Introduction to This JAME Special Issue: Management and Ethics

Article excerpt

Enron. Tyco. Barings. WorldCom. Arthur Andersen. Parmalat. A new business scandal seems to surface each day, while the relentless media coverage of corporate wrongdoing gives the impression that business people permanently reside on the lower end of the moral spectrum. Despite the current media scrutiny and ethical bankruptcy of some corporations, clearly not all businesses, or even the majority of them, are engaging in criminal or unethical behavior. The entrepreneurial activity of business is an essential and noble pursuit which provides the economic foundation and the fundamental basis of survival for society's members.

This special issue of JAME focuses on the role and implications of business ethics in management and entrepreneurship. The articles selected for this issue cover a wide range of topics. The first article "Influence of an HIV/AIDS Policy on Ethical Decision-Making in the Termination Process: A Laboratory Experiment" by Tim O. Peterson and Peggy C. Smith examines the effect of the presence or absence of organizational policies on termination of employees with HIV/AIDS whose performance record would indicate they should not be terminated. In an experimental design using 115 undergraduates in three classes, students were asked to assume the role of a supervisor responsible for laying off three employees due to a downsizing. Students were given information on the company background, as well as files on eight employees containing demographic, performance and medical information, and were asked to rank order them in order of possible layoff. Each class's medical information on how the HIV/AIDS employees contracted the disease varied. In one class, infection occurred through sexual contact, in another through injection drug use, and the third was through blood transfusion. The results indicate that, without some form of policy, slightly more than 20 percent of the subjects will act in an unethical manner and terminate a person with HIV/AIDS who should not be released. The findings also indicate that by having a policy and publicizing top management support of the policy, the rate of inappropriate termination can be significantly reduced.

The second article "The Ethical Perspectives of Entrepreneurs: An Examination of Stakeholder Salience" by Donald F. Kuratko, Michael G. Goldsby, and Jeffrey S. Hornsby breaks new ground by empirically examining the salience of a wide range of stakeholder relationships for entrepreneurial firms. In a study of over 400 entrepreneurs, the authors found entrepreneurs place primary focus on customer and employee stakeholder groups. Research results indicate a lack of significance between the stakeholder considered as primary by entrepreneurs and ethical actions. The authors suggest that other factors are instrumental in the ethical stance of entrepreneurs, such as personal value systems.

The third article "You Don't Have to Tell the Truth, You Are Only Obligated Not to Lie" by Terrell G. Manyak. The author employs a case approach to analyze ethical dilemmas he was confronted with early in his own managerial career. The scenarios depicted are all too common in many organizational settings in which superiors place considerable pressure on employees to commit morally questionable, yet still legal, acts for the "good of the company. …