Developing Reflection on Values as a Foundation for a Business Career

Developing Reflection on Values as a Foundation for a Business Career

Nigel Duncan (City University London, UK) and Alwyn Jones (De Montfort University The Gateway, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-510-6.ch005
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Students can learn to analyse questions of ethics from the philosophical perspectives of duties, consequences and virtues. This includes the development of empathy and moral courage. Our brains respond to the experiences of others using ’empathy neurons’; we are ’hard-wired’ for empathy. Developing moral courage can be linked to the development of empathy, drawing on ’ethics of care’ theories. Graduates who express empathy for their colleagues and care for themselves are better equipped to act ethically. The authors show how learning experiences can enable students to develop problem-solving responses as an alternative to ’fight or flight’ reactions to ethical problems. They can help students to develop expertise in ethics by providing them with more opportunities to engage rationally and empathically with ethical problems, through active learning experiences followed by critical reflective processes. Discussing moral exemplars in active learning helps to avoid a cynical view that unethical behaviour is normal. Critical reflection encourages students to make more use of their rational and empathic capacities. The theory of cognitive dissonance helps students to become aware of how we tend to seek information that confirms our decisions while avoiding information that would alert us to ethical hazards.
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Approaches To Ethical Behaviour

Preparing students for the responsibilities of management and business can be approached from a number of different potentially competing perspectives. This is not the place for a thorough account of the different approaches which may be adopted. For the purposes of this chapter it will suffice to recognise that there are at least two fundamental approaches which are widely considered when the codes by which professional behaviour is tested are devised. Both approaches are inherently attractive, but may lead to different outcomes when applied. There are many nuanced approaches within each and others would recognise further distinct approaches.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Neuroscience: The study of how the brain relates to cognitive functions including the way in which we may react to experiences with different parts of our brains, resulting in different responses to those experiences.

Ethics: The study of questions involving moral values, which may involve analysing the relevant duties, consequences or virtues as a part of a rational and empathic process of resolving moral issues.

Moral Courage: Our awareness of moral issues combined with the ability to act according to our own values despite pressure to do otherwise (this pressure may come from colleagues, superiors, customers or clients).

Critical Reflection: Our ability to analyse issues raised by our own experiences; this may help us to become more aware of the extent to which we use our rational and empathic capacities when we act under pressure.

Cognitive Dissonance: The study of how we attempt to reconcile conflicting cognitions (for example, a conflict between our attitudes and our behaviour).

Experiential Learning: The process of making meaning from direct experience, typically involving student activity in simulated and real tasks, as opposed to passive reception of knowledge from a didactic teacher.

Empathy: Our insight into the emotions and experiences of others together with our ability to feel and express concern for others.

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