Business Ethics: Still Relevant

When looking over a list of required classes, I met “Managerial Ethics and Stakeholder Management” with much skepticism. Are you kidding? They’re not going to let me graduate without taking a class on business ethics? Going into the first class, all I could think about was the scene in Billy Madison where Adam Sandler says, “I choose business ethics.” I was convinced this class would be a waste of my time; everyone knows right from wrong. In our media-driven society, it’s never been easier to discern good from bad. However, the common misconception is that you’ll always know how to react in any situation. The class actually turned out to be pretty beneficial.

My professor walked in on the first day of class and said exactly what was on all of our minds: you can’t teach ethics. He went on to explain how ethics consist of something instilled in your nature, the way your parents raised you, and the cultural environment you’re a part of. He told us how people don’t always follow the rules, and gave examples of bribes and sleazy people he’s encountered in the workplace. These are the kinds of stories you see in movies or hear about in the news, but don’t actually think happen in real life. Apparently they do; ever hear of Enron?

People will bend and break rules. Conflicts of interest will come up, and people will be tempted to act unethically for personal gain. There’s nothing you can do to stop these problems, but everyone should know how to combat them. One well-handled situation has received the spotlight as of late.

The Los Angeles Dodgers have dominated headlines for decades; it is, after all, one of the most prestigious franchises in professional sports. Over the past two weeks, however, the sports world has been watching the team with shock and awe, with controversy centered around the team’s management. On April 20, Major League Baseball(MLB) commissioner Bud Selig announced that the league will appoint a trustee to “oversee the day to day operations of the club.” This past week, Tom Schieffer was assigned to run the business side of the Dodgers until Selig deems the team stable again.

This move is unprecedented in modern professional sports. Why the Dodgers? The owner of the team, Frank McCourt, pushed Selig over the edge when he received a $30-million personal loan to cover the team’s payroll costs. Now, we all know it’s getting increasingly difficult to compete with the salaries of the Yankees, Red Sox, and Phillies, but what owner would go to this length to afford a championship-caliber team? McCourt’s management is the farthest thing from responsible; he almost singlehandedly brought an entire organization to the ground.

Selig’s countering move, on the other hand, was the best possible action for the team and MLB. By appointing an experienced advisor to oversee the business aspects, he sent a clear message to all parties that he holds all owners and offices to a high standard. With all of the superfluous spending and enormous debt, it’s questionable as to if owners know how to manage their finances responsibly. He’s been criticized openly by many journalists who see his actions as openly disrespectful. I see them as heroic.

“Managerial Ethics” doesn’t teach how to run a baseball franchise. It teaches you how to best react to an unwinnable situation. Not every ethical problem has a cut and dry solution; on the contrary, you have to think outside the box quite often. Selig conducted himself professionally, and involved the people best suited to assist. Hopefully this incident will warn other managers to keep track of their operations more responsibly, and set precedent for a future issue.

No, you can’t learn ethics in a class; that was never the intention. The goal is to raise awareness that people you work with won’t always behave ethically. Sometimes it’s tough to react to situations in the modern business environment, but knowing possibilities of unethical behavior and learning from others’ experiences will benefit you and your business career in the long run.

And Billy Madison knows that with a solid knowledge of business ethics, you’ll always have the last laugh.


**Due to technical difficulties we recently had to switch domains and transfer all of our website content.  Please keep in mind that while we have been publishing articles for two years, the published dates shown may not reflect the initial publish date.




Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.