Is business ethics an oxymoron? If one person is always better off at the end of a transaction, mainly because of informational asymmetry, can business ever be ethical- and does it even matter? In his article Is Business Bluffing Ethical, Albert Carr shows that only you are at the disadvantage if you choose to be “moral” in the workplace. The business world has become its a world in its own right. Kind of like “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” what happens while you are at work stays at work. For example, you might cheat a customer by exaggerating a price, but you might never cheat on your wife. Your morality belongs at home, not the workplace. It is essentially privatised. You might even still be religious, and own a sweatshop. In a ruthless business world, competing to survive has become increasingly difficult. If your humanity encourages you consider your morality, only you will be at a disadvantage. Why? Because business bluffing is so common, and so expected, people will assume you are bluffing anyway.
So business, just like poker, is often a game of strategic bluffs. The worlds of private and business life are separate, so they demand separate codes of ethics. The pressure to deceive is felt everywhere in business and deceptions are ethically justifiable. It’s quite important to be aware, for example, whilst conducting business with friends, that their moral code will not manifest itself in your work dealings, and neither should yours.