Ethics for the Real World: Creating a Personal Code to Guide Decisions in Work and Life

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We often make small ethical compromises for "good" reasons: We lie to a customer because our boss asked us to. We exaggerate our accomplishments on our résumé to get an interview. Temptation blindsides us. And we make snap decisions we regret.

Minor ethical lapses can seem harmless, but they instill in us a hard-to-break habit of distorted thinking. Rationalizations drown out our inner voice, and we make up the rules as we go. We lose control of our decisions, fall victim to the temptations and pressures of our situations, taint our characters, and sour business and personal relationships.

In Ethics for the Real World, Ronald Howard and Clinton Korver explain how to master the art of ethical decision making by:
Identifying potential compromises in your own life
Applying distinctions to clarify your ethical thinking
Committing in advance to ethical principles
Generating creative alternatives to resolve dilemmas

Packed with real-life examples, this book gives you practical advice to respond skillfully to life's inevitable ethical challenges. Not only can you make right decisions, you can acquire new habits that will realize the best in yourself and transform your relationships.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Few are likely to quibble that "Thou shalt not illegally download copyrighted media files" doesn't have quite the solemnity or clarity of "Thou shalt not steal." Howard and Korver invite readers into ethics' gray areas and guide them in developing a personal ethical code hardy enough for the most ambiguous situations. The book presents a four-part plan to become aware of "ethical temptation and compromise," the fundamentals of ethical logic and using ethics as an avenue to a happier life. The authors successfully tease out the prudential, legal and ethical dimensions of actions—however, readers might become frustrated with the lack of conclusive instructions. Furthermore, while the putative goal of the book is to assist readers in constructing their "personal code," the sample models presented are so rife with inconsistencies that the book contributes to more ethical confusion than clarity. While the very nature of ethics acknowledges the varying shades of gray, a bit more black and white when it comes to ethical guidance might lead to a more satisfying read. (June)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781422121061
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press
  • Publication date: 6/17/2008
  • Pages: 212
  • Sales rank: 293,480
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Ronald A. Howard is a professor in the Department of Management Science and Engineering in Stanford University's School of Engineering, and the director of the Department's Decisions and Ethics Center. Clinton D. Korver is the founder and CEO of DecisionStreet, which provides Web-based tools to help consumers make important life decisions.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Skillful Decision Making 1

1 Almost Ethical 11

2 Draw Distinctions 31

3 Consult the Touchstones 51

4 Draft Your Code 71

5 Choose Action 91

6 Transform Life 113

7 Transform Work 131

Epilogue: Habit of Wisdom 151

Appendix A The Elements of Ethical Thinking 155

Appendix B Ethical Codes 157

Our Messages 175

Acknowledgments 187

Notes 189

Index 203

About the Authors 211

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 19, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Don't lie

    I had high hopes for this book, but unfortunately it fell rather short of my expectations. It promises to give a comprehensive view of ethics as applied to the real world situations, but what it provides instead is a lot of examples and vignettes that try to showcase a certain moral dilemma. The stories are actually interesting in their own right, but in the end they don't provide a cohesive whole from which to extract important real world lessons. There are plenty of specific advices in the book, but they don't seem to fit any comprehensive ethical system. They are the kind of advice that you could easily pick up from a wise uncle or a senior colleague at work. The book is fairly light on ethical theory, which is not all that surprising considering its title, but one would still wish for a deeper grounding in the millennia of ethical thinking and practice. The authors claim not to advocate any particular ethical tradition or general approach to ethics, which I find a bit naive.

    Some suggestions for dealing with difficult moral situations are quite ridiculous. The authors seem to have an inordinate appreciation of the power of rational persuasion in conflict-resolution situations. This may hold true for some people, but the kind of people on whom this would work are oftentimes the last persons who would put you in a moral quandary.

    One constant theme that propagates throughout the book is the general aversion to lying, which obviously puts the author in the camp with those who advocate the existence of absolute moral imperatives. This is a viable moral stance, but in the real world there will be many situations where lying would be absolutely necessary in order to prevent some greater moral evil. The lack of appreciation for the trade offs between different moral actions is rather baffling.

    Overall, this is an easy and readable book, but not the kind that will challenge your preexisting moral principles.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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