Business ethics begins with stories. Stories illustrate and reinforce the sense of values, justice and fairness. Czarniawska: four types of dramatic story in the European classical tradition, which all represent different kinds of business ethics issues:
-Romances: the quest of a single individual to achieve some noble goal that is only achievable because human beings have an innate goodness. Such heroes become metaphors for their particular brand of ethical management.
-Tragedies: about people who try to behave well, by challenging fate, but come to personal grief. E.g. whistleblowers who reveal corporate wrongdoing but in doing so lose their families, their homes, etc. Metonyms are used.
-Comedies: stories about how human imperfections and weaknesses make the achievement of a happy ending difficult. The use of synecdoche.
-Satires: work ironically. By contrasting people‘s behavior with their words, or by defining the context in which the words are said, it is made clear that people mean the opposite of what they said.
The italized words are also defined:
-Metaphor: makes comparisons by referring to one thing as a different thing. E.g. calling employees in an organizations ‗assets‘.
-Metonymy: uses an attribute of something to represent the thing itself. Chairpersons sit in a chair when they hold a board meeting. The chair is their attribute, so they become known as chairs. In tragedy a single attribute can undermine a person‘s integrity; a good person is often brought low because of a part of their behavior or character.
-Synecdoche: uses a part of something to represent the whole. Business people wear suits and so that particular aspect of them comes to represent them and their role (e.g. ―are the suits arriving to check us out‖).
-Irony: speaking or writing in such a way as to imply the opposite of what is being said.
There is in business ethics a narrow point of balance between
-Romance and satire: heroes of romances can easily become the subject of satirists‘ scorn
-Tragedy and comedy
If we can understand how the plots of these stories can lead to either good or bad outcomes, we can develop an intuitive knowledge of how to encourage more happy endings than bad ones.
One of the long running business ethics stories concerns a moral decision that faces profit seeking organizations. It is a conflict between public duty and self-interest.