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Article

Thomas Donaldson and Diana C. Robertson

Serious research into corporate ethics is nearly half a century old. Two approaches have dominated research; one is normative, the other empirical. The former, the normative approach, develops theories and norms that are prescriptive, that is, ones that are designed to guide corporate behavior. The latter, the empirical approach, investigates the character and causes of corporate behavior by examining corporate governance structures, policies, corporate relationships, and managerial behavior with the aim of explaining and predicting corporate behavior. Normative research has been led by scholars in the fields of moral philosophy, theology and legal theory. Empirical research has been led by scholars in the fields of sociology, psychology, economics, marketing, finance, and management. While utilizing distinct methods, the two approaches are symbiotic. Ethical and legal theory are irrelevant without factual context. Similarly, empirical theories are sterile unless translated into corporate guidance. The following description of the history of research in corporate ethics demonstrates that normative research methods are indispensable tools for empirical inquiry, even as empirical methods are indispensable tools for normative inquiry.

Article

Giving Voice to Values (GVV) is a rehearsal and case-based approach to business ethics education that is designed to develop moral competence and that emphasizes self-assessment, peer coaching and prescriptive ethics. It is built on the premise that many businesspeople want to act on their values but lack the know-how and experience for doing so. The focus is on action rather than developing ethical awareness or analytical constructs for determining what is right and the epistemology behind knowing that it is right, while acknowledging that existing and well-established approaches to these questions are also important. The GVV rubric for acting on one’s values is based upon the following three questions: (1) What’s at stake? (2) What are the reasons and rationalizations you are trying to counter? and (3) What levers can be used to influence those who disagree? Taken together, the answers to these questions constitute a script for constructing a persuasive argument for effecting values-based change and an action plan for implementation. This approach is based on the idea, supported by research and experience, that pre-scripting and “rehearsal” can encourage action. GVV is meant to be complementary to traditional approaches to business ethics that focus on the methodology of moral judgment. GVV cases are post-decision-making in that they begin with a presumed right answer and students are invited to engage in the “GVV Thought Experiment,” answering the questions: “What if you were going to act on this values-based position? How could you be effective?” This implies a shift in focus towards values-based action in ways that recognize the pressures of the business world. As a consequence of this shift, GVV addresses fundamental questions about what, to whom, and how business ethics is taught. The answers to these questions have led to widespread adoption of GVV in business schools, universities, corporations, and beyond.