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About Humanistic Management

The Three Stepped Approach to Humanistic Management


The Humanistic Management Center advocates a paradigm shift away from economistic views on market activities towards a humanistic approach. To move from criticism of the status quo towards a fruitful discourse on alternatives we have developed a three stepped approach offering guidance and an anchor for reflection on managerial decisions as well as decision making processes. We understand humanistic management on the basis of three interrelated dimensions.

These are firstly that we as humans deserve and rightfully expect our dignity to be respected under all circumstance. Secondly, that ethical consideration must form part and parcel of business decisions and thirdly that actively embracing corporate responsibilities is contingent upon initiating and maintaining an ongoing dialogue with stakeholders.

Firstly, that unconditional respect for the dignity of every person is the foundation for interpersonal interaction, including any interactions taking place in business contexts. Part of what makes us human is our shared vulnerability. Investigating humanistic management is therefore based on the fundamental acceptance that the conditio humana entails our shared need for protection of our human dignity. Respecting every human being, in all its depth and complexity, as individually unique and collectively worthy of unconditional protection against exploitation is a shared endeavor of societies and all their institutions. We must therefore never view people as mere means of production within economic processes but embrace each and every person as ends in themselves.

Secondly, that ethical reflection must form an integrated part of business decisions. If one follows through on unconditional respect for the dignity of all persons, one must accept that decisions that impact others must be examined in terms of their consequences for all those affected. Humanistic management consequently criticizes one-dimensional managerial objectives such as profit maximization. Economic rationality becomes incompatible with protecting human dignity whenever it leaves no room for the balancing of interests of stakeholders based on the quality of the arguments articulated. When factual power overrides argumentative power - as any paradigm that proclaims the maximization of particular interests demands - those interests that cannot enforce their consideration are excluded and suppressed. However, equally respecting all stakeholders is a necessary precondition of the unconditional respect for the dignity of all persons affected by a company's activities. In short, without the integration of ethical considerations into managerial decision making, claims of assuming corporate responsibility are little more but a hollow catch phrase.

Thirdly, that seeking normative legitimacy for corporate activities is crucial for assuming corporate responsibilities. This third dimension, which is to be understood as the dialogical extension of ethical reflection on corporate conduct, allows for the aligning of good intentions with activities that have the potential to produce good outcomes. The integration of ethical reflection into business decisions alone can be seen as a monological process in which the decision-maker might, in all sincerity, fail to see the concerns of others, leading to what we may call honest mistakes. Therefore, the third guiding principle - seeking normative legitimacy - is necessary to ensure that the outcomes of (monological) ethical reflection are tested by entering into a dialogue with those who may challenge any aspect of a business's conduct. The solitary managerial decision about whether a certain action is ethically sound is thereby transferred to the "moral site" of stakeholder dialogue, where the manager shares the responsibility with stakeholders to embark on a course of action that is acceptable to all parties.

In summary, humanistic management is the pursuit of strategies and practices aimed at the creation of sustainable human welfare. In combination, these three dimensions promote human flourishing through economic activities that are life-conducive and add value to society at large. Submitting business decisions to these three guiding principles is what we call humanistic management.

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