Ethical Leadership - The experience of JCU's 3rd IBD cohort

MBA Sri Lanka – Harsha

1.       Can you briefly discuss the role of ethical decision-making in a business environment in your country?

In Sri Lanka, offering bribes and incentives to do sales is common practice.  It is difficult to do business without assimilating to this culture.  The Cuyahoga County corruption scandal would be considered common and would not be the outrage that it is here.  The media is getting stronger and so it is possible for the worst violations to be exposed and become a big deal.  There was one example where a person in Parliament was caught involved in an arms deal that was scandal, but it usually doesn't go this far.

This corrupt culture is mostly in the sales side of business.  The Accounting and tax side of business is able to uphold ethical standards and undergoes annual audits, but if there was some type of accounting violation uncovered, it would be common practice to bribe your way out of it.

2.       How has ethical decision-making been incorporated into your school’s curriculum?

Ethical decision-making is not included the high school curriculum, but it is included during university depending on the profession.  Harsha's degree is in Accounting and she had to take an Ethics class in school.  She also has a professional certification called "Chartered Management Accountant".  One requirement for this certification is to pass an Ethics test based on their Ethics Guidelines and also take a professional oath.

3.       Can you describe an ethical challenge in your personal, professional or academic life?

When Harsha was working as a Director of Finance at a large sporting goods store in Sri Lanka (akin to Dick's Sporting Goods), their business would put in a lot of bids with the government.  She was clearly asked by the Procurement team to pay a bribe.  It was common practice to offer customers a discount or commission on orders and may even be seen as an insult if you do not.  In one case, before a bid was ordered, a contract manager approached Harsha for 10,000 rupees up-front before an actual sale was made.  Harsha refused to do it, but is sure the contract manager found some other way to offer an incentive.

Harsha also had a dilemma when she was enrolled in her MBA classes here.  There was a male classmate from Egypt that made very open rude, sexual comments to the female classmates on a regular basis.  Harsha thinks it had to do with the culture he came from accepting this type of behavior towards women.  After a few months of persistent comments to all the females in the class, she approached the assistant dean to report his behavior.  The assistant dean spoke with other classmates and verified it was true and then spoke to the Egyptian student about his behavior.  Harsha said it didn't completely stop, but he got better and left her alone from then on.