In a leadership seminar, I heard the following slip of the tongue by a top manager:
You should treat your employees as if they were human beings.
From this (Freudian) slip, you can already deduce the first requirement: in an “ethical enterprise”, people must never be reduced to being just a means towards an end. That would be a violation of human rights and might cause a social system to become a fascistoid system. Something like that cannot and must not happen in an “ethical enterprise”.
But they actually exist: leadership seminar slides where employees are reduced to cost factors and given a number. A human being becomes a professional skill matrix with identification tags representing his or her achievements, like a machine.
And as soon as this person becomes an “under performer”, he is made redundant. These are all “no goes” for an “ethical enterprise”. To be sure, an “ethical enterprise”, too, can find itself in a situation where it can no longer hold all its employees. In such a – doubtless hard – situation, you have to act consciously after diligent ethical weighting.
Another highly controversial topic is the ”fair wage”. It is a difficult or even impossible affair and an ideal solution does not really exist. That is why I would label it more a useful than a necessary requirement.
To me, it would be good enough if an “ethical enterprise” would refrain from exploiting anybody and include a little equity of needs into the complex system of “payment”.
The equality law, the works constitution act, the working hours act and the employment protection act are often not very useful. Even though the intention behind these laws is good and legitimate, they are mostly no longer up to date, or else just poorly made.
It is much more important for an “ethical enterprise” to synchronize the interests and needs of the employees with those of the enterprise. This is not easy, because the interests are often too diverse. Just think of the issue “site of operation” in our business.
The employees of an enterprise are its most important stakeholders. The only way this is going to work is if all employees can develop a healthy relationship with their enterprise.
They are the individual elements of their enterprise, which is an “eco-social system”. They must be capable of identifying critically with their enterprise and perceive the pros and cons of said enterprise realistically.
The model of the soccer fan marching towards the battle for his club today and burning the banners tomorrow is the opposite of healthy identification. That kind of behaviour is not possible in an “ethical enterprise”.
What is required of the employees in an “ethical enterprise”, however, is even more demanding:
They must be willing and capable of promoting the development of the enterprise. That is a really huge challenge!
If an employee has given notice in his heart or if the wages are considered a quasi compensation for inner pain and suffering and the lost hours out of his life, then the “ethical enterprise” has failed. Apart from that, something is rotten in an “ethical enterprise” if there are people who just do their duty during work hours and then really blossom in their leisure time.
To sum it all up: for an “ethical enterprise”, it is necessary that all employees are “stakeholders” in the true sense of the word, rather than just being reduced to a means to an end by someone.
(Translated by EG)
All pictures were taken in the cave of Diros – where even in pre-historic times people lived and did business. The last picture shows the view you get on returning under the hot Greek sun after half an hour in the cave.