B-ethics: Yesterday’s utopia is becoming a need today – 15 Feb 2011

The last lecture at the B-School attended by Shekhar was by a very senior teacher who had come as a guest speaker that afternoon. He insisted, young people out of B-Schools should follow a strictly ethical behaviour at work and nothing else. At times, life could be tough, but hold on, don’t give up. That will help you in the long run . Shekhar and his friends had tended to scoff at the old man.

Later, when Shekhar got a decent job, he realised that the old teacher’s words haunted him all the time. There was something very magnetic about those words. The man had spoken with much passion and fire.  Yet, what Shekhar saw around him was something exactly the opposite. His young colleagues followed a line of action that was hardly ethical. They followed the policy of pleasing the bosses at any cost — even to their personal pockets. They advised Shekhar, too, to do the same. Somehow, Shekhar could not bring himself to doing those kinds of things. For, the old teacher’s words haunted him, accompanied him everywhere.

Initially, Shekhar felt, his progress in the organisation was slower than it was of his peers. They seemed to get along well with the bosses. They seem to have more inside information about the company. They seemed to have been promised faster promotions by their bosses whom they often pleased by going out of the way. All that left Shekhar rather depressed.

However, a time soon came to vindicate Shekhar’s reluctance to join the bandwagon. For, the company ran into rough weather. A new CEO came along. He started examining what had gone wrong. To his horror, the new boss found that his predecessor had nurtured wrong guys at all levels. That had pushed the company’s earnings below par. Naturally, the new CEO’s investigations also helped him stumble upon the right kind of guys, Shekhar among them.

From then one, things changed. Shekhar started getting more opportunities to do things as a team leader. Then, he remembered the old man’s words of wisdom. So, one evening after work, he sought out the old teacher and narrated to him the entire story. The old man was happy. He said rather in a quivering voice, “Keep it up.You will never repent. Things may not be easy even now. But hold on and you will realise the power doing right things.”

For Shekhar, however, things appeared rather easy. He had held some beliefs in his mind. All those were being appreciated. More assignments came. Tougher tasks were given to him. And, because he followed an ethical regime, Shekhar, as also his other colleagues, the company started looking up.

Promotions were still some distance away, but Shekhar felt a surge of promise in his work. His body-language changed. His actions became more confident. And in that happiness, Shekhar allowed his mother to look for a suitable match for him.

This is not a fairy-tale. This is a real life story that I got to know from one of my consultations. This story buttressed by faith in ethicality. In today’s business, when so much corruption is shocking the people beyond imagination, corporate world is forced to take a good look at its own ethical governance issues. Stress is changing, may be out of fear. It may be so out of survival needs as well. Yet, it appears, Indian business may start turning more ethical in the years to come. And this is good news.

Various books on business ethics often insist that it is always safe and sound to run business on ethical lines. For, in the longer run, there is less trouble-shooting because things are right and righteous. The managements have to spend less energies on righting the wrong. Their legal expenses are less and decision-making is hassle-free.

Unfortunately, the issue of ethicality is not stressed upon in B-Schools the to the desirable extent. There is little effort to dispel the notion that in business, unethical behaviour is a matter of rule and not exception. But the old teacher at Shekhar’s B-School proved right. Unethical practices do not take one to long distances on life’s journey.

Published in The Hitavada – Future 15 February 2011


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