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Ethics as a Lifestyle

Ethics as a Lifestyle

Author: James Howard

This lesson is an overview of business and managerial ethics.

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Hello and welcome to this tutorial on ethics as a lifestyle. Now as always with these tutorials, please feel free to fast forward, to pause, or to rewind as many times as you need to get the most out of the time that you're going to spend here. Let me ask a question.

Do you consider yourself an ethical person? Well, most people do. Do you know someone that you consider to be unethical? And if so, why?

This raises an interesting question. What does it mean to be ethical? Well, during this lesson, we're going to be covering ethics as a lifestyle. We're also going to be looking at ethical behavior, a culture of ethics, and ethics and values.

Now the key terms for this lesson are going to be ethics, collusion, business ethics, managerial ethics, code of conduct, conflict of interest, and confidentiality. So let's start off by defining what ethics is. Now ethics is simply the principles of right and wrong and the morality of the choices involved.

Business ethics is closely tied to what ethics is. In fact, as you'll see, it's almost the same thing. Business ethics is simply ethics. It's the principles of right and wrong of the morality of the choices made in the business world.

So basically, what we're doing is taking the principles or the definition of ethics and applying it to business. And whether you're looking at business ethics or other types of ethics, ethical people will always follow those same ethical principles all the time, not just when it suits the person.

Now what ethics is not, it's emotions. It's not religion. It's not science or norms of a society necessarily. And it's not simply following the law. It's perfectly acceptable to follow the law and be an unethical person.

Now managerial ethics is simply ethics again. The principles of right and wrong and of the morality of the choices made in the context of management. Managerial decisions impact employee behavior. How you hire or fire, the wages that you pay, or the working conditions are all ethical decisions. And they can greatly impact employee attitudes and productivity.

It can also impact behavior toward an organization. Do you have conflicts of interest or do you allow them? Is customer information kept confidential? We'll define these two terms in a second.

Managerial ethics decisions can also impact behavior toward economic agents, such as your customers or your competitors, stockholders and suppliers. Competitors can take advantage of unethical behavior. And then customers, well, they may not want to do business with you anymore.

So we talked about a few things during that last slide. Let's talk about the conflict of interest. Now a conflict of interest is simply a circumstance in which the judgment of an individual or group may be impaired because of a difference in primary or secondary interest. As an example, if I have an employee working for me who also works for a direct competitor, they would have a conflict of interest because they have interest in two different places.

Confidentiality is simply keeping private trusted data out of the hands of the public and other people who don't need to see it. We hand our personal information, credit card numbers, to a lot of different people online when we do shopping. So what do you think it would do for a business if suddenly we found out that that information wasn't as confidential as we thought it was? That would have a big impact on the business if that particular organization did.

Now collusion is an attempt by business to conspire to the detriment of customers or businesses or the general public. A classic example of this is price fixing. Competitors working together to raise prices or manipulate the stock market in order to get more profit by charging more for their product.

So ethical behavior. How does a business assess ethical behavior? Well, first, they have to listen and learn and collect the facts about the decisions that they've made. They create and analyze those facts and relate them to moral values that are appropriate to that condition. They make judgments based on rightness and wrongness of the situation. And some also add a fourth step, editing those practices in order to limit unethical behavior.

Now there are also a set of ethical norms that we should look at also. And we should look at each one of these with each particular case that we're dealing with. The first one is utility, or what's best for the organization as a whole.

Fairness. Can this decision be considered fair and just? We also need to consider the rights of other people. So are those being infringed upon?

And care. Is this a thoughtful way to be responsible and kind to the other parties? Now as I said before, these need to be considered in each case. And each case is not always clear cut. There are also other factors that may affect your decision.

For instance, individual factors, such as an individual experience of the person making the decision or their own personal values and personal goals, and social factors, such as what are the cultural norms for the country or environment that you're working in. What are your coworkers doing or thinking? Relationships with your stakeholders and the person's within your organization.

And also technology. Technology could play a very large role. And keep in mind, these factors that we've talked about, they're by no means an exhaustive list.

So culture of ethics. Now businesses can encourage or discourage ethical behavior. Now one of the ways they do this is through a written guide that defines the policies and standards of the business. And that's called a code of conduct.

Now a code of conduct is an organizational set of rules that encourage responsibility and ethical behavior. And they can also help set up an ethical environment. You see, businesses have to have an environment or a culture that encourages not only participation in the ethics program, but also rewards that participation and ethical behavior.

And one of the ways to do that is to have an employee representative that looks at each case and is responsible for the ethics of those decisions. The program should be company wide. You shouldn't limit it to one particular set of people within an organization. The size of the company is simply the scale of the program.

Now ethics and values. Now an ethical business person should do the following. They should follow a core set of beliefs.

And those beliefs should be used regardless of the circumstances. They should behave in accordance with those beliefs all the time, not just when it suits them or when it is convenient. Do you run a red light when people aren't looking?

Encourage right and discourage wrong. Actively strive to be right and ethical, and discourage that behavior that you know is unethical. And lastly, act in line with others advice on how to be an ethical person.

So to recap, we looked at ethics as a lifestyle, ethical behavior, the culture of ethics, and ethics and values. Now as always, I want to thank you for spending a little bit of time with me today. I hope you had a good time. And I'll see you next time.

Terms to Know
Business Ethics

The principles of right and wrong and of the morality of the choices made in the business world.

Code of Conduct

Organizational rules to encourage responsible and ethical behavior.


An attempt by businesses to conspire to the detriment of customers, other businesses, or the general public.


Keeping private trusted data out of the hand of the public and other people.

Conflict of Interest

A circumstance in which the judgment of an individual or group may be impaired because of a difference in primary and secondary interest.


The principles of right and wrong and of the morality of the choices.

Managerial Ethics

The principles of right and wrong and of the morality of the choices made in the context of management.