Managerial ethics in India and the West

The literatures on business values in India in comparison to the west may show different preferences in various ethical stances viz. ethical puzzle, convention, awareness, neutrality, problem, dilemma, cynicism and negotiation. Indian managers experience a clash between the values acquired from their education and professional training and those drawn from Indian culture and society. Values drawn by Indian managers from their training mirror emphasize on western instrumental rationality and rule following, whereas the values drawn from family and community emphasize affiliation and social obligation.

In terms of ethical stances, Indian social values might lead to a preference for ethical awareness and ethical convention stances. If this was so, then a clash between the corporate preference for the ethical puzzle and a neutrality stance could lead managers to adopt the ethical problem and dilemma. This implies a struggle to balance conflicting values.

Western management assumes a preference for the ethical puzzle stance. Accountants, for example, have been trained to work in a rule governed manner. The pragmatic western management culture can encourage managers to take ethical neutrality or puzzle stances on issues that others might see as raising moral questions.

If Indian managers experience a conflict between western business values and Indian social values, then different dynamics may emerge in response to the difference. One possibility is that, within their job roles, Indian managers may express Indian social values. Another study showed that most Indian managers were relaxed about uncertainty (although a significant minority were not), and placed high importance on loyalty and a sense of belonging. This conclusion was based on Indian managers’ scores on four cultural dimensions namely power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism, and masculinity. These scores, in contrast to results for UK, Canada, and US, showed Indian managers expressing different values from their western counterparts.

In some contexts, Indian managers adopt western corporate values. The scores on dimensions of Indian managers in internationally owned firms were comparable to the scores of western samples. This finding raises the possi0bility that Indian managers may have to suppress some of their values in certain work situations. 71% of Indian and 69% of UK companies made no specific budgetary provision for social responsibility activities. This position contrasts with the conventional Indian emphasis on philanthropy and may be an example of Indian managers favoring western corporate values by ethically bracketing their personal values. This dynamism might encourage Indian managers to express a preference for the ethical neutrality and puzzle stances.

Also, there is a possibility that managers may exhibit stress in dealing with the clash of values within their managerial roles. Some empirical evidence of such tensions has been found. Middle managers who perceived that successful managers behaved unethically experienced reduced levels of job satisfaction and they claimed that ‘such an inconsistency between ethical behavior and success violates the cultural mores.’ The tension also caused a negative effect on managers’ morale. Conflicts such as this may be accommodated by a division between espoused values and values-in-use.