Third Annual Fall Ethics Symposium, 2008

Personal and Professional Integrity in Business 


Edwin Hartman
"Aristotle on Character and Integrity"
Ethical principles are important, but it is hard to apply them to complex situations. In part for that reason we should consider Aristotle’s view that ethics is primarily about being a person of virtuous character rather than about complying with principles. Being that kind of person entails not only doing the right thing but also having the right desires and emotions. Deciding what is right isn’t like solving a geometry problem: it’s more like the skill of an experienced doctor or a genuinely funny stand-up comedian. You have to develop a feeling for it, and it helps if you like doing it. 

But why bother? Is it better for you to be a person of good character? It seems so, because character is a matter of what you enjoy doing, and you can consistently enjoy doing what is good. To do this you have to have a certain consistency of values, desires, emotions, and actions that we call integrity. But can’t you enjoy being consistently anti-social? No, because then you will have to act against your inclinations when people are watching. In any case, you are by nature a communal and interdependent creature. It’s natural to enjoy being a good family member, a good friend, a good citizen. 

Can good character be taught? Long experience helps. By studying social psy-chology you can learn something about the truly scary pressures that undermine your thinking and divert your attention and make you do things that are irrational and nasty. Liberal education stretches your imagination and helps you do what only human beings can do – in fact, what only you can do: create a good life for yourself.

Amy Mickel and Hakan Ozcelik 
"When Executives Get Angry: The Importance of Anger and Its Triggers to Ethical Awareness and Sensitivity"
In this study, we explore what incites anger in business executives when making organizational decisions. In an inductive analysis of interviews with business executives about decisions where they experienced anger, six different triggers of anger – all related to behavioral-ethics issues – emerged. Two distinct attitudes toward anger – ‘‘negative’’ and ‘‘integrated’’ – also emerged as a significant theme. Based on our findings, we argue that anger may operate like an ‘‘ethical barometer’’ that informs an individual of potential ethical violations at any point in a decision-making process. The implications of these emergent findings for organizational practice and research on affect and decision-making are discussed.

Kimberly D. Elsbach
"Images of Strong Leadership: Possibilities and Pitfalls"
In this session, I will first discuss four traits that people expect in strong leaders, and examine how projecting these traits can improve a leader's effectiveness. I will illustrate these concepts with a real-life case study of the Vernon Road Bleaching and Dyeing Company. I will then discuss how pursuing these four leadership traits can also become leadership traps which reduce a leader's effectiveness. I will illustrate these leadership pitfalls with a case study of the U.S. Catholic Church's sex abuse scandal.

Rebekah Donaldson
"The New Rules of Business Communications -- business ethics and the rise of business blogs."
Companies want all the perks of social media, like business blogs, with none of the risks. On the one hand, employees who blog and tweet can help a company build stronger relationships with customers, prospective customers, analysts and shareholders. On the other, the company has to trust the employee to restrain themselves in several important ways. Building on the popular ideas in the book “The New Rules of PR” by David Meerman Scott, I’ll describe what I’ve just recently decided to call, “The New Rules of Corporate 

Communications.” Unlike a few years ago, today’s world corporate communicators should:

  • Be an individual with a personality, not a unit with a title
  • Speak in a real, authentic voice… be vulnerable (credit: D.M. Scott)
  • Invite dialogue and improvements 
  • Avoid patronizing guru-speak (credit: Tom Pick) 
  • Zap jargon and double-speak before it starts (like gingivitis!)
  • Don’t be boring (this has nothing to do with ethics. Just don’t be boring.) 

We’ll use 3 examples as a jumping off point for group discussion of the relationship between professional ethics and the New Rules of Corporate Communications.