Part 2 of the 2018 interview with Dr. Alan Chan at Bond University, Australia. In the context of East Asian businesses playing a greater role in political and academic organisations, the interviewer asks what the relationship is between Confucianism and business in contemporary times.
In today’s modern society, most people spend a significant portion of their day at their workplace. Companies invest millions of dollars into employee well-being programs and identifying ways to retain their most valuable assets.
Many studies have confirmed that a positive harmonious workplace directly correlates to productive work environment, increased revenue and the overall success of an organization.
According to the Confucian philosophy, the maintenance of social order, harmony and peace is created and maintained by adopting the five virtues within the five cardinal relationships:
-Ruler to subject
-Father to son
-Husband and wife
-Elder brother to younger brother
-Friend to friend
If we viewed each company’s work environment as individual ‘societies’, would a modern Confucian approach be valuable by applying the 5 virtues to the ’employer to employee’ relationship – similar to the ‘ruler to subject’ relationship? How would one interpret the five virtues within this environment?
Employers can adopt Ren 仁 – ‘Benevolence and humaneness’ by upholding high standards of behavior through their everyday actions and treating their employees with respect by “not doing onto others as you would not wish done to yourself.” In return, employees would feel valued and empowered in their workplace.
It would be in an employer and employees’ best interests to adhere to Li 禮 – by following laws that have been created to govern workplaces such as workplace health and safety legislations and laws that protect employees from discrimination and sexual harassment. This will ensure that all employees can enjoy a safe and healthy work environment.
Yi 義 can be upheld by employers identifying the need to (and also by encouraging all their employees to) always do good, and also to recognize what is right and wrong and using moral intuition to make the right decisions and having the best moral interests of their company at heart. This is particularly relevant in situations where an employer or employee may be tempted engage in activities for their self interests such as receiving bribes.
Everyone makes mistakes, but it is only when employer reflects on them and correct themselves as part of adopting Chi 智 – moral wisdom that they and their employees can continue to build a stronger company in the future.
When all employers and employees in a ‘workplace society’ practice Xìn 信, by being integral, honest and faithful, this will ultimately contribute to a harmonious, productive peaceful work culture that leads to success.