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Cultural Values and Personal Ethics Paper

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Cultural Values and Personal Ethics Paper

Amy Lynn Shipley

University of Phoenix


Shelley Pumphrey

Cultural Values and Personal Ethics Paper

In the medieval society, morality was dictated by the simple laws of the church. As John Menadue (2000) reminds us, “The church believed business was basically immoral. Those who worked in 'trade' have often carried a moral or social stigma. If one wanted to live a virtuous life, one should be like the fishermen, give up business and follow Christ.” Of course, today even the church acknowledges that one can be a corporate team player and still remain an essentially moral person, in touch with one’s personal and cultural values. However, this stamp of approval does not necessarily make the worker’s position any easier -- as a rash of corporate scandals and the everyday little economic injustices of life remind us, anyone working in an accountable position in business may find themselves having to balance personal political and ethical values with the greater values and goals of the organization as a whole. This balancing act can occur in many small and large ways. For example, personal values may seem to interfere with corporate or cultural values if an accountant finds something in the business’s practice or bookkeeping that seems to be at odds with their personal sense of right and wrong (for example, discovering that a mortgage company one works for practices legal but abusive predatory lending practices that take advantage of elderly, disabled, or undereducated people, and that one’s own job is enabling that). Alternately, business values may interfere with personal values if one’s work requires sacrifices or life changes that challenge one’s family or personal equilibrium (for example, mandatory overtime hours might interfere with child-raising, or being asked to relocate could stress marriage relationships). The accountant must determine to what degree they are defined in daily life by their identity as a worker, and also determine to what degree their performance as a worker is going to be affected by their personal values and identity and to what degree it is shaped by cultural and organizational demands. Decisions must be based both on context (as being work or home related) and on one’s own balance of personal and organizational values.

Personal Values

Personal values, on the other hand, need to be based on one’s own individual religious and ethical convictions. For me, these are very traditional values. To once again quote John Menadue, (2000) there are a few very basic principles that can help to guide individuals in decision making, especially where corporate and personal values may seem to collide: “First, personal responsibility. Would my actions be supported by the people whose approval I most value - a spouse, a friend, a priest? Secondly, loyalty. Can loyalty to my organization detract from my personal responsibilities? Third, transparency. Would I be prepared to publicly defend my action or my silence? And fourthly, reciprocity. Would I like others to do the same to me or to my children?” It is definitely true for me that in my private life personal values must supersede corporate values. Assuming that my family was not in desperate need of overtime pay or other bonuses, I would always choose to be there for those I loved rather than take home work, sign up for extra overtime, or otherwise compromise personal time for business reasons.

Organizational Values

Organizational values in most places where an accountant will find employment are centered around the commercial goal of making a profit. In some cases, the value of the bottom line may be tempered by other concerns, such as strict conformity to all applicable laws, economic fairness, or even certain religious or other moral concerns which are of particular import to the company or its shareholders. However, generally speaking, even where other values dictate the limits of acceptable behavior, decision making within those confines is expected to be based on taking actions which have the most profit potential for the company. As quoted by McPhai (1997) studies have shown that the “ ‘prevailing thinking pattern among managers is... economism ... the ethical conviction that economically appropriate action in itself is ethically good as such.’ ... [people are] behaving ethically when they engage in, ‘economically appropriate action.’” It is probably true that most

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