Greed is nowadays most often associated with money and courtesy to the recession, now mainly with bankers. A simple definition of greed is that those who are greedy want more of what they already have. And studying ethics, we know that greed is a vice and therefore wrong. Since the recession bankers are portrayed as greedy and as acting against their clients, and therefore against society at large. For the past weeks a new “problem” in the world of banking has cropped up: the payment of bonus payments. By definition bonuses are paid for extraordinary work. If employees really outdid themselves, they receive a special reward. Only that this definition does not seem to be valid anymore. Bonuses have become a part of employment contracts and of employment deals. They are seen as something the employee is entitled to. Therefore bonuses seem to bring about a new form of greed. It is not only greed about the money it seems, but also about the gratification. Bonuses are more than sheer payments, they give the employee perceived job-security. But the problem now is that if bonuses are paid to bankers from banks that have received money from the government, that same government de facto gratifies bankers for making mistakes in the first place. The clients that were mistreated are, via their tax money, now rewarding the bankers. The bankers on the other hand claim that they earned the bonuses and will be motivated to work more successfully, which is then beneficial for the client. It is a vicious cycle!?!
A times article dealing with the bailout is here, and a whole plethora of articles about the topic at large is here.
Business Ethics: An Overview
By Jeffrey Moriarty, Bowling Green State University
(Vol. 3, August 2008)