RE: ethics [formerly " interview and..."]

Subject: RE: ethics [formerly " interview and..."]
From: "Gresham, Kathleen 000" <Gresham -dot- Kathleen -at- corp -dot- sysco -dot- com>
To: "Andrew Plato" <gilliankitty -at- yahoo -dot- com>, "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 26 Aug 2003 13:24:18 -0500


Sorry, but with all due respect, your definition of ethics is only one relatively minor usage of the word.

You wrote:
"Ethical" is one of those words that gets tossed around a lot, but people often
forget what it means. In order for somebody (or company) to be "ethical" there
has to be a code of conduct for them to follow. Violation of that code is then
"unethical." There is no "master business ethics" bible somewhere. There are
generally accepted guidelines and laws.

<snip stuff about laws and man's inhumanity to man, etc.>

Unethical behavior is something that violates an established agreement or code
of ethics. For example, doctors have a code of ethics they agree to when they
are licensed. Violation of that code can lead to revocation of their license.
This may, or may not, also include (but not necessarily) illegal behaviors.
Another example would be breaking a contract. This type of behavior would fall
under some kind of CIVIL litigation or other governing body (like a board of
medical examiners for doctors.)

Lame behavior is stuff that is just pathetic, annoying, and exhibits bad
manners. Most business interactions, especially those relating to employment,
fall into this category. Its not illegal, inhuman, or unethical - just lame.

Furthermore, having a strong sense of right and wrong does not qualify a person
as fit to judge. Every situation is different, and everybody has a different
set of right and wrong. This is why codes of ethics and laws were created. They
provide something that isn't dependent upon personal interpretation.

So, while some TECHWR-L members might choose to label behaviors as ethical or
unethical, the fact is, they are in no better position to judge than you or I.
And the actual definition of "unethical" does mean to violate some code of
ethics that an organization agreed to. Since employers do not agree to ethical
codes that say "we'll call you back regardless the outcome" you cannot
rightfully (or reasonably) label such behavior as unethical.

Furthermore, morals and ethics are not the same. Morals are principles that
guide our sense of right and wrong, while ethics are a formalized set of rules
or codes. Hence, morals tend to be more personal, derived from a socially
constructed set of rules, whereas ethics are an externally established code, by
which people agree to uphold.

In the case of business, there really are not any business morals. There are,
however, ethics. But in order for something to be "unethical" there has to be a
clear statement of what IS ethical. While we may all agree that lying to
employees is wrong, it is not, by definition, unethical. Therefore, before you
fire up the rage against the machine soapbox rants, just keep in mind that just
because something bothers you or offends your morality, doesn't mean its
illegal or unethical.

The other thing to remember is that ALL companies do lame things and most do
unethical things. This is simply because companies are comprised of humans. And
humans are not perfect. Hence, the sum of any human endeavor is also imperfect.

I went to and found (only) these definitions:

A set of principles of right conduct.
A theory or a system of moral values: "An ethic of service is at war with a craving for gain" (Gregg Easterbrook).
ethics (used with a sing. verb) The study of the general nature of morals and of the specific moral choices to be made by a person; moral philosophy.
ethics (used with a sing. or pl. verb) The rules or standards governing the conduct of a person or the members of a profession: medical ethics.

[Middle English ethik, from Old French ethique(from Late Latin thica, from Greek thika, ethics), and from Latin thic(from Greek thik) both from Greek thikos, ethical, from thos, character. See s(w)e- in Indo-European Roots.]

Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

\Eth"ics\, n. [Cf. F. ['e]thique. See Ethic.] The science of human duty; the body of rules of duty drawn from this science; a particular system of principles and rules concerting duty, whether true or false; rules of practice in respect to a single class of human actions; as, political or social ethics; medical ethics.

The completeness and consistency of its morality is the peculiar praise of the ethics which the Bible has taught. --I. Taylor.

Source: Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, © 1996, 1998 MICRA, Inc.

n 1: motivation based on ideas of right and wrong [syn: ethical motive, morals, morality] 2: the philosophical study of moral values and rules [syn: moral philosophy]


While there is sometimes room for interpretation, it just generally saves time (and arguments) to look things up.

The original meaning of the word "ethics" was "character". That, I think, is why philosophers and psychotherapists seem to agree that the highest form of ethics are personal and internal, rather than external and imposed by someone else.

BTW, on the same page at was this ad:

Business Ethics
Inc. Magazine's Guide to Ethics in Business. Advice & Case Studies.




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