Ethics_Programs_in_Global_Businesses_Culture_s_Role_in_Managing_Ethics

Ethics_Programs_in_Global_Businesses_Culture_s_Role_in_Managing_Ethics

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ABSTRACT. Even if there were widespread cross- cultural agreement on the normative issues of business ethics, corporate ethics management initiatives (e.g., codes of conduct, ethics telephone lines, ethics offices) which are appropriate in one cultural setting still could fail to mesh with the management prac- tices and cultural characteristics of a different setting. By uncritically adopting widely promoted American practices for managing corporate ethics, multinational businesses risk failure in pursuing the ostensible goals of corporate ethics initiatives. Pursuing shared ethical goals by means of culturally inappropriate manage- ment practices, in short, can undermine the effec- tiveness of ethics management efforts. This article explicates how several important dimensions of culture can influence the effectiveness of common ethics initiatives, and recommends the development and application of a culture-structure contingency analysis in the task of encouraging ethical behavior in global businesses. KEY WORDS: corporate ethics programs, cross- cultural ethics, culture, ethics, global business ethics Various authors have argued that multinational firms possess a core set of ethical responsibilities, despite the diversity of ethical practices among cultures (e.g., Donaldson, 1989). But even given such a rejection of ethical relativism in favor of a degree of universality in the normative content of global business ethics, there remain questions of how cultural factors affect the means by which a multinational manages its ethical responsibili- ties. Questions of culturally appropriate organi- zational structure remain even after questions of moral content are resolved. Empirical studies, for example, have addressed the content of codes of business ethics (Getz, 1990) and how code content varies across cultures (Langlois and Schlegelmilch, 1990). But seldom addressed are questions concerning the appropriateness of formal codes – whatever their content – as a means for encouraging ethical behavior in varied cultural settings. As with other management issues (e.g., moti- vation and leadership (Hofstede, 1980b), orga- nizational culture (Adler and Jelinek, 1986)), ethics initiatives and programs often seem characterized by the application of American practices to non-American situations. A pre- sumption of culture-free ethics management is visible, for example, in the common advocacy and development of formal codes of business conduct by international agencies (Getz, 1990; Payne et al., 1997; Smeltzer and Jennings, 1998) and many multinational corporations (Berenbeim, 1992). Multinationals also are advised to follow American practice by imple- menting formal ethics initiatives (e.g., ethics committees and officers, anonymous telephone “hot-lines”), changing company cultures, rewarding compliance, and punishing non-com- Ethics Programs in Global Businesses: Culture’s Role in Managing Ethics Gary R. Weaver Journal of Business Ethics 30 : 3–15, 2001.
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This note was uploaded on 10/12/2010 for the course BA 306 taught by Professor Z during the Spring '10 term at American University of Central Asia.

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Ethics_Programs_in_Global_Businesses_Culture_s_Role_in_Managing_Ethics

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