The effectiveness of business schools in developing ethical leaders is being scrutinized as a result of recent scandals such as Martin Shkreli, a pharma CEO, raising the price of a lifesaving drug by 5000% and Uber intentionally hiding a massive data breach.
Like the financial collapse of 2008, these scandals can also be attributed to the unethical decisions of educated business leaders. But should business schools really bear some responsibility for the ethical missteps of alumni?
There is not a clear consensus on the best method to teach and develop ethical skills in business students. Methods dramatically vary from school to school. For example, some schools ask students to take an ethics oath while others have students compete on answering ethical dilemmas.
To what extent should ethics be introduced into classrooms? And what is the best method for teaching ethics to students who might not fully comprehend the complexity of such a topic? Before we explore 10 tips for teaching ethics recently discussed by Giselle Weybrecht in an AACSB article, it’s important to identify the role of schools in developing effective and ethical leaders: Ethical education inside business school settings is not about making students more ethical, it’s about arming them with the tools to develop their own ethical decision-making process.
10 Tips for Teaching Ethics
- Make room for ethics: developing an ethical decision-making process requires students to spend valuable time exploring and discussing ethical dilemmas. Finding a way to incorporate ethical discussions into already-packed business curricula is the first step to ethical growth.
- Focus on relevant situations: place your students in specific ethical dilemmas they might have encountered, or might encounter, in order to give them the opportunity to explore possible actions and outcomes.
- Focus on real-life experiences: bring in outside resources, such as alumni, to share stories and lessons regarding ethical decisions in the real world.
- Highlight reasons and impacts: expand the ethical conversations beyond right or wrong and delve deeper into how specific ethical decisions or actions impact all the stakeholders involved.
- Practice, practice, practice: expose students to a wide range of ethical dilemmas, approaches, and outcomes. The more students engage in ethical discussions, the better they’ll be prepared to make ethical decisions on their own.
- Challenge your student by adding complexity: introduce students to situational pressures such as unethical coworkers and managers. In addition, discuss common reasons for unethical behavior such as pressure from an authority figure or the promise of financial stability.
- Give students the courage to ask the right questions: provide students an educational environment in which they can confidently engage in ethical discussions without the risks of ethical dilemmas in the real world.
- Expose students to a variety of experiences: the definition of ethics varies among individuals so make sure ethical discussions encompass factors like country of origin and religion. Learning to consider the impact of these factors on ethical decisions helps students identify all stakeholders.
- Ethics Can’t Just Come up in an Ethics Class: the goal should be to create a culture of ethics within institutions where ethics is introduced and discussed throughout the program curriculum.
- Ethics isn’t just about the student: help students understand that ethics is not just about an individual person. Allow them to realize how they can shape the future as leaders and managers by nurturing an environment that enables ethical decisions.
As mentioned above, ethical decision-making skills are best developed through the continuous experience and discussion of ethical dilemmas. However, business schools often fail in providing students with the opportunities to practice ethics. You can accomplish this with CapsimInbox: Ethical Decision-Making, a simulation based on decades of ethical scholarship that is designed to assess key ethical decision-making skills and provide tailored developmental feedback to improve them in less than 60 minutes.
To learn more about CapsimInbox: Ethical Decision-Making and how this experiential learning tool can help your students develop the skills that directly impact employability and promotability in the business world, click here or contact us at [email protected].