People, who run various businesses, always face many issues that ordinary employees have never known. The point is not in the process of running the business or how to satisfy customers’ demands or make one’s employees happy. The issue that businessmen face concerns the morality or ethics aspect of their management. However, it is really hard to draw a line between what is good and what is wrong. Thus, it is essential to wonder whether all businessmen are liars or they simply find the way not to tell the full truth. Indeed, if a person does not say the full truth, it does not make him or her a liar, because that person did not tell a lie to his or her partner, just did not mention about it. Nevertheless, one may argue that it is still a lie, because a person knows that something is wrong, but prefers to keep silent concerning this fact. According to such statements, one may wonder what is considered to be a lie and whether a person can be considered a liar if he or she does not disclose the lie fact.
Talking about the relationships between people, this issue may be discussed from various points of view, including ethical or unethical opinions. However, when it refers to business and everything that is connected with business, this issue receives absolutely other colors. Business is not a common relation between partners as the relations between two or more people. One has compared business with a poker game, and perhaps, it is a very appropriate comparison.
All poker players are businessmen, and the table, where they play is a place of discussions and disposal of business. Poker players often use the technic of bluff; they can imitate their facial expression to make their opponents think that they have better cards and are going to win. Poker players may distract the attention of other players and do not give a chance to concentrate on the process of the game. All these measures are appropriate, they are not forbidden and almost all poker players use them to win in this game. Such actions are considered to be bluff, and one may say that bluff is wrong because it is a form of a lie, but in this game, it is the acceptable lie. On the other hand, poker players may use other methods to receive the advantage over their opponents. For example, it may be marked cards, and this kind of bluff is absolutely inappropriate for game. If one uses marked cards to receive benefits over your opponents, then one uses unethical methods because other players do not have such benefit. The player, who was found out in an unfair game, would be excluded from the game, or even shot as it was in the Wild West.
The similar situation occurs, when one speaks about business deals. In business, partners may use different methods to succeed in running the business. They may enter into a contract with other partners and do not mention about it to the current one. They may hide some details from their partner, but only those that do not harm them. In fact, they are able to do everything that may bring benefits to them, but do not bring serious damages to others. This strategy is called the business game, in which everybody tries to find better solutions, communicate with necessary partners and do everything possible to achieve the targeted goals. Not to tell the full truth is not a kind of a lie or unethical behavior, but only in that case, when this hidden information may seriously harm another partner. In other words, business has a wider specter of understanding what is right and what is wrong. The primary goal of any business organization is to achieve success in what it does, and businessmen use all methods to be the best in it.
The issue of ethical behavior has been often raised in business organizations as it is really difficult to say for sure what is acceptable being just a business strategy and what is simply a lie. All business actions may be discussed from the ethical points of view, especially if one takes the concept of utilitarianism to understand the business strategies.
All ethical theories can be divided into two groups: teleological and deontological. Teleological theories state that the rightness of an action can be determined by the final amount of goods that this action produced. In other words, it can be said that the end result justifies the means. If actions bring many advantages, one can turn a blind eye to a little harm that one have done. This concept is fully applied in business organizations, where businessmen cut deals with other partners to succeed, and their actions or deals do not always have ethical behavior. However, it is always a substantial risk to sacrifice something in sake of better conditions. If a businessman decides to take some actions that can be viewed as not fully ethical, and these actions will bring positive result, then nobody will condemn him/her because this risk was feasible. In this case, the reputation of the businessman will grow as he/she will be seen as a person, who knows his/her business and can appraise the situation in a correct vision. On the other hand, if his/her risky actions failed, then such businessman will be viewed as a person, who takes undue risks and is not enough experienced in running the business. Moreover, it turns out that businessman simply lied to his/her partners and this lie caused damage to their businesses.
Immanuel Kant in his ethical treatise Foundations of Metaphysics of Morals demonstrates that the morality and relations cannot always been successfully connected. In life, there are situations when morality binds hands, and the person cannot act in a right way. What is moral and what is right are two concepts that can be seemed the same from the first sight, but still they are different. A good example can be taken from business, where a leader always faces ethical problems that demand right decision. A leader may be on a crossroad between what is necessary for the company and what is not ethical. To reduce the costs, a company decided to dismiss five hundred employees. In this way, the company will be saved from the collapse and will be able to run the business. Furthermore, dismissing is a right decision because the company tries to save its business, but on the other hand, five hundred employees will lose their job unfairly. They did not do anything wrong, they perform their obligations and still they are left without ability to earn money. Such company’s behavior can be judged as unethical, but it was a necessary measure. If the company had not acted in that way, in few months or years, it would have collapsed, and other two thousands employees would have lost their jobs.
According to this fact, it can be said that the company acted correctly, because this action brought more advantages in the end. This decision was the only one, although it was unethical, but it helped to prevent the collapse of the company, and two thousand people still work in it. The company made a sacrifice, and as it can be seen, it brought benefits not only to the company, but also to the employees, who remained there.
Kant also states that it is in human nature to use other people as a means of achieving personal goals. For example, every day people use taxi drivers to get to a necessary place. They use them like a means of achieving personal goals, but not like people. One can say that it is a norm, because a taxi driver offers his services and a passenger uses them. In other words, they make a deal, in which one side proposes something, and the other side pays money for it. This case is not viewed as unethical because this deal is fair and everyone receives what he/she wants. In business, the situation is the same, but in this case, businessmen use employees as the means of achieving the goals of the company. However, when one talks about business management and employees, there always exist dilemmas connected with ethics or inappropriate behavior towards employees. Nevertheless, every person has a free will to enable the creation of rule to control him/her. In other words, it is a person, who allows establishing control over him/her, and it is a person, who is able to forbid this control; everything depends on the human will.
Utilitarianism and Kantian ethics pay their attention to what actions are right and what actions are wrong. The main idea of these concepts is to come to a conclusion how a person should behave in a situation that requires an ethical decision. Virtue ethics has the opposite goal; its main idea is to understand what kind of person people should be. The ethical issue in this concept depends on the character of the person; it is more significant to create the image of an ethical-right person. If the person knows and understands what is ethical and what is not, then he/she will act in an ethical way, and thus, there is no need to develop an ethical behavior.
Virtue ethics is difficult to determine, and philosophers have many opinions concerning this issue. Aristotle believed that such virtue as honesty cannot consist of telling the truth only once; it determines that a person tells the truth constantly as a common practice. Honesty is not only the knowledge how to tell the truth, it means that person practices this knowledge when it is necessary. According to this fact, Aristotle classified truth as the state of character and it does not relates to feelings or skills.
Virtue can be applied in business as the state of being a good businessman. Business is a part of life, thus, why virtue cannot be a part of this life. However, honesty is perhaps the most compromising virtue in business. To be a businessman means to bluff and find better solutions that cannot always be achieved in an honest way. If a businessman always tells the truth to his/her partners and tells about his/her deals, he will be merely successful in what he/she does.
Utilitarianism and Kantian ethics are more suitable for running the business, even more they make this process more correct from the ethical point of view. These concepts indicate the business behavior and explain why the measures that businessmen take are necessary. Sometimes, there is a substantial difference between what is right and what is ethical. A good businessman knows that he or she must do what is better for the company and his or her business and if the situation requires some actions that are not fully ethical, then he or she must realize the consequences and decide whether it is worth it or not.
To sum up, it can be said that business and ethics are two issues that interweave, but cannot always interact. Moreover, business and ethics are two concepts that contradistinguish each other. However, it does not mean that business requires an unethical behavior and everything that is connected with business is a fraud. Businessmen are not people, who lie and use lie as a weapon of achieving their goals. They are those, who face ethics dilemmas every day, and they have to learn how to find a better solution for the problem that they face. Moreover, businessmen need to always choose between what is right and what is ethical. An ethical decision is not always the same as the right decision. Ethics predetermines an act that can be valued as a good one from the society’s point of view. On the other hand, the right decision is the most suitable in a particular situation; the consequences of this decision will bring benefit to the majority of people in the end. Thus, businessmen should always choose whether they should satisfy the company’s needs or satisfy the demand of people in terms of the ethical behavior.
To make a right decision means to accept consequences of the actions that are not always pleasant. This fact demonstrates the difference between an ordinary employee and a leader. An employee only sees the results of the actions, while a leader is able to see the full picture and the consequences for the majority of people or the company, but not for a particular individual. Ethics and business are two concepts that cannot be separated. In case one thinks that the particular businessman behaves unethically, this person cannot realize what it means to run the business. That is why not everyone can become a successful businessman, because it requires certain efforts to do what is right and do not forget about the ethical aspect.