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We glided past it without much inspection, but back in chapter three the authors briefly mentioned “Relativism” almost in passing (page 67).“Ethical relativism holds that ethical values are relative to particular people, cultures or times.”We will hint at it again in chapter six, so I guess it falls to me to raise the issue here.I know we are discussing Corporate Culture in this chapter, and this has more to do with national culture, but nevertheless, we need to address it somewhere.

Just like what company you work for determines right and wrong, to a certain extent, where you live determines what is acceptable and what is not.In large, multi-national organizations, this presents us with some unique issues.

In approximately 40 countries it is perfectly legal for a man to have multiple wives.The United Kingdom and Australia will recognize polygamist marriages from other countries.Less dramatically, Germany allows 16-year-olds to drink beer.My wife was plenty shocked when our plane landed in Brussels and she walked into the ladies restroom only to find men lined up and using urinals.Apparently men and women share a common restroom—only the entrance doors were marked differently.

This may have more to do with “values” (chapter six), however the authors do acknowledge: “Individuals can be helped—or hindered—in making the “right” or “wrong” decisions (according to their own values)…”

Question 1:Does it surprise you that human behaviors (and laws & values) are so varied and inconsistent across national cultures?

Question 2:What potential detrimental effects do you foresee this causing a company engaged in international business?

Page 118 has an interesting factoid nestled in it.“Research supports this impact;… regularly outperforms...the Standard & Poor 500”

Question 3:What does “regularly outperforms" mean to you?What might it actuallymean?

Question 4:This might be a case of illusory correlation; when the perception of a relationship between two variables exists, although only a minor or absolutely no relationship may actually exist.What do you think?Do ethical companies “outperform the Standard & Poor’s 500” or might it be a case where affluent companies (possibly due to munificent environment, excellent management, or access to scarce resources, etc. etc. etc.) have the assets that allow them to act ethically?

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