The Wheatley Institution

Navigating The Wilderness of Business Ethics

July 21, 2016 | The Wheatley Institution

“Just like the wilderness, the business world can be a scary place. Every day, ethical dilemmas spring up that can ruin great companies and tarnish amazing careers.”[1] This is the view that Brad Agle, Bill O’Rourke, and Aaron Miller take in their new book, The Business Ethics Field Guide: The Essential Companion to Leading Your Career and Company to Greatness. Written to identify ethical challenges, the Field Guide seeks to guide individuals safely through such professional hazards. The book draws upon the vast experience of the authors, as well as practical examples from their colleagues and associates, to present a comprehensive guide book to the wilderness of business ethics.

Brad Agle, Wheatley Fellow and the George W. Romney endowed professor at the Romney Institute of Public Management at Brigham Young University’s Marriott School of Management, explains that the inspiration for the book came from the ethical dilemmas presented to him by his students. “Certain kinds of dilemmas come up again and again,” says Agle. The ethical dilemmas faced by both students and professionals are “slightly different, they’ll have different characteristics, but in general [people are] facing the same basic ethical dilemmas.” Intrigued, Agle began to collect and analyze the ethical dilemmas that his students presented to him.

Through his research, Agle found that ethical dilemmas could be placed into thirteen fundamental categories. The Business Ethics Field Guide was written to address these challenges. The field guide tackles common pitfalls, their causes, and guiding principles to help individuals facing ethical dilemmas. For example how to keep promises when outside circumstances render it nearly impossible to do so, how to stand up to unethical requests from leadership, or how to face the dilemma of skirting rules in order to accomplish worthy goals.

The Business Ethics Field Guide poses several difficult scenarios about each of the thirteen situations that a person might face and works through each scenario with the reader. Bill O’Rourke, former President of Alcoa-Russia and current Wheatley Fellow, contributes a number of personal experiences to the book. His hope is that “by exposing the reader to these examples, as well as questions and pitfalls, and allowing them to analyze the examples, they will be significantly more prepared to take the ‘right’ path when the actual ethical situations present themselves.”

Although Agle, O’Rourke, and Miller draw from their experience in the business world, the book is not intended to be for business people only. Agle explains that the field guide is “applicable to anyone in an organization” because ethical dilemmas are faced by professionals in any, and all, fields. “Ideally, the book will make the world a little bit better,” says Agle. He and his co-authors believe that if more people gain the skills to identify and navigate ethical dilemmas, then the core institutions of society will be strengthened and the quality of our society will be lifted.

Order a copy of The Business Ethics Field Guide here!



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