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| The Parable of Sadhu Essay

This paper analyses the controversial situation described in the case provided by Mintz and Morris (2010) and gives answers to the pointed questions in the realm of individual and corporate ethics. It describes whether such a situation has any correlation to the American corporate life and points which way of resolving of the described ethical dilemma should have been followed.

Bowen H. McCoy’s friend Stephen is quoted as saying, “I feel that what happened with the sadhu is a good example of the breakdown between the individual and corporate ethic.” Explain what you think Stephen meant by this statement. What is the nature of that breakdown between the individual and corporate ethic as you see it?

It should be underlined that corporate ethical frame forms for years and is supported by the company’s management through a constant training and formation of clear ethical attitudes and actions of their employees. It so happened that McCoy was accompanied by the representatives of different countries; in particular, there were Swiss, New Zealanders, Japanese, local porters, and their Sherpa sirdar. These people have never met before. They took part in the dangerous for their health, stressful but, maybe, the most excited journey in their life. Furthermore, they were the representatives of different religions and mentalities.

In this situation, I understand the breakdown between the individual and corporate ethic in such a way. Being not united by the common vision and having no leader that could direct their actions as the unique team, each of the travellers helped the sadhu somehow but within his/her ethical vision and so that the sadhu did not stop his plans. If to compare this event to the situations under corporate circumstances, it should be underlined that corporate culture unites and to some extent balances the individual differences under one unique goal. Clear messages about the corporate values are delivered to the corporate employees on a constant basis. If the organization has a strong corporate culture, where compliance with its ethical norms and standards of behavior is perceived not as an obligatory task but as the positive force, then employee acts according to the established business ethics in the stressful situations.

Sadhu’s example revealed that each traveller did not want to take the responsibilities over the sadhu. The group had no leader that could unite them towards making a compromise by helping sadhu to get to the hut. Therefore, each traveller acted according to his/her individual perception of the right ethical behavior. Each of them did not share common values, and they were restricted additionally by the specific circumstances in particular health problems.

In reflecting on his discussion with Stephen about the sadhu, McCoy says, “the instant decisions that executives make under pressure reveal the most about personal and corporate character.” Do you think on-the-spot decisions better reflect the character of the decision maker and organization rather than those that might be more thoroughly thought through? Why or why not?

I believe that stressful situation changes the behavior of the employee, especially executives who are responsible for making the most essential decisions in the organization. I fully agree with McCoy stating that companies that are not able to establish a strong corporate culture based on the mutually accepted and shared ethical visions and values will be witnesses of the individualistic actions of their managers in uncommon situations. Each individual, who does not associate his values and ethical background with the corporate ones, will act for himself, defending his own values in stressful situations.

It is necessary to note also that stressful situations create special circumstances: the decision should be made immediately and there is no time to think about possible alternatives and thoroughly thought through all the consequences that the decision could cause. It is an impulse, and not everyone, even the most experienced executives, can react all times in the right way. It is the challenge of the business circumstances where hesitates is lost. Only the most efficient corporate cultures, whose visions how to act ethically became the values of the individuals, can influence the decision-making process in stressful situations. Otherwise, individual differences and ethical values will prevail.

McCoy equates the parameters of the decision-making process about the sadhu with that in business. He believes there is an interesting parallel to business situations. Explain what you think McCoy meant by this statement. Do you agree with him?

It should be pointed that corporations and their employees are interdependent. Employee’s actions that are directed towards the welfare of the company and do not violate the ethical principles of its business conduct will benefit the employee correspondingly.

The history of the sadhu is an example that the group without a leader and without a common vision is just a group of individuals bound together by particular circumstances. Any stressful situation will detect the differences in religious visions, individual characteristics, and cultural values. It is a challenging task for the company to communicate established ethical values to each of its employees in such a way these values were accepted.

Regarding the decision-making process, I can make a parallel with the business situation only partly because after all, in the corporate decision-making process, one of the main issues is money in the form of profitability, increase in sales, or additional percent of the market share winning. However, in the story of sadhu, the price of the right decision for me was the biggest value – human life. There was no place for the two decisions. Human life is not money, and it is the question of compassion and own conscience.

McCoy concludes that the lesson of the sadhu is that “in a complex corporate situation, the individual requires and deserves the support of the group. When people cannot find such support in their organizations, they don’t know how to act.” What support in organizations do you think McCoy is referring to? If such support is not found, what should individuals do when they have an ethical dilemma such as that in the sadhu case?

According to Trevino and Nelson (2010), when discussing the ethical decision-making process in the corporations, it is noteworthy to understand that “ethical culture has a significant organizational influence on the individual’s ethical awareness, judgment, and action, along with the individual differences” (p. 150). Ethical culture that is clear communicated and shared by all employees is a good guidance for them how to think and act. McCoy told precisely about such a kind of organizational support because ethical culture established in the organization supports the employee in understanding whether his actions are good or not. Most employees “are at the conventional level of cognitive moral development” (Trevino & Nelson, 2010) that means that they are searching for the directions accepted by the organization, so called ethical guidance to know how to behave in the different situations as a corporate employee.

If such a support is not found as it was in case of McCoy and his companions in the mountains, then each person acts not as a part of the group but as the individual whose interest and prior plans and intentions are above all.

What is the moral of the story of the sadhu from your perspective?

The story of the sadhu is thought-provoking. Many controversial and complex questions arise. Could we make a parallel between that situation and business, taking into account that the question was the price of a human life? What share of the responsibility should each of the travelers bear before a stranger?

I venture to suggest that the central issue in the sadhu’s story is the issue of human life. My thoughts are closer to the Stephen’s point of view that compassion had to drive people in such a situation. If another person can save it (someone’s life), it is his/her ethical obligation to do so. I consider that McCoy should have supported Stephen to convince their temporary leader, Sherpa sirdar, to change the plans of the whole group for the sake of a human life saving. Two days of delay were not so crucial for the travellers. Perhaps, this may sound naïve; however, it is more important for me to be sure that I have done everything in my power to save other’s life than to all my life wonder whether sadhu survived or not.

Corporate life is different comparing to the ordinary travelling in the mountains. Employees are united under a common mission of company’s operations. Tasks that are given to them and responsibilities that they take are directed towards achieving the established goal. Moreover, corporate structure has a clear up-down hierarchy. It means that a company has a leader or few leaders depending on the number of professional spheres in which it operates. Leader communicates the values of a company to the employees clearly. Moreover, the process of transforming of the cross-cultural employee’s group into one coordinated team requires a lot of time.

As we can see from the foregoing, in the case with the sadhu, the group of Swiss, New Zealanders, Japanese, and local porters had neither a leader that could unite the representatives of different nationalities and religions nor time to do this. It is a lesson for the managers to see how stressful situation reveals real ethical background of each group’s representatives if they are not bound by the strong corporate culture. Corporate values overwhelm individual thoughts and ways of problem solving only in case of a very strong corporate culture with a strong-willed leader and well communicated and proven at practice ethical norms of behavior. In The Parable of Sadhu, in the stressful and extraordinary situation, everyone behaved as individual.

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