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Business Ethics: Tell the Truth

Ronald A. Howard (Stanford University, California, USA)

Journal of Management Development

ISSN: 0262-1711

Article publication date: 1 April 1992



Business ethics, like other ethics, is usefully discussed by distinguishing prudential from legal from ethical actions. Prudential actions are those of simple self‐interest; legal actions are those not forbidden by the system for the use of force in society; ethical actions are those which you consider to be right. While ethics about physically not hurting people or not stealing from them are fundamental, most business ethics issues encountered revolve around truth telling. The ethic of not lying is insufficient: it still permits leaving false impressions, whether deliberate or not. A stronger, more satisfying ethic is “tell the truth”: fully inform the person with whom you are dealing. Truth telling is hard work for, often, we must learn the truth for ourselves before we can tell it to others. Truth telling may or may not lead to higher profits, but it will lead to a life without ethical remorse.



Howard, R.A. (1992), "Business Ethics: Tell the Truth", Journal of Management Development, Vol. 11 No. 4, pp. 4-10.




Copyright © 1992, MCB UP Limited

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