[FOUNTAIN]Ethics issues solved with look in mirrorThe German ambassador to England was one of the most respected diplomats of the early 20th century. The dignitary was on the fast track in his public career, headed for the foreign minister’s position, if not the chancellorship of Germany. But one day in 1906, he suddenly resigned as ambassador.
At the time of his resignation, the German delegation in London was busy preparing for a banquet celebrating the fifth year of the reign of Edward VII. After spending 15 years in London, the German ambassador was supposed to play the role of the host at the banquet, as the head of the delegation.
Edward VII, who was known for his flamboyant lifestyle, made clear what kind of banquet he wanted. For dessert, Edward ordered the German delegation to bring out a huge cake into the hall, lower the lights, then have a dozen or more naked prostitutes run into the hall.
The ambassador refused to host the banquet and resigned. According to Peter Drucker’s “Management Challenges for the 21st Century,” the ambassador said that when he looked into the mirror while he shaved the next day, he didn’t want to see the face of a libertine.
Peter Drucker suggests a “mirror test” as a tool to measure the ethics of the intellectual laborers. Even though ethics is a system of values, Drucker emphasizes that ethical behavior in a certain organization or situation would still be considered ethical in a different organization or situation. Asking oneself “what kind of face would you want to see in the mirror in the morning?” is a simple test that can be applied to nearly everyone.
The mirror test is useful to measure the identity of a professional. When one’s values collide with the demands of the organization or situation, the mirror test would provide the standard for judgment.
Another way to use the mirror test is to look at the face in the mirror and imagine what kind of world it would be if everyone acts as you do. Many companies are currently under investigation for their parts in the political slush fund scandals here. For example, IBM is internationally known for its ethical management, but in Korea it is accused of corrupt dealings.
The reality proves why we need the mirror test. Criminals and lying politicians might want to get rid of all the mirrors around them.
by Lee Se-jung
The writer is a deputy business news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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