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Jeremy Thorn

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Book review: The Right thing – Sally Bibb


Reviewer Jeremy Thorn considers a book described as ‘everyday’ which proves to be anything but…

Title: ‘The Right Thing – an everyday guide to ethics in business’
Author: Sally Bibb. 
ISBN 978-0-470-68853-4 – Wiley  £14.99

This book is described as ‘an everyday guide to ethics in business’, but it is anything but ‘everyday’ – it is quite exceptional.  I commend it most highly to anyone in business, in any role. If you will take my advice, get hold of a copy, today.

As the author states, business ethics only become a priority for many of us when things go wrong.  And if we haven’t already thought about our own values and just where we stand when faced with an ethical dilemma, it is often too late. Not the least, half the challenge is to be able to identify an ethical challenge as it arises.  For otherwise, “even good people may do bad things”.

So, most helpfully, we are introduced to a deeply thoughtful Decision-Making Framework with 21 questions to consider ranging from understanding a situation, making a decision, checking that decision and some acid-test questions such as ‘Would I be happy for my decision to be published in the media?’ and ‘Would I be happy for my friends and family to know about my decision?’.

There is also a very helpful lay-person’s guide on the under-pinning philosophy of ethics, including Utilitarianism and the consequences of our actions, Deontology, which argues that the ends do not always justify the means, and Virtue Ethics and Aristotle’s 12 moral virtues.

There’s a whole chapter on ethical leadership and another on developing an ethical culture; some advice on creating an all-important Code of Conduct to guide any organisation and its employees; and the results of a fascinating international survey on attitudes to ethics across different sectors, countries, age groups and even different sizes of organisation. 

Not only that, we are also offered detailed suggestions on how to create and run an ethical leadership programme which will be invaluable to any training department, and confirmation of the importance of offering mentoring support. As Sally Bibb says, ethical leadership can’t really be ‘taught’, not the least because there may not always be a ‘right answer’.  Rather, it has to be learned, by each of us, according to our own value systems.

Throughout this book, which is a model of clarity without any preaching, there are examples of many of the ethical dilemmas we might face, in recruitment, working with and managing others, in appraisals and in commerce. It should be read by anyone in work, and I suggest, often re-read.

Reviewer profile: Jeremy Thorn managed workforces around the world before setting up a UK strategic management consultancy. He is also the author of a number of experiential management books and a frequent speaker and writer on challenging business issues of the day.

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