Monday, October 20, 2008

Loss of Moral Values in Downturns

Downturn is bringing along with it other forms of casualty besides losing trillions of dollars. It is witnessing steep erosion of moral values. The moral fabric of companies and managers running has weakened. As they get jitterier, they tend to break away from promises made and don’t fight back within the respective hierarchy with the same ebullience as they would in good times.

The concept of morality and justice implies that commitments made in advance must be acknowledged even if it’s to one’s own disadvantage. To one’s own disadvantage is something we are not prepared to live. Why is our moral fiber built so tenuous that a simple sudden tension snaps it? Why do we people start tending to take decisions by popular demand than by principle?

Managers try to postpone or run away from the existing promises by blaming the ‘change in circumstances’? Changing times as a reason comes in handy in business like situation and everyone’s exploits that to cover his or her shortcomings in morality? We try looking for loopholes and escape routes for our commitments?

One of the reasons I have heard is ‘for the larger good’ we are doing this or have done this. We have started calling managers ‘smart’ based on who don’t follow these themes but what suits them.

Its in bad times that character gets tested and most may not come out in flying colors. Managers have always been preaching of how performance under stress is an important facet of leadership, but when it comes to crunch those very people in charge of leading it give away.

How devastating it can be for teams below, teams who carry an image of superiors as men and women of justice and integrity and companies as a place to practice that art? Image that’s built over years of professional careers comes crashing down with their contradictory acts. With the dark side let loose, it leads to breach in confidence and trust people have placed in the individual and the company.

Concept like trust, justice, fairness and morality, once lost is lost forever. It’s this emotion, which is fuelling the crisis. Liquidity and Solvency, yes, but the main reason is loss of trust leading to panic. Without trust, hell breaks loose and that’s what is happening.

This crisis will not go away soon and does that mean that ‘civil’ society will become increasingly ‘uncivil’. Doesn’t matter how much money you inject, how much surplus you create. None of it substitutes primordial emotions of trust and confidence.

This is the first downturn for majority of young professionals and the nastiest for the seasoned. The impression youngsters get or form on how their ‘seasoned’ bosses manage this crisis and whether decisions have elements of morality, justice and fairness will have a profound effect in shaping them up as future leaders in their corporate career.

Are only people to be blamed or is the state responsible for it as well? Unfortunate part is there is no state support structure in India for the society to lean upon, to survive such downturns. Will government give loans or aid to the parents so that their kids education doesn’t suffer? Absence of such support structure forces you to be selfish in your assessments and decisions. But still in the land of Rama and Raja Harishchandra who gave up everything for the sake of morality – morality at individual level is deteriorating everyday as the crisis deepens?

We all abhor corruption. But what about the ‘moral corruptness’ gripping us? What is the remedy? Leaders of every sphere will have to participate in according primacy to morality. Plato had proposed the creation of an educational system that focuses on the molding of character, with the ultimate goal of the educator being not just imparting knowledge, but also the ability “to turn the mind's eye to the light so that it can see for itself.”

We probably would have escaped this crisis with right philosophical foundations. Now with the damage done, it will be some time that confidence and trust gets restored. The recovery will hinge on how much we practice what we preach and we come out as better ‘cleaned’ individuals, holding our head high on moral grounds.

1 comment:

rp2 said...

Maybe you'll find this interesting http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-515319560256183936