A Time for Ethical Self-Assessment


This paper would seek to address a controversial and important issue; ethics. An article by Rick Wartzman would be analyzed in order to comprehend what is meant by business ethics and the fallbacks it can mean for the individuals and for the company.

This paper would seek to outline an important issue which affects us all-whether the decision happens to be that of a commercial, personal nature as have major repercussions. This issue is related to ethical behavior and what constitutes as ethical behavior. This issue remains quite controversial in nature due to the basic fact that it becomes in certain cases hard to decipher whether it was done unethically or whether the concerned person had no option at hand.

However, before going into that debate, this paper would first seek to address what is meant by ethics; the definition of ethics in its most basic form is that is a sort of a philosophy which pertains to the issue of morality. In this paper, the issue would be addressed of business ethics which are the ethical issues which arise in a business setting or environment. This paper would outline the case analysis of Siemens and other corporations which act against the norms of business ethics and in this article, the concept of Ethics of Prudence was argued as being a substantial defense mechanism.

The examples quoted in this case were that of Siemens which had to settle payments relating to the use of bribes and kickbacks in order to secure public works contracts, a New York Lawyer who was accused of defrauding hedge funds and other investors of $ 380 million, Financier Bernard L.Madoff who swindled $ 50 billion which resulted in an important question being addressed in this essay.

That of the existence of business ethics and whether it is possible. According to the definition provided by Peter Drucker, business ethics were not compatibility with what ethics are perceived to be. According to this definition, business ethics were explained by the concept of cost-benefit calculation. The example quoted of such a benefit was that of Enron which sought exemption from the company’s ethical policy in order to move forward with certain dubious financial assistance that became a benefit for the greater cause of Enron’s welfare.

Drucker seeks to defend the concept of Ethics of Prudence in which he defines business ethics as when the person looks into the mirror, what sort of person he wants to be seen as. Hence, ethics become a cause for deciding what is clearly wrong and if something is wrong, whether it is questionable enough not to do it. Yet, the cautionary note exists from Drucker about this concept degenerating into hollow appearances but at the same time, it is always a test of honest self-assessment or the “mirror test”.

This essay brought to light several important points regarding ethical value as in most of the cases the companies do strive to comply by ethical issues but in certain cases, the need becomes too beneficial to let go off. Hence, here comes the question which had been aptly raised by Drucker is that whether the company officials are honest enough to consider these decisions in the light of what they would like to be perceived as.

If, the officials believe that the costs Is not that detrimental they might go ahead with the decisions but if it has major fallback on their prestige, image and company’s dealings the company would have to reconsider the issue. However, despite this major divide the fact remains that even small fallbacks can majorly impact the personal ethical stance of any individual and hence, it becomes a critical issue which needs to be devalued by these people as what they would like to be seen/perceived as by others.

Ethics might seem an unquestionable issue but in certain cases, the effect of certain decisions might be much greater than what we could have thought of it as.


Wartzman, R(2008)” A Time for Ethical Self-Assessment” BusinessWeek Retrieved from:


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