Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Czech Business Ethics Get Fresh Dusting off Wallowing in a Moral Vacuum, Central Europe Looks to the West and Dale Carnegie for Guidance

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Czech Business Ethics Get Fresh Dusting off Wallowing in a Moral Vacuum, Central Europe Looks to the West and Dale Carnegie for Guidance

Article excerpt

BROUGHT up in a political system based on prevarication and pocket-lining, many Central European businesspeople today are finding it hard to break bad habits.

Ask for a one-word description of the current business environment in the Czech Republic or any other Central European state and words like ruthless, rapacious, predatory, and greedy start to roll off tongues.

"There is a lack of morals, and it is an unpleasant thing - a result of 40 years of the Communist system," says Borivoj Prazak, deputy chief executive officer of Komercni Bank, one of the largest commercial banks in the Czech Republic.

"Human relations were badly damaged," Mr. Prazak says, referring to Communism's effect on society. "There were only artificial criteria for human relations based on political considerations."

The ethical vacuum is "one of the serious enemies of our economic transformation," he says. The restoration of values will likely take longer than the reorientation of the economic system, he adds.

The task of changing business conduct may appear daunting, but it can also be viewed as an opportunity. A few people are trying to seize on the need for an ethics infusion by importing Western concepts.

"I think most people here are afraid to be good," says Temi Miller, president of the Dale Carnegie Professional Training Center in Prague. "People long for a decent and ethical way of conducting business, but they're worried that if they do {business ethically}, they'll be squashed by those who don't."

The center, a Dale Carnegie franchise that opened last month, aims to show entrepreneurs and corporate employees alike that it is possible to play fairly and still get ahead. Ms. Miller and Svatoslav Gosman, the center's vice president, have spent extended stints in the United States training in Dale Carnegie methods, which rely on positive thinking and "Christian values."

Miller says interest in taking the Dale Carnegie course is high, and she uses this to back up her assertion that many in the Czech business world want to change their ways. "Part of the problem is many people feel inferior," she says. "But many are capable. All they need is some confidence."

Many Czechs, when dealing with each other, behave in an assertive manner, Mr. Gosman says. "With assertiveness you may win, but you leave ruined people in your path - like a steamroller. …

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