Business Ethics and Value Systems- Ethics in Corporate America.

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Ethics in Corporate America

Business Ethics and Value Systems

Winter 2002

What turns a "fired up" professional into a "burned out" employee? If you ask a young engineer what is the role of engineering, you'll get an answer like "improving people's lives by solving real world problems." If you ask that same engineer the same question after they've been on the job for about fifteen years, you'll get a more mature perspective: "improving the company's profitability by increasing product quality or decreasing cost." Along with this change of perspective comes other, subtler changes. Younger engineers want to get ahead by demonstrating intense commitment to the job, willingness to put in long hours, and brilliant solutions to complex problems. Mature engineers want to stay on schedule and still have some time to be with their families. I can't speak for other professions, but this appears to be a widespread phenomenon.

I believe in the basic philosophy of the free enterprise system -- that individuals must be free to reap the fruits of their own labor; that the opportunity to achieve personal goals motivates the worker to produce; that the competent and the specially skilled deserve rewards commensurate with their performance.

But I also have come to believe that the real world is far more complicated than is allowed for in any ideological philosophy. Modern Industrial Capitalism (at least as I've experienced) has inherent limitations that have not been solved philosophically. It is necessary to try some empirical adjustments.

The biggest limitation of our existing system is its inherent inability to achieve its fundamental goal. Whatever happened to the dream of progress -- that modern technology would free people from drudgery, and everyone would be able to live in comfort, spending their time enriching the world and thinking great thoughts? Wasn't that...