Do First Jobs Shape Young People’s Ethics?

business_ethics_highlights_2The piece below (by BEH co-editor Chris MacDonald) highlights the role that first (or early-career) jobs play in shaping young people’s ethical habits and attitudes. Students — and their professors — should reflect on what can be done to prepare for the pressure some (?) young people face, in the workplace, to act unethically.

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LINK: Shady sales tactics aren’t just a problem for consumers — they’re a problem for young workers, too
(by Chris MacDonald for CBC Opinion)

But the big issue here isn’t only about banking or about telecom, as important as those two industries are. A major issue here also has to do with youth — in particular, the young Canadians who are so often the ones being pressured to engage in unethical, and sometimes illegal, sales practices.

Consider: estimates vary, but consensus seems to be that roughly half of call-centre employees are under 30. And turnover in these junior sales jobs is high, implying that a lot of young people flow through these kinds of positions. It’s not hard to understand why young people are attracted to these jobs: they are white-collar positions, entry-level at many large companies and yet, they don’t require much in the way of specific skills. …

What do you think?


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About Chris MacDonald

I'm a philosopher who teaches at Ryerson University's Ted Rogers School of Management in Toronto, Canada. Most of my scholarly research is on business ethics and healthcare ethics.

One comment

  1. lexmm

    Chris MacDonald writes, “Finally, business schools need to do better at equipping their students to face these challenges. We spend too much time, in our business ethics classrooms, talking about Volkswagen and Enron and other famous scandals involving senior managers. We need to educate students about the challenges faced specifically by young people early in their careers, and better prepare them to face those challenges.” Amen. The business ethics profession’s obsession with big-corporate, firm-level decision making isn’t an innocent case of professors focusing their classes on what interests them most. It lends the mistaken impression that business ethics is only for the C suite and will confront students, if at all, only late in a highly successful career. The business world the bulk of our students will experience upon graduating also has moral contours, but bears little resemblance to one their professors present in the classroom. Good on MacDonald for calling them out for it.

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