Monday, December 11, 2006

Of Ethics and Business!

For most Bschoolers, more so for people who have worked before, and unlike me, have seen the business world from the inside, the two words just don't go together! Ethics exist only on paper, they would say. That's what I raised as my question in the first of our classes on 'Business Ethics' and had hoped I’d be able to answer it better as we go through the course. I have the exam today and this is what I'm doing for the preparation.

Now, I won't know if one's ethics can really be taught and built up in the classroom or in fact, even be really affected in a person who has come all this far, grown to this age. (Where one likes to believe that he knows most of the things and most importantly, 'what's right for me'). They say the attempt was at sensitization, perhaps they managed a bit of it, as at least the breaks in between the class were spent by intellectualizers on the fodder for thought provided by the 'ethics' class. Of course, despite that, when one would go around saying that he chose ethics for an elective, a typical jeer would come as, "Oh yes, you really needed it!"

Going more fundamentally to ethics, it's more a matter of personal choice, at times, an unconscious one. Often, we are just too casual and ignorant so as to miss the line between ethical and unethical, which might at times be really thin. You might use your naiveté as defense that you were too gullible and didn't realize when you crossed the line. You might start just with a few fake medical claims or overcharged HRAs, and may or may not end up devouring a few million bucks without as much as a belch. I'd only say, you were ignorant to begin with and not really conscious! This word is of a huge importance in the way you live your life, as shall become clear with time.

However, as they say, there would be times in life, (going to happen pretty soon, now that we're standing on the verge of a high flying corporate career) when you would need to make a choice, not between two right options, but a right and a seemingly wrong one. And like Shahrukh Khan's DDLJ mother used to tell him, 'In life's dilemmas, you'll find two roads that you can take, one will be a shortcut, it might seem easy and simple to start with, but you'll end up losing if you walk this one. Then there would be the other road, the long one, wrought with difficulties and hardships.. it'll scare you at first, but in the end, the victory shall be yours'

Now, I don't believe I should want to be ethical because it's what the world expects of me (while making it's own sinister designs behind my back) or because it is the good thing to do. That makes the motivation to be ethical an external one, while given the amount of temptation that's let loose, the driving force to be ethical must be an internal one. As internal as ethics themselves are. I would consider myself ethical as long as there's no conflict brewing within.

In the middle of this muddle, it might seem appropriate to really define what constitutes ethical behavior and what doesn't! Pondering over it, there's no strict guidebook you can make of Do's and Don'ts and be content that you've shown the ethical way to the world. It is a matter of a person’s own standards of right and wrong. It's not like someone doesn’t know it, it's only that people have different perceptions of where right transforms into wrong all of a sudden. And of course, the relative nature of things says that what's right for me maybe wrong for you!

As a curious young man, I've been fed a lot about the Big Bad World out there, where your fate, (much as you'd like to disagree or dislike the fact) often hangs on the whims of someone else. Where you shall be made victim if you don't become the attacker soon enough. Where your winning must necessarily mean someone's losing. Where being selfish is the most important quality to be able to rise at workplace. Where the politics and work culture might unnerve you for a start, but it’ll become comfortable as you imbibe them yourself... and whoever still remembers that he had an inner voice to listen to... would end up having to choose between his career and his inner voice.

I somehow believe that it's a case of self fulfilling prophecies. One was too convinced in the first place that being ethical won’t work and might in fact hold him back. If that's the amount of belief you have in your weaponry, you sure to surrender fairly soon, rather than fight it out because you're scared you'll die! And believe me, that's the point when YOU die! What was your identity if not your beliefs and convictions and what's left of you if you've had to give up on them? There's one move, to trample the inner voice that had been bothering you and then gradually and incrementally, as you bite the apple and get intoxicated with the taste of success... your race begins.

That's the beginning point of the line of thought where they see one's ethics a matter of conviction. You can't have a low defense in the first place (be almost waiting to surrender) and then blame it on the juggernauts that blew you over. Hold your guns long enough, it might just be worth it because the excuses that might work when you have to defend yourself in front of others, will not work when you need to answer yourself. Much as you'd like to believe you'd get away with it, yes, you might not get caught.. but the 'self' within you is sure to catch up sooner or later! Your deeds will come back to haunt none else but you and then, you might want to exonerate yourself and go back in time to undo things!

They say everything in the world can be bought.

Every'thing', and every'one' shall be up for sale.. if offered the right price.

What’s your tag? It’s gonna determine your quality of life.. your consciousness.. and a lot more!


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