Steve Salbu Talks Ethics
Georgia Tech Expert Talks Workplace Ethics
and Coming Back from Crisis
By Victor Rogers October 29, 2018
Total compliance with the law does not guarantee that an organization or
individual is also behaving ethically. There is a gap.
Steve Salbu discusses this gap and other dilemmas during his ethics classes. Salbu is the Cecil B. Day Chair in Business Ethics at the Scheller College of Business, where he leads the Cecil B. Day Program in Business Ethics.
“The goal of the program is to develop the highest ethical standards in our community, both through the curriculum and through various kinds of extracurricular offerings,” said Salbu.
A professor of law and ethics, Salbu joined the Scheller College of Business in July 2006 as dean and Stephen P. Zelnak Jr. Chair. After eight years as dean, in 2014 he elected to return to his research and focus on leading the Cecil B. Day Program in Business Ethics.
In light of the upcoming Ethics Awareness Week (Nov. 12–16), we asked Salbu to answer a few questions regarding ethics and the challenges facing organizations and individuals.
Let’s start with a broad question. How do you define ethics?
There are as many definitions as there are philosophers, but I like to keep it simple: evaluating our behavior as morally right or wrong.
Can ethical behavior be learned? Don’t we innately know if an action is ethical or unethical?
I teach a 3-credit undergraduate class in ethics, and I’m often asked, “Can you teach ethics?” Or I’m asked, “Isn’t university too late? Aren’t ethics formed during childhood?” There are many ways ethics can be taught, both to children and to adults. Ethics faculty make the intellectual case for living a good, ethical, virtuous life. We also teach what the philosophers over the ages have taught us about living an ethical life. Moreover, as my students know from class discussions, it’s often very difficult to assess the ethical implications of the complex situations we all often face. Just as our students get better at making operational or strategic decisions by practicing in classes with cases, so too they gain from such exercises around difficult ethical challenges.