Type: Business
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The Parable of the Sadhu Answers

In today’s rapidly evolving corporate landscape, the intersection of individual and corporate ethics has never been more critical. As organizations navigate a myriad of ethical challenges, understanding the dynamics between personal values and corporate responsibilities becomes paramount. This essay delves into the complex ethical scenario presented by Mintz and Morris (2010), offering a comprehensive examination of the questions raised concerning individual and corporate ethics. It explores how this scenario mirrors ethical challenges in American corporate settings and delineates the preferred methods for addressing the ethical dilemma.

Ethical Crossroads: Individual vs. Corporate Ethics in the Sadhu’s Tale

  • Bowen H. McCoy’s friend Stephen says, “I feel that what happened with the sadhu is a good example of the breakdown between the individual and corporate ethic.” Explain what you think Stephen meant by this statement. What is the nature of that breakdown between individual and corporate ethics as you see it?

It should be underlined that the corporate ethical frame forms for years and is supported by the company’s management through constant training and the formation of their employees’ clear ethical attitudes and actions. It so happened that representatives of different countries accompanied McCoy; in particular, there were Swiss, New Zealanders, Japanese, local porters, and their Sherpa sirdar. These people have never met before. They took part in the dangerous for their health, stressful but, maybe, the most exciting journey in their life. Furthermore, they were the representatives of different religions and mentalities.

In this situation, I understand the breakdown between individual and corporate ethics in such a way. Being not united by a common vision and having no leader that could direct their actions as a unique team, each traveler helped the Sadhu somehow but within his/her ethical vision so that the Sadhu did not stop his plans. If we compare this event to the situations under corporate circumstances, it should be underlined that corporate culture unites and, to some extent, balances individual differences under one unique goal. Clear messages about corporate values are delivered to the corporate employees constantly. Suppose the organization has a strong corporate culture, where compliance with its ethical norms and standards of behavior is perceived not as an obligatory task but as a positive force. In that case, the employee acts according to the established business ethics in stressful situations.

Sadhu’s example revealed that each traveler did not want to take responsibility for the Sadhu. The group had no leader who could unite them towards making a compromise by helping Sadhu get to the hut. Therefore, each traveler acted according to his/her perception of the right ethical behavior. Each of them did not share common values, and they were restricted additionally by the specific circumstances of particular health problems.

Decisive Moments: Stress, Ethics, and Leadership in Action

  • In reflecting on his discussion with Stephen about the Sadhu, McCoy says, “The instant decisions that executives make under pressure reveal the most about personal and corporate character.” Do you think on-the-spot decisions better reflect the character of the decision-maker and organization rather than those that might be more thoroughly thought through? Why or why not?

I believe that stressful situation changes the employees’ behavior, especially executives responsible for making the most essential decisions in the organization. I fully agree with McCoy stating that companies that cannot establish a strong corporate culture based on mutually accepted and shared ethical visions and values will be witnesses of the individualistic actions of their managers in uncommon situations. Each individual who does not associate his values and ethical background with the corporate ones will act for himself, defending his values in stressful situations.

It is necessary to note also that stressful situations create special circumstances: the decision should be made immediately, and there is no time to think about possible alternatives and thoroughly think through all the consequences the decision could cause. It is an impulse; not everyone, even the most experienced executives, can always react correctly. It is the challenge of the business circumstances where hesitates is lost. Only the most efficient corporate cultures, whose visions of how to act ethically became the values of the individuals, can influence the decision-making process in stressful situations. Otherwise, individual differences and ethical values will prevail.

Ethics in Action: Drawing Parallels from the Sadhu to Business

  • McCoy equates the parameters of the decision-making process about the Sadhu with that in business. He believes there is an interesting parallel to business situations. Explain what you think McCoy meant by this statement. Do you agree with him?

It should be pointed out that corporations and their employees are interdependent. Employee actions directed towards the company’s welfare and do not violate the ethical principles of its business conduct will benefit the employee correspondingly.

The history of the Sadhu is an example that a group without a leader and a common vision is just a group of individuals bound together by particular circumstances. Any stressful situation will detect the differences in religious visions, individual characteristics, and cultural values. It is challenging for the company to communicate established ethical values to each of its employees so that these values are accepted.

Regarding the decision-making process, I can make a parallel with the business situation only partly because, in the corporate decision-making process, one of the main issues is money in the form of profitability, increase in sales, or additional percent of the market share winning. However, in the story of Sadhu, the price of the right decision for me was the biggest value – human life. There was no place for the two decisions. Human life is not money but a question of compassion and conscience.

Support and Ethics: Navigating Dilemmas in Organizations

  • McCoy concludes that the lesson of the Sadhu is that “in a complex corporate situation, the individual requires and deserves the support of the group. When people cannot find such support in their organizations, they don’t know how to act.” What support in organizations do you think McCoy is referring to? If such support is not found, what should individuals do when they have an ethical dilemma like that in the Sadhu case?

According to Trevino and Nelson (2010), when discussing the ethical decision-making process in corporations, it is noteworthy to understand that “ethical culture has a significant organizational influence on the individual’s ethical awareness, judgment, and action, along with the individual differences” (p. 150). An ethical culture communicated and shared by all employees guides them in thinking and acting. McCoy talked precisely about such a kind of organizational support because the ethical culture established in the organization supports the employee in understanding whether his actions are good or not. Most employees “are at the conventional level of cognitive moral development” (Trevino & Nelson, 2010), which means that they are searching for the directions accepted by the organization, so-called ethical guidance to know how to behave in different situations as a corporate employee.

If such support is not found as it was in the case of McCoy and his companions in the mountains, then each person acts not as a part of the group but as the individual whose interest and prior plans and intentions are above all.

What is the Moral of the Story of the Sadhu from Your Perspective?

  • The story of the Sadhu is thought-provoking. Many controversial and complex questions arise. Could we make a parallel between that situation and business, considering that the question was the price of a human life? What share of the responsibility should each of the travelers bear before a stranger?

I venture to suggest that the central issue in Sadhu’s story is the issue of human life. My thoughts are closer to Stephen’s point that compassion had to drive people in such a situation. If another person can save it (someone’s life), it is his/her ethical obligation to do so. I consider that McCoy should have supported Stephen in convincing their temporary leader, Sherpa Sirdar, to change the whole group’s plans for human life-saving. Two days of delay were not so crucial for the travelers. Perhaps this may sound naïve; however, it is more important for me to be sure that I have done everything in my power to save another’s life than to all my life wonder whether Sadhu survived or not.

Corporate life is different compared to ordinary traveling in the mountains. Employees are united under a common mission of the company’s operations. Tasks given to them and responsibilities they take are directed towards achieving the established goal. Moreover, the corporate structure has a clear up-down hierarchy. It means a company has a leader or few leaders depending on the number of professional spheres in which it operates. A leader communicates the values of a company to the employees. Moreover, transforming the cross-cultural employee group into one coordinated team requires much time.

As we can see from the previous, in the sadhu case, the Swiss, New Zealanders, Japanese, and local porters had neither a leader that could unite the representatives of different nationalities and religions nor the time to do this. It is a lesson for the managers to see how stressful situation reveals the real ethical background of each group’s representatives if the strong corporate culture does not bind them. Corporate values overwhelm individual thoughts and ways of problem-solving only in the case of a very strong corporate culture with a strong-willed leader and well-communicated and proven practice of ethical norms of behavior. In The Parable of Sadhu, everyone behaves as an individual in a stressful and extraordinary situation.

Comparative Analysis of Ethical Theories in the Context of the Sadhu Case

The ethical dilemma presented in the Sadhu case provides a fertile ground for exploring the application of various ethical theories. This chapter aims to dissect the Sadhu case through the lenses of utilitarianism, deontological ethics, virtue ethics, and relativism, offering a nuanced understanding of how each framework might interpret and suggest resolutions to the ethical challenges encountered.


Utilitarianism, a consequentialist theory, suggests that the morality of an action is determined by its outcomes, with the most ethical choice being the one that maximizes overall happiness or minimizes suffering. In the context of the Sadhu case, a practical approach would evaluate the potential outcomes of helping the Sadhu versus continuing the journey without intervention. If aiding the sadhu results in the greatest good for the greatest number by potentially saving a life at the cost of minor inconvenience to the group, utilitarianism would advocate for the group to assist the Sadhu. The challenge arises in quantifying and comparing the group’s goals against Sadhu’s immediate needs, highlighting utilitarianism’s difficulty with subjective assessments of happiness and suffering.

Deontological Ethics

Deontological ethics, founded on the premise that actions are inherently right or wrong regardless of their consequences, would offer a different perspective. From this viewpoint, the group’s duty to help the Sadhu could be considered an ethical imperative, irrespective of the impact on the group’s expedition goals. The principle of humanity, for instance, which mandates treating individuals as ends in themselves and not merely as means to an end, would obligate the travelers to assist the Sadhu. This approach underscores the intrinsic value of ethical principles, such as duty and rights, over calculating outcomes.

Virtue Ethics

Virtue ethics focuses on the character and virtues of the moral agent rather than the morality of specific actions. This framework would examine the character traits exhibited by the group in response to the Sadhu’s plight, such as compassion, courage, and prudence. A virtuous response would involve helping the Sadhu, as it reflects the character strengths and virtues that contribute to a good life. This perspective highlights the importance of moral character and the development of virtues that naturally guide individuals toward ethical actions.


Relativism posits that moral judgments and ethical standards vary across different cultures and are contingent upon the societal norms of the group. Applying relativism to the Sadhu case involves acknowledging the diverse cultural backgrounds of travelers and considering how their cultural norms influence their ethical decisions. This approach may yield differing conclusions on the obligation to help the Sadhu, suggesting that there is no absolute moral action but context-dependent judgments. Relativism challenges the universality of ethical principles, emphasizing the role of cultural context in ethical decision-making.

Comparative Analysis

Each ethical theory presents a distinct perspective on approaching the Sadhu case, reflecting broader debates in moral philosophy about the basis of ethical decision-making. Utilitarianism emphasizes outcomes and the balance of happiness over suffering; deontological ethics focuses on duty and moral rules; virtue ethics highlights the importance of character and virtues; and relativism suggests the contingency of ethical standards in a cultural context.

Understanding the Sadhu case through these ethical frameworks demonstrates the complexity of ethical decision-making and the importance of considering multiple perspectives. Students are encouraged to reflect on the strengths and limitations of each theory in guiding ethical actions, recognizing that real-world ethical dilemmas often require balancing diverse and sometimes competing ethical considerations. This comparative analysis enriches the understanding of the Sadhu case and prepares students to navigate the ethical complexities they will encounter in their personal and professional lives.

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