Business Ethics: An Oxymoron

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An oxymoron: the juxtaposition of contradictory words or concepts. That is what we have with the term "Business Ethics". The very contradiction that is inherent in this latter phrase is an indication of the challenge that individuals who work for organizations face as we all approach the resource limits of this planet.

The global concept of business is fundamentally based on the principle of competition for limited resources. That is the practice of maximizing one's gains at the expense of others. This ultimately has the effect of creating a hierarchy of those who have and those who have not. This is really paramount to "eliminating the enemy" i.e other human beings.

The concept of ethics is based fundamentally on moral principles. That is, principles of right and wrong as dictated by the core human values that we as human beings hold dear in our hearts. These are core values of fairness, love, compassion, integrity, respect, peace, joy, fulfillment, harmony, beauty, etc.

In other words business is about engaging in activities that essentially go against our core human values. Now this may come as a surprise to some because most consider business as normal a human activity as breathing. It is this inherent contradiction that has led to the spate of business executives coming under the ethical spotlight in recent years. In a sense this outcome was inevitable and the trend will continue unless we begin to redefine the principles on which business is carried out.

In order to help this along I suggest that it is important to examine the forces that led the founding principles of business practices astray in the first place. These forces consist of negative beliefs and emotions that we as human beings fall prey to but which are inherently not in alignment with core human values. Such beliefs come in the form of "I won't survive if I don't compete for my share of the resources". This belief is based on the underlying negative emotion of the "fear of not surviving".

Now some may begin to say that this is our reality, so there's no need to question it. I would however like to take you, if you wish to follow me, on a journey of self discovery that may help you to recognize something you have always known but have temporarily forgotten. Here we go.

Read the following statement to yourself:

A) "The fear of not surviving motivates me to work hard, earn my keep and therefore survive so that I can live a happy and fulfilled life"

Do you believe this? Yes, No?

Now read this to yourself:

b) "The fear of not surviving, makes me afraid that I won't survive if I don't work at a job that I hate, that has nothing to do with what I really love in my heart, deprives me of the time and energy that I need to do those things I really enjoy, it thereby eats my life, it also causes me to do things to other human beings that I would never do even to my pet, it causes me stress, predisposes me to illness and death"

Do you feel this is true for you? Yes, No?

Now clearly statements A and B are yielding contradictory results but you probably found yourself agreeing with both of them. Isn't it strange that you could agree with two contradictory statements at the same time? How can contradictory statements be true at the same time? Well in fact they can't!

For example:

C) I'm sitting down, and
D) I'm standing up

Are essentially contradictory statements and these cannot be simultaneously true for you, can they?

So, if you look at this situation closely, I think you will recognize that one of the statements (A or B) has to be false. Read them again and see if you can determine which one is false for you.

To help you, just say to yourself: "I'm afraid I won't survive" and notice how it makes you feel. Which statement, A or B more accurately describes how this statement makes you feel. I think that after some reflection you will notice that B is really the truth and A is the one that is false.

So if A is false and you were believing it to be true then were you lying to yourself about what this fear was doing to you? I think you will recognize that indeed this is what you were doing without even realizing it. Is this what you want to be doing, lying to yourself about this? What is the consequence to you of perpetuating this lie? Well I think you will see that it would mean that you would still be prone to being a pawn of the "fear of not surviving" and this would perpetuate the state described in statement B above.

Is this what you want? If not then just make a sincere statement asking that the lie and the fear be cleared from your life and see how you feel.

Now if you followed this so far you will likely notice that something significant may have shifted in your outlook towards your life. For those less successful I just wish to add that this is not an easy exercise to convey in print so please accept my apologies if you are feeling confused or frustrated.

Now let me return to the issue of "business ethics". In my view the ethical problems faced by the business community will continue to escalate in future if it does not begin to realign its fundamental principles with core human values. In order to do this it is my view that our individual and collective beliefs about our environment and ourselves will need to be challenged.

Copyright © 2005, Arrizza Performance Coaching Inc., All Rights Reserved

Nick Arrizza M.D. is the Developer of the Mind Resonance Process(TM), an Author ( Esteem for the Self: A Manual for Personal Transformation --- available in e-book format in Feb. 2005 at his web site:, Speaker, Executive and Life Coach and Healer. He holds ongoing International Live and Teleconference Workshops on Healing, Energy Psychology, Achieving Peak Performance, Stress Management, Spirituality and other topics. He was trained in Psychiatry (University of Toronto )and in Executive and Management Behavior ( Richard Ivey School of Business: London, Ontario, Canada)

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