s wrong for them to shade the truth, even when it’s just a matter of emphasizing facts that support their point of view and ignoring those that don’t.
But lying by politicians remains rampant. Continue reading
The NBA’s decision to ban Donald Sterling, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, is a reasonable first step, but it doesn’t begin to deal effectively with the underlying problems – or even address some of the ethical failures by the too-many actors involved.
Five separate failures immediately come to mind.
Most of us know the difference between right and wrong, and can easily decide what’s ethical in a given situation if the problem is simple and straightforward. But when a complex dilemma leaves you uncertain, there are some tools that can help you work your way to a good decision. They can’t tell you what to do, but they can certainly help you figure it out for yourself.
I was cleaning out some old files today when I came across a seven-year-old article reporting that top business schools were adding more ethics courses in the wake of the 2007 Enron scandal. The article, by Jeffrey MacDonald in the Christian Science Monitor, went on to quote critics saying the courses wouldn’t do much good. Boy, did that turn out to be true.
What could be more depressing than the twin scandals at Toyota and General Motors?
I don’t envy those of you who earn a living by selling something. I never have—always knew it was an ethical minefield—but my appreciation for your dilemma has grown immensely as your problems have become mine.
Within the next few months, my first novel will be published and I’m getting ready, reading tons of information on how I’m supposed to promote it, create buzz, persuade people to review it, win fans, and ultimately convince a fair number of people that it’s worth their time and money.
Nondisclosure agreements are becoming increasingly common, with many employers now requiring all workers to sign them, not just top executives. And that is beginning to make a lot of people uneasy, myself included.
One issue that comes up repeatedly in the questions and comments we get has to do with the ethics of paying a fair price. One example involves a situation like a yard sale when a buyer recognizes an object as being worth far more than the seller is asking. We think the general rule is that there’s no ethical obligation to pay more. The price was set by the seller, and let’s face it, one of the big attractions of yard sales is the possibility of finding a great bargain. Still, when the price difference is major, we’re inclined to think the fairest approach is to split the difference.
As the host of Talking Ethics, I’m sometimes asked whether I feel a greater need to live a strictly ethical life. People are probably also wondering whether I really do.
To me the answer to the first question is a resounding yes. If you’re going to talk the talk, you ought to walk the walk. There’s no question that I try harder to do the right thing. But that’s not to say I succeed.
A code of ethics is a guide for dealing with other people even after the other person is dead. That’s particularly true when it comes to the right of privacy, though it can be a lot harder to figure out where to draw the line when the other person isn’t around to tell you.