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The central theme of the article is the role of the newly emerging phenomenon of manager’s oath in the respective profession. Jasso suggests that the particularities of the field (or, rather, art, as he chooses to address it) already imply fair business practices, and the necessity to “no harm” is unnecessary to certify with additional effort (2010). The first reason for such poor suitability, according to the author, lies in the concept of the oath, modeled after the Hippocratic oaths sworn by medical practitioners. However, the trades of healthcare workers differ drastically from the managerial practices, with the latter relying more on a combination of social, political, historical, philosophical, psychological, and scientific data.
More importantly, the field of responsibilities of a manager already necessitates the efficient and productive approach which maximizes the decency of practices and, in most cases, minimizes harm. The managers are interested in producing as little harm as possible as it directly impacts their goals and, by extension, rewards. On the other hand, the certification process which requires them to pronounce an oath does not contain any bounds aside from purely ethical and, to some extent, even sentimental ones. In simpler terms, in its current state, the oath generates fewer reasons for a manager to not harm his personal and professional interests.
The situation is further complicated with the complexities of the definition of harm involved in managerial practices, properly illustrated by the author with a situation where the macroeconomic setting requires massive termination of the company’s staff (Jasso, 2010). Under such conditions, at least one stakeholder will likely treat the manager’s decision as harmful regardless of the outcome. Considering the presented arguments, Jasso finds the demand for the MBAs who can certify their pledge of allegiance highly unlikely. This, should not be perceived as a cynical take on the matters since he also confirms his belief in the decency of ideas behind the oath. It is only the formal part that is criticized, not the underlying values.
The analysis of the author’s position reveals several interesting points. First, the decency of practices that are allegedly inherent to the managerial profession is taken at face value by the author. It is certainly true that performance and efficiency are in every manager’s, as well as other stakeholder’s, best interests. It is equally hard to argue that both factors directly influence their incentives. However, the self-regulating nature of the business practices is often exaggerated, as they are often confused with universal social values.
Thus, when stating that managers do everything to maximize the output, it is often implied that “everything” is within the acceptable social and legal bounds. Nevertheless, we must admit that not all strategies which lead to profitability or otherwise signify successful managerial practice are acceptable from a moral, social, or legal standpoint. A good example of such a phenomenon is a deceptive marketing technique – an attempt to gain leverage by creating a false impression of a product or service. It is currently explicitly banned in most countries, with the legislature getting constantly updated to include all of its possible variations, but is still fairly common throughout the business world.
Admittedly, this is a rather straightforward example, since deceptive marketing creates adverse effects in the long run (thus not qualifying as “not harmful”) and is already forbidden on the legal level (and thus not likely to be used regardless of an oath). However, they exist a whole range of other, more subtle aspects of a profession that give way to the actions of doubtful moral or ethical value. Admittedly, this counterargument targets the very notion of the managerial fiduciary responsibility rather than the value of oath certification practice. However, since the author’s position is built mainly upon the firm belief in the inherent self-regulating nature of the manager’s trade, this weak point must be acknowledged.
Another point of concern is the lack of the monitoring board which would provide warranties to the oath in question, voiced by Michael Skapinker, and used by the article’s author to support his position (Jasso, 2010). The argument has two weak points. First, even if currently there is no demand for the managers who can certify their oath to not harm, it may be due to the relative novelty of the concept. Indeed, there is also no obvious reasons to expect such demand to appear, but this does not automatically qualify the argument as universally correct. Second, the regulatory board, which is present in the medical and legal fields and is responsible for upholding the values stated in the oath of respective professions, is certainly an issue now, when the concept is in its infancy, but can be introduced later as a part of this practice once the necessity arises.
Certainly, the introduction of a new entity that serves no purpose other than upholding an additional regulation is ineffective. However, there is no obvious necessity for it since the managerial field is already regulated by a multitude of entities of the social, ethical, and legal variety. Thus, while such a monitoring organ does not exist, it can be substituted with a sum of external influences, with or without the oath in place. Admittedly, all of the weaknesses do not undermine the central premise, which is especially evident after the discussion of the last point. The management field is sustainable in terms of moral values and efficiency, and currently, there are no evident reasons to incorporate it other than those based on the manifestation of noble intentions.
Overall, the article has two key valuable implications. First, it comprehensively sums up the main motivations and values behind the manager’s practices. Thus, it can be used for further inquiry on the moral and ethical concepts and the and their consistency with requirements posed by the business sustainability and integrity. Certainly, some caution needs to be exercised since some of the implications may be excessively optimistic, but otherwise, it presents a decent picture of the social and ethical grounds behind the majority of the management principles and decisions.
Second, it constitutes a good example of determining the necessity of a new entity or phenomenon and can be used in similar situations if such need arises. The conflicts between nobility and efficiency are not uncommon in the business field, and the attempts to rationally evaluate the necessity of change motivated by either of the sides is important. Regardless of the attractiveness of the concept, it is a good idea first to look at its possible consequences and confirm the intuitively assumed benefits. Jasso did it with consistency which can be respected. His methods, on the other hand, should be utilized by managers and legislators alike.
Jasso, S.D. (2010). The Hippocratic Oath of the Manager – Good or Bad Idea? Philosophy for Business, 56, 1-5.