Crisis and Opportunity in the Professions: Volume 6


Table of contents

(18 chapters)

The purpose of the series is to explore the central and unique role of organizational ethics in creating and sustaining a pluralistic, free enterprise economy. The primary goal of the research studies published here is to examine how proseeking and not for proorganizations can be conceived and designed to satisfy legitimate human needs in an ethical and meaningful way.

The topic of Volume 6 in Research in Ethical Issues in Organizations is the changing role of the professional in today's organizations.

Managed care refers to a variety of integrated financing and delivery procedures for controlling, coordinating, and monitoring the delivery of health care to limit overuse of services and over-charging by professionals and to ensure that health care planning is consistent with MCO standards which may, or may not, coincide with professional standards (Barakat, 2000; Gibelman, 2001/2002). Following enactment, in 1965, of Medicare and Medicaid, utilization rates for health services exploded (Mitchell, 1998). Included in this escalating total was an increasing proportion of costs for mental health and social services. Older adults generally require more medical care and services than do younger people; with Medicare coverage, consumers had access to more of the services they needed with much of the cost covered by government. The poor have traditionally been under-utilizers of health and mental health care services, primarily because these services were unaffordable. With Medicaid, barriers to access were removed. Significantly, the population which benefitted from government health and mental health programs was to later feel the brunt of cost management efforts (Gibelman, 2001/2002).

From the very beginning of medical practice, physicians have enjoyed a degree of autonomy which exceeds that of almost any other profession. Although regulated by state medical boards, and limited by the threat of litigation, physicians are generally held in high esteem by society and allowed to practice medicine as they see fit. Physicians have usually been allowed to prescribe any drug for any disease, including the so-called “off-label” uses for which Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval has not been obtained. They can also use new or untested medical devices and surgical procedures, as long as they obtain informed consent from the patient. Society has trusted doctors to do the right thing for their patients, and thus tried not to interfere with the sacred doctor–patient relationship.

This paper details the history of the movement, which attempted to turn the occupation of life insurance salesman into an insurance professional. It will relate the criteria for professionalism spelled out by Solomon Huebner and attempt to spell out the ethical obligations such professionalism demands. Using some case studies, the paper will examine some common difficulties faced by insurance professionals. The paper concludes by examining the development of the insurance sales professional into the financial planner and adviser and projects some of the ethical requirements entailed by this future direction.

Considerable discussion has taken place during the past 25 years or so regarding professional ethics (Donaldson, 2000). While there has been some degree of disagreement surrounding “who counts” as a professional, there tends to be general agreement that law is a profession. The practice of law requires specialized training, qualification, and adherence to an independent ethical code. Further, as a profession, law is self-regulated (Goyer, 2004). Although the practice of law has become quite diverse, legal professionals share common skill sets and encounter similar challenges in the disparate endeavors in which they engage.

With impeccable timing, literally just before the so-called boom went completely bust, the Australian Journal of Professional and Applied Ethics (July, 1999) dedicated a special issue to the topic of “computer ethics”. The lead article in that issue was by the pioneering American computer ethicist, Terrell Ward Bynum, who edited one of the first books in the field of computer ethics (Bynum, 1985).

Robert L. Bunting (2005), the newly installed chairman of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), recently remarked as follows:A great profession takes a long view. Its members inherit a legacy from the past, derive benefit from it, build on it and pass it on to the next generation even stronger than they found it. A great profession occupies a position of trust. When we review our assets, none is as important as our position of trust in the economic marketplace. A great profession builds bridges of communication and credibility with key stakeholders. These include the regulators and government bodies who rely on our skills and services to advance the public interest. A great profession plays a vital role in the health of our economy and our society. And a great profession renews itself. It does so by attracting a continual flow of talented new professionals. And it renews itself by carving new roads that can accommodate the needs of future travelers.

WorldCom has been in the headlines since 2002 because of the $11 billion fraud that it acknowledged at that time. In order to please Wall Street and investors, WorldCom's top executives inflated the firm's profits by misallocating expenses and making many false accounting entries. The reactions of managers within WorldCom varied dramatically. Vice President of Internal Audit Cynthia Cooper and internal auditors Gene Morse and Glyn Smith became suspicious of accounting entries, which had no supporting documentation. They decided to pursue their suspicions. Working on their own time for several months and often late at night, the team ultimately uncovered $3.8 billion in false entries. During the course of their investigation, the internal auditors presented their suspicious information to both the chief financial officer Scott Sullivan and to WorldCom external auditors at Arthur Andersen.1 Both Sullivan and the auditors at Arthur Andersen defended the entries and refused to provide additional information or to pursue the matter any further. The internal auditors at WorldCom found the fraudulent accounting entries four-quarters after they first began.

Taxonomies (e.g., classification schemes) are valuable in that they clarify and create conceptual and theoretical frameworks to integrate a large variety of research (Brinkmann, 2002; Crié, 2003). In addition, taxonomies draw attention to the importance of a subject and provide a framework for organizing what we know and what we have yet to explore (Berenbaum, Raghavan, Le, Vernon, & Gomez, 2003). This article develops a taxonomy to explore the ethical considerations of advertising professionals. A netnographic study was conducted and the results are presented. A taxonomy is developed in which advertising practitioner concerns are classified into four categories: (1) societal impact, (2) industry norms and rules, (3) my ethical dilemmas, (4) others’ behavior, and (5) industry responses. This research supports and extends previous academic research into advertising ethics.

In 1981, the noted psychologist Robert Coles lectured at the University of Southwestern Louisiana on Kenneth Toole's Pulitzer Prize winning book, A Confederacy of Dunces (Coles, 1983). When asked about Dr. Coles’ interpretation of the book's central character, Ignatius J. Reilly, as a metaphor for the Roman Catholic Church, the author's mother responded, “He would be. Ignatius is a booby and a prophet” (Fletcher, 2005, p. 140). That paradoxical combination of foolishness and wisdom describes not only the Catholic Church, but also the professional role of the priest at the beginning of the second millennium. Torn between two opposing structural ideologies governing the identity of the Church and his role within it, the priest treads a fine line between buffoonery and prophecy.

Beginning with a characterization of ethics as what should be done “all things considered,” I reject the traditional “moral manager” model of business ethics and conventional stakeholder analysis as ways of dealing with ethical issues in the context of large corporations, to which any viable approach to business ethics must apply. In light of my rejection of traditional approaches to the subject, business ethics stands in need of a new agenda. I suggest that what I call the “moral corporation” model provides a suitable framework, and I outline several issues that might characterize such an approach. Finally, I consider a challenge to my proposed reorientation of business ethics and conclude that it does not provide a reasonable alternative.

Beginning with the premise that large corporations are legal entities but not members of the moral community, the paper examines how “corporate ethics codes” might facilitate ethical actions by employees. “Wide reflective equilibrium” is explored as a way of creating “corporate ethics codes.” I suggest how a wide reflective equilibrium mediated ethics code might be utilized to suffuse ethics throughout an organization. Before exploring how wide reflective equilibrium might facilitate the development and use of corporate ethics codes to promote ethical actions by members of a company, I consider another vision of a corporate code of ethics. Some proponents of such codes may reject my description of this alternative model as unrepresentative of their work, but I question their reasons for doing so. I call this alternative approach “The Ten Commandments” model, and I argue that any approach to developing a corporate code of ethics that is consistent with this model is unlikely to promote ethics throughout an organization – and may actually have the opposite effect.

This paper picks up where an earlier one was left off by this same researcher. It asserts, as a starting point, that teaching professional ethics to business students yields positive results in terms of increased moral development. It then provides several rationales for justifying the teaching of professional ethics, which is a subject whose validity students – and some faculty – challenge. The method by which ethics ought to be delivered is then proffered. Some relevant questions are presented, including: “Should ethics be taught in the academy or in the workplace?” “What constitutes the proper content of a professional business ethics curriculum?”

Western societies are not “a-moralized.” We could observe “ethical etiquette” everywhere, in every social institution and concerning every human activity or field of research (codes of ethics, ethics committees, Government ethics laws and so forth). The moralization processes of Western societies appear to be actualized in a dialectical way, and that process involves three patterns of actions undertaken by most of the social groups and institutions: (1) to get rid of an external (heteronomous) morality; (2) to adopt an inner (autonomous) morality; and (3) to safeguard two equivocal attitudes: (a) excluding any moral issue from one's decision-making and paradigmatic beliefs individuals adhere to (in order to explain the systemic reality of their self, world and Nature); and (b) letting to the given social groups and institutions (professions, for instance) the responsibility to provide the moral foundations of social life. In neo-liberalistic societies, where individualism has reached its peak, moral responsibility is more and more considered as a constraint to the “desire to do what we wish to do.” Indeed, such a desire serves to define the meaning of freedom in neo-liberalistic societies, although the meaning expresses a distorted form of freedom: to do whatever we like, except if it tends to reduce others’ freedom. Such a meaning does not imply to serve society or to love each other.

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Research in Ethical Issues in Organizations
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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