Posted by: hmchang | November 1, 2007

Business: The Sadhu Story

The Parable of the Sadhu(HBS 97307) is a classic article on ethics from the Harvard Business School. The story intrigue some deep thoughts and discussion throughout the class.

For many times, people evaluate their decisions based on the results, which is wrong! I argued that, if the author of the Sadhu article knew if the Sadhu has died or lived, he will definitely feel differently. Since he doesn’t know whether the Sadhu lives, he is haunted by his friend Steven’s analysis on the event. Of course the author could have done more, but the situation at that time may not be that good enough for him to help, or simply he did not think that it was his responsibility to help the Sadhu out and just something to the extent he would not feel guilty?

Researchers has found out that ethics is conditional. For example, when you see someone in need of help, you may be willing to help him out to some extent in one scenario (say, while you are late for your friend’s wedding) or to another extent in another scenario (say, while you are in a countryside for leisure). Many people may have been inundated by regular works these days and just cannot afford to care about someone else. In that case, do we still have time to help others doing something that is not requested by our boss?

Sometimes we do something also based on the perceived value and other times we do something because we are afraid or because we think we will be guilty. Even if something is not of your duty in a company, you may still want to volunteer to impress your boss. However, will you do something that is not your responsibility if it does not affect your promotion or doesn’t have any penalty on you?

I become very uncomfortable after reading this story — this story reminds me a lot of decisions I made before. Am I trying to just do the part I need? Am I “responsible” for something that just come up randomly? Am I trying to avoid responsibility? Or simply speaking, perhaps I just care about myself?

I am asking a lot of questions in this post because the ethic stuff is very cultural and is highly dependent on the scenario. It is hard to make ethical decisions and I don’t have an answer to that yet but this is a starting point for me to think.

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