Philosophy, Ethics, and Social Responsibility;
Throughout the course, there will be reference to Hayden’s contentions. I have used the term contentions to indicate that they are not necessarily facts or truth in a scientific or philosophical sense but are important and useful things for you to know. Because I am the professor, I can and should profess! I could site sources and offer complex logical proofs for my contentions (my professings) but I mostly have not (for the sake of your time and mine). For the purposes of this class, you need to presume that my contentions are as valid as the text book, the law, and other cited facts.
I can’t provide a definitive list of the contentions (they are woven throughout all my documents and communications). I think that it is accurate to say that the contentions are not separate entities (like a list) but an integration of my knowledge, experiences, and philosophy (ethics and other philosophical elements). Each contention is but one facet or view of that integration. It may seem unfair but students don’t get the same freedom to profess as I do (because I am the professor and you are the student). This will be strange for many of you because you have experienced years of being asked to state your opinion and have been taught that every opinion is as good as any other.
Recall the following diagram. Doing so should help put the course (including anything I communicate) in context.
Though I said I couldn’t list all my contentions and that they are dispersed throughout the course, I should introduce some here because they particularly relate to this and all future assignments, i.e., they are prerequisite to the remaining course content. Some of the following may not make a lot of sense right now, but their relevance should become more and more evident as this assignment (and the course) progresses.
Some Hayden Contentions
1. Employers usually get what they “really” expect. What is “really” expected is what is rewarded. Admonitions, goals, slogans, visions, missions, etc. don’t mean much by themselves. Employees tend to do what they are actually rewarded to do much more so than merely what they are told to do or a rule tells them to do. Is ingratiating oneself with the boss what is rewarded? Is self-aggrandizement what is rewarded? Is taking credit for other’s accomplishments what is rewarded? Or is meeting the spirit of the law rewarded; is improvement rewarded, is productive behavior rewarded. Whatever is rewarded is what is really expected. Remember that rewards are not only monetary. It should be evident that what is really encouraged and rewarded is what you will get (this is true for society, kids, spouses, employees, etc.). It should also be evident that this and other contentions have legal, ethical, and managerial implications.
2. Related to the above, employers usually get what they model. When employees are malcontent, untrustworthy, unproductive, quarrelsome, etc. they are usually modeling the behavior of management. Even if the employees are trying to fight poor management, the employees will end up fighting fire with fire. When a system is screwed up, look at the levels above the screw up. As a minimum, even if the screw up is completely the worker bee’s doing, the supervisor wasn’t doing their job. This contention is also applicable to most of the real world (work, government, schools and other institutions, church, etc.).
3. Usually, everyone (e.g., clients, upper management, society, employees, and supervisors) is best served by meeting the spirit of the law and never being “legal” but circumventing the intent of the law. In other words, don’t look for loopholes; meet the spirit of the law. It is immoral and unprofessional to act/think/say “it must be OK because it is technically not illegal,” “it must be OK because I got away with it (nobody stopped me or punished me for doing it),” or “everybody does it this way.” Granted, this contention is based largely on my ethical standards but there is evidence that doing the right thing for the right reason helps a lot in a legal situation. You might win or get your way (as employee or employer) due to a technicality but you will lose reputation-wise, trust-wise, etc.
4. As decision makers (this includes supervisors, employees, judges, lawmakers, customers, parents, children, etc.) we are all flawed. The problem is that we think we can make good decisions based on our feelings; we are sure of this; we all know we are in the upper half! But we are wrong. Individuals have a very strong tendency to believe that they are good decision makers and have some special insight or intuition, but we don’t. We are also full of incorrect knowledge and lack of necessary knowledge that biases our decisions. Bias in the general sense means that something not pertinent has affected the decision. I suppose you could say that we tend to think things are pertinent when they are not and to also not consider pertinent things. I may not like Martians; you may not like opera singers. Consciously and subconsciously we are full of baggage and garbage related to “knowing” what makes a good employee. On the average we are wrong (this is proven by historic fact, statistics, and research). We are smart to keep feelings and opinions out of decisions. We are smart to make decisions based on the intent of the law, professional codes of ethics, and sound moral and ethical standards. We are smart to make decisions using rigorous, tried and proven professional qualitative and quantitative techniques (in lieu of hunches and rules of thumb).
5. Employment decisions (e.g., hiring, placement, professional development, evaluation, etc.) should be based solely on the employee’s ability to perform essential job functions (or the performance thereof). There is a lot of research to back this up. Think about it, what is the advantage in using non job related factors in making job decisions? Of course, this contention assumes that the essential job functions and matching abilities are known (and this is often not the case).
6. The law can be used proactively to get the best employees, have the most satisfied customers, have the best products and services, make the most money, and several other good things, not to mention keeping the employers and employees out of legal trouble. Sincerely meeting the spirit of the law is the best way to accomplish your business goals and keep from being sued.
7. Diversity (of thought, background, style, etc.) is usually genuinely good for business. The reason is that diverse ideas are good to solve problems; they aid creativity. Note that in this context, diversity is much broader than legally protected categories such as race or religion.
8. Not only are some forms of discrimination and harassment illegal, they are counterproductive to accomplishment of business goals. There are very good moral, ethical, religious, philosophical, etc. reasons to not base workplace decisions on protected factors, to be affirmative in getting the best employees and not discriminate or otherwise mistreat employees, and to afford employees accommodations that take into account individual attributes. More so, there are very good moral, ethical, religious, and philosophical reasons to not base workplace decisions on any personal characteristics, even it is legal to do so. There are good reasons not to make decisions based on looks, personal habits, and a plethora of other factors not related to essential job functions. However, an employer whose morals and ethics only encompass wealth, power, and recognition will still best accomplish those things by following the law and otherwise adhering to all the above items. There is no real advantage to skirting the law.
Philosophy is the investigation of the nature, causes, or principles of reality, knowledge, and values—all based on logical reasoning. Logical reasoning is one commonality of the law, management, and ethics (or at least theoretically should be!). A person’s philosophy affects how they view a legal, managerial, or ethical situation.
Realize that you have a philosophy whether you know you have one or not. Likely, this philosophy is somewhat confused and not pure or extreme but uses bits and pieces (maybe contradictory) of theoretically ideal philosophies in a manner that, more or less, works for you. To the extent that you have more of one than another, each of the following philosophies or philosophical labels would variously affect your legal decision making. I am not going to tell you which is the best. The point is for you to realize that you are affected by your philosophy (even if you can’t state what that philosophy is).
Rationalism. Do you believe that certain kinds of knowledge are innate; that you can use thought to know certain things without first having had the experience? Then you are a rationalist. Most of us think that some amount of rational thought is a good thing. However, extreme rationalism is very distrusting or even rejects all that we see, hear, touch, etc. In its pure form, rationalism claims clear thought to be more real and more important than apparent sense data, e.g., you can’t believe your eyes.
Empiricism. How much stock do you put in what you can see, hear, measure, and touch? Do you think that all knowledge, belief, and what we label as truth must come from experience? Then you are an empiricist. Many of us both use and deride this philosophy. As an intended good thing we say, that is an empirical fact; as a bad thing we say, that’s only empirical. Empiricism and the scientific method go hand in hand. Without them we would have no science, medicine, physics, biology, psychology, etc. We would have no laws of gravity, motion, or all the other physical and scientific laws and theories that underlie our standard of living and way of life. However, empiricism in its extreme leads to a skepticism that says anything that cannot be touched and measured is not real, that everything is relative and illusory, there is no real good or bad, definitely no God. There is no real substance, time or space. Nothing actually exists from one second to the next. All we have are our sense perceptions and they are nothing but collections of properties that we sense. Sometimes we are able to communicate because of shared habits and customary ways of talking, but we don’t have a clear understanding of anything except our personal sensations, e.g., you can only believe your eyes.
Realism. How much of a realist are you (compared to an idealist)? Do you believe that what is truly real is categorically (ontologically) independent from what we perceive and conceive, i.e., something is real or not regardless of what we think about it? Do you believe that truth is belief matching reality? Aligned with empiricism (but not exactly the same), do you believe that, though we may never know what is truly real, new observations can bring us closer to understanding reality? Don’t most of us behave a lot like a realist; don’t we all recognize that reality and theory are two different things; that what is ideal may not be practical? As attributed to Yogi Berra, “in theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is!” Extreme realism leads to skepticism and naturalism.
Naturalism. Naturalism in its extreme says that nature is all there is and all truth is a truth about nature. Don’t we think there is some kind of beauty and goodness to nature and the earth? Can’t we learn a lot about ourselves and what is good by studying nature? However, if naturalism is purely true then we are nothing but apes in pants; there is nothing inherently good or bad; we (humans collectively or individually) have no intrinsic value or worth; we are only more, or less, useful to someone else. There can be no God; there can be no natural human rights (though we can have rules to govern ourselves) because right is determined by the victor. Nature, red in tooth and claw, determines who is fittest to survive.
Idealism. How much of an idealist are you? Do you believe that there is an ultimate reality that transcends merely apparent physical matter? Is beauty (or goodness or a perfect circle) a real thing to which we can compare earthly appearances; is there a pure beauty that has an ideal form (that even if there were no humans would still exist)? If you believe that anything (truth, value, goodness, beauty, or reality) is inherent and not completely a human invention then you are at least a bit of an idealist. Some people have no ideals but most do. Taken to its extreme, idealism cannot be logically deduced. Because there are different ideals seems like proof that there is not one true ideal. Are there (a) ideally right and wrong things or (b) is good and bad only an opinion?
Religion. What are your religious views? Is there a non-material realm or is nature all there is? Is there a supernatural? If so, are there supernatural beings, minds, powers, etc.? If you believe that there is something other than the existence of physical matter; if you believe there are some causes and effects, especially a first cause, other than those explained by science; if you believe there is reason for things, if there is an intelligent first cause behind things (and maybe an intelligence that is still active) then you have some type of religious belief other than a social habit. Religion is important to the law and your religious beliefs will influence your legal decisions. Religious beliefs directly affect (a) your views on authority, e.g., where does authority come from and who has it, (b) your view on what is fair or just, e.g., should we be truthful, is retaliation OK, (c) how much should you be concerned about yourself compared to others, (d) does anyone have unalienable rights (and what might those be); and many other things pertinent to all sorts of decisions and behaviors.
Politics. What are your political and social views? How much do you believe that the majority should rule? If completely, then no minority has any right! Should a benevolent king rule; should only those with the money to run for office govern? How much individual freedom should we have; if complete individual freedom, then it is a complete dog-eat-dog world! How valuable is the individual compared to the group (do you let one person drag everyone else down; do you sacrifice one person to save the rest)? How much should we let the buyer beware? How much should we protect people from themselves? How controlling should we be: don’t kill; don’t use prostitutes; don’t eat trans fats? How important are rules: should we really follow them or not? Should the market control things or the bureaucrats? Is individual ownership allowed; if so, what can be owned and can it be taken away, by whom?
Logic. To you, how important is logic. It is a good bet that you don’t know what logic is (most of us don’t). If you think that you can have your logic and I can have mine, then you don’t know what logic is. Logic is like algebra in that logic has rules and process and if you do logic correctly, everyone will get the same answer (just like everyone would get the same answer to the same algebra problem). Logic is a way of reasoning that (if the premises can be known to be true or false and are stated correctly) can deductively lead to necessary and universal truth. Do you care to be logical? Do you know how to be? In everyday language, logic usually means that makes sense to me. Formal deductive logic has little to do with what an individual thinks and a lot to do with the truth or falsity of statements. There is only one formal method of logic; there are a lot of personal preferences that we refer to as our logic. Most philosophy, religion, law, scientific investigation, good management, and decision-making makes use of logic. Most of us would like to be more logical. However, do we discount all intuition? Are no feelings of any importance? A computer can do our logic for us. If all we need is logic, we don’t need any human control or decision making.
Most of the preceding philosophies are not either-or; we pick and choose. This doesn’t mean that the middle ground is always the best. If I want to rob ten banks a day and you want zero; robbing five may not be the best choice. All the issues mentioned in this essay directly affect our knowledge, abilities, and views concerning our job tasks and our managerial decisions, e.g., our perceptions of the rights of employers vs employees vs customers, etc. An important point is that I think we should be cognizant that we do have differing views that affect our performance and decision making. I contend that we should consciously strive to use rules (e.g., math and logic) to guide our decisions more so than using our passions, but we shouldn’t be automatons.
Ethics: from the Greek ethos meaning personal disposition; from the prehistoric swedh meaning how oneself is put, what a person does. Ethics is also called moral philosophy; ethics is the science of morals. The field of ethics involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong behavior. If you delve into ethics very much you have to also know a good deal about philosophy and religion (because, like it or not, most morals come from religious beliefs). A common definition of moral is conforming to standards of what is right or just in behavior.
What do you think is right or just? What are you basing that decision on?
It should be evident that laws (and other codes, rules, etc.) are highly related to ethical, moral, philosophical, religious, economic, and political ideals. Is there any natural foundation for these ideals? Are any of these ideals self-evident? Is right random? Is right simply what the majority or whomever is in power wants? It requires logic and philosophy to investigate these types of questions.
Management and ethics. The classical management duties are things such as planning, organizing, controlling, and directing. Other things such as budgeting, leading, facilitating, negotiating, and problem solving are also common elements of managing. Supervisors focus more on some of those managerial duties than others. Following is a brief listing of some ethical models.
Common Name Description
Blanchard’s Ethical Decision Making Criteria Is it legal?
Is it balanced (fair to all involved)?
How will it make me feel about myself?
Black and white Everything is either right or wrong. Do right.
Full-disclosure If the organization or individual can explain itself to constituents or stakeholders the action is OK.
Doctrine of the mean Belief that the middle ground between extremes is always right.
Golden rule Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Market ethic Anything that is legal and profitable is correct.
Equal freedom You can do whatever you want as long as it doesn’t infringe on others.
Proportionality Seldom is anything clearly right or wrong. Try to make the goods outweigh the bads.
Professional What would peers do? Do peers think that what you are doing is OK?
Ideologue (depending on the side you are on this is called idealism, fascism, and many other things) I am right and the ends justify the means.
Seldom are any of the above adhered to completely in every situation. They are mixed and matched. Notice concepts such as right and wrong are connected with ethics. What is your ethical model or code? What is your profession’s and/or employer’s? Does your personal code fit your profession’s or employer’s?
Submit the following.
1. Your employer’s or profession’s code (most professions have a society; most societies have a code of ethics). If the code is more than a page in length you can summarize it. If there is no official code, describe the implicit code in practice (how does the employer or profession act). Which ethical model in the table best fits the code?
2. Summarize your personal ethical code. Which ethical model in the table best fits your code?
3. Discuss how your employer’s (or profession’s) code matches yours; are they are good fit?
4. What social responsibility does the supervisor have regarding the law, ethics, and management?