One false assumption guides the view that business ethics cant be taught: the belief that ones ethics are fully formed and immutable by the time one enters college or begins a job. Research in moral psychology has found that this is definitely not the case. Moral judgement develops throughout childhood and young adulthood in a complex process of social interaction with peers, parents and other significant persons, and this development continues at least through young adulthood. Research, then, supports the argument that ethics can be taught. Given that most people enter professional education programs and corporations during young adulthood, the opportunity to influence their moral reasoning clearly exists. In fact, young adults in their twenties and thirties enrolled in moral development educational programs have been found to advance in moral reasoning even more than younger individuals.
Ethical behavior relies on more than good character. Although good upbringing may provide a kind of moral compass that can help the individual determine the right direction and then follow through on a decision to do the right thing, its not the only factor determining ethical conduct. Educational programs in business ethics can and do shape the development of a young persons ethical values and behavior.
In the complexity of todays society, individuals need additional guidance. They can be helped to recognize the ethical dilemmas that are likely to arise in their jobs, as well as the rules, laws, and norms that apply in that context. They also can learn reasoning strategies that can be used to arrive at the best decision. And they also can grasp an understanding of the complexities of organizational life that can conflict with ones desire to do the right thing.
With the increasing globalization of business through travel and the use of the worldwide web, more managers are finding themselves in an international environment full of ethical challenges. If managing business activities with ethical conduct is a challenge in ones own culture, imagine how the difficulties multiply when the culture and language are foreign, and the manager is under increased stress. Individuals need to be taught about the conduct of business in different cultures as well as about the broader organizational issues concerning whether and how to conduct business in foreign nations, and how to guide employees working in a global business environment. To a great extent, ethical conduct is influenced and controlled by our environment in work settings, by leaders, managers, and the entire cultural context. As a result, we believe that educational institutions and work organizations can and do have an opportunity to teach people about ethics and to guide them in an ethical direction.
In December 2000, the Christos and Mary Papoutsy Endowed Chair in Business Ethics was established at New Hampshire College (Southern New Hampshire University). This chair will serve as a cornerstone for an integrated program in business ethics at both the undergraduate- and graduate-level at New Hampshire College. The purpose of the endowed chair in business ethics is to promote and enhance awareness of ethics in personal and professional settings for students and community audiences. Through teaching, community lectures, and conferences, all audiences will be assisted in understanding and applying the lessons taught by current and Classical ethicists to twenty-first century settings. Special emphasis will be placed upon the works of ancient Greek writers and intellectuals whose teachings have shaped the history of Western civilization from antiquity until the present. For more information, contact the offices of Mr. and Mrs. Papoutsy at 603-379-8140, visit the About Us section of HCS at the URL http://www.helleniccomserve.com/aboutus.html, or check the Business Arena page of the Hellenic Communication Service web site at the URL http://www.HellenicComServe.com/businessarena.html