The type of business relationship between Joe Smith, the salesman at UWEAR, and his client Bill Bateman described in the scenario is characterized by informal conduct. Indeed, their cooperation is attributed with the features of gray zone business conduct where the boundaries between the personal and the business issues are blurred. Such a type of ethical coordination of actions in business might impose significant difficulties for both parties.
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However, in this paper, it is argued that since both the client and the salesman benefit from their long-term fruitful cooperation, their relationship falls under the theory of care ethics. It allows the two parties to pursue their business goals on the basis of trusting personal relationships.
Firstly, the gifts Bill gives Joe should not be treated as bribery. Indeed, such a kind of action as giving presents refers to the personal relationship rather than business cooperation. However, both the client and the salesman share the same attitude toward personal gestures. That is why Joe returns the favors by continuously attending Bill’s hotel and restaurant with his family or when having business meetings with other clients. In such a manner, the two parties build a mutually beneficial relationship at the personal level that contributes to their productive business cooperation.
Such a type of business behavior might be explained by such a business ethics theory as care ethics. According to Smart, Kimble, Birch, Smith, and Whitaker (2019), care ethics prioritizes relationships before any other factor defining business cooperation. Consequently, all actions or decisions must be made with primary respect to correct performance, which implies “structuring, reinforcing, and preserving durable relationships” (Smart et al., 2019, p. 33).
As it is exemplified in the scenario, Bill initiated a caring relationship at the very beginning of acquaintance with Joe, thus laying the foundation for their long-lasting, trusting relationships. Joe, in response, brings his family and clients to Bill’s facilities and also contributes to their reliable relationship.
Moreover, the care ethics theory requires mutual commitment and respect from both cooperating parties. It is only possible when referring to humans’ morality, which is based on caring (Smart et al., 2019). Therefore, by demonstrating a caring attitude to one another in close communication between families of the client and the salesman, the parties are motivated by moral principles and engage in more positive business interaction.
At the same time, the type of relationship between Bill and Joe imposes some other ethical considerations. They are connected with the overall morality subjective to a particular person. In other words, different people might have different views on the way things should be done. The omnipresent dichotomy of right and wrong implies the possible contradiction between the subjective points of view of business actors who perform in the grey area of conduct. When their personal and work life become intertwined, it might be difficult to resolve some strictly business issues. In the same way, some misunderstandings in personal relationships might destabilize the business cooperation, which endangers the performance of entities not only individuals.
Conclusively, from the point of view of business ethics, the relationship between Joe and Bill might be characterized as the one constructed on the basis of caring ethics. Therefore, the gifts that Bill gives Joe are not a manifestation of bribery because Joe returns the favors in the form using Bill’s services. Their cooperation is based on solid personal relationships led by moral principles of respect, mutual care, and prioritization of durable collaboration. However, the confusion of the personal and the business might endanger the performance outcomes.
Smart, L., Kimble, C. A., Birch, J. J., Smith, R., & Whitaker, G. (2019). Leadership and ethical decision making (2nd ed.). Schaumburg, IL: Words of Wisdom, LLC.