Ethix Forum – Issue 29

How did your university or business school education affect the values and ethics you bring to your company and career?

Universities don’t build values or ethics. Families do. Business schools give you the tools required to do your job efficiently and professionally but at the end of the day it is your upbringing that defines what you’re going to do when a moral dilemma presents itself. For example, I really can’t say that I know all the specifics in the Enron fiasco, but I seriously doubt that misrepresenting the truth and “doctoring” accounting books was part of any business school training. Integrity, honesty, and basic decency towards other individuals has been, and always will be, the responsibility of the parents. That being said, in today’s society of increasing numbers of single parent homes, part of that responsibility is transferred to elementary and high school teachers who play a very important role as the supervising adults spending significant amounts of time with a child during its formative years.

Dimitris Katsis
Senior Liquid Crystal Engineer
The MicroDisplay Corporation
San Pablo, California

I attended a private college in the mid-western US. Character education was part of the curriculum. From dining etiquette to making sound and moral decisions, we were required to demonstrate understanding and application of the elements of character. I don’t recall business classes speaking directly or indirectly to the issues of ethics. This was during the mid-80s, which is probably when the groundwork was being laid for the unethical mess we’ve seen in the last three or so years, so who knows.

Jana Kemp
Meeting & Management Essentials
Boise, Idaho

Working on my graduate business degree while working in high tech brought extreme relevance to my career. The concepts being studied explained behaviors observed in the workplace. I could better articulate what was happening and why. I now place much higher importance on the people side. Vision, mission, and purpose statements are not checklist items or something to get through while forming a project team; they take on powerful energy to define our values, share our dreams, and express our goals. My continuing education on systems thinking and appreciative inquiry stresses the cyclic link between reflection and action. By taking the time to reflect on values and ethical behavior, I achieve increased confidence to take “right” actions that, years later, I look back upon with pride as personal career accomplishments. This educational insight means that my work now revolves around coaching authentic leadership and leading with integrity–saying what I believe and doing what I say for the reasons stated. We are all hungry for these traits in our leaders.

Randy Englund
Executive Consultant
Author of
Creating the Project Office and Creating an Environment for Successful Projects
Burlingame, California

I worked in non-profit management for about seven years at an organization whose mission was to promote fairness, inclusion, diversity, and understanding. The job provided the opportunity to get an MBA at Northeastern University. In my admission application essay, I spoke in depth about my desire to determine if it was possible to be an ethical businessperson. The business school had always supported my non-profit’s major fundraising event and lots of large companies really drove its success. Before I joined, I understood the role of charitable giving departments and meaningful community relations. Northeastern’s MBA offered me a diversity of perspectives and points of view with students (and friends) from Boston to France to Saudi Arabia. Our case study-based coursework often looked at the ethical decisions of management. Two classes, business ethics with Dennis Shaughnessy and a cultural perspectives-based class with Harry Lane, were instrumental in continuing my thoughts. Both professors knew that they could present background information (i.e. what is the role of ultra-violent video games or tobacco companies) but the students needed to “walk in the shoes” of the executive and show empathy with all the individuals and their perspectives. I strive to do this in every step in my career path. Presently I’m in public relations, an industry where ethics are often questioned. Thankfully, my clients have always taken any constructive criticism and I haven’t been forced into an ethical dilemma.

Adam Zand
Topaz Partners
Malden, Massachusetts