Aristotle in one of his most influential work, the Nicomachean Ethics, presented a theory of happiness 2300 years ago. In this theory they tried to answer a key question, which is, what was the ultimate purpose of human existence? What should be the end goal towards which we should be directing our energies? In his opinion, everyone is looking for “pleasure, wealth, and a good reputation”. In his opinion, while each of these has some value, neither of them can replace the relevance of chief good for which humanity should aim. The chief good or the ultimate aim should be self-sufficient and final, and should be attainable. He claims that almost everyone should agree that it is the happiness in then, which meets all the requirements. He further probes that we desire for “money, pleasure, and honor” because we believe that they will give us happiness. Therefore, all other objects of desire are a means towards achieving happiness, and happiness is the end in itself.
According to Aristotle, there are two kinds of virtues; “those that pertain to the part of soul that engages in reasoning; and those that pertain to the part of the soul that cannot itself reason but is nonetheless capable of following reason”. He feels that all humans have the potential to be ethically virtuous, but they need to go through these two stages: they must develop proper habits since childhood, and when their reasoning is fully developed, they should develop practical wisdom.
In his opinion, those suffering from internal disorders fall into three categories. First are those who able to reach a decision about what to do in a particular situation. These people are typically better able to resist the counter-rational pressures than an average person. They generally do what the virtuous person does, but cannot be considered as virtuous. In his words, they are called “continent”. The second categories of persons who are relatively less successful in resisting counter pressures and they are called “incontinent”. The last category is of those who even refuse to try what an ethically virtuous person would like to do.
According to Aristotle, a good person is someone who is good at deliberations, which is a process of rational inquiry. The intermediate point that a good person tries to find is “determined by logos” and in the way that the person of practical reason would determine it”. It would be incorrect to say that such a person sees what to do. Rather, their reasoning is successful in discovering best among many options in a particular situation. Such persons are apt in settling disputes, and are skilled at finding a balance in difficult situations. Advice of such persons is sought and heeded.
According to Aristotle, justice is a balance between “getting or giving too much and getting or giving too little. Similarly, benevolence is considered as striking a balance between giving it to those who don’t deserve and not giving to anyone at all. However, he does not recommend striking a balance all the times. For example, one cannot argue that he should be cruel to the neighbor just because he had nice with him previously. “The mean is a mean between two vices, and not simply a mean between too much and too little”.
According to Aristotle, a concept that is central to friendship is that, a genuine friend is one who loves or likes another person for the sake of that other person. Further, wanting what is good for the sake of another is called goodwill. And friendship is considered to be opposite of goodwill, provided each of them recognizes the presence of this attitude in the other. He quotes, “it is necessary that friends bear good will to each other and wish good things for each other, without this escaping their notice, because of one of the reasons mentioned”.
Attributes of Best Place of Work
Great places of work are built through the day-to-day relationships that employees experience. Various researchers, business leaders, media analysts and the public rely on various metrics to define as a standard what a great workplace would be. A factor that is common to these relationships is trust. Seen from an employee’s perspective a great place of would be one where; they can trust the people they work with; have a feeling of pride in what they do, and enjoy working with their coworkers.
Trust being the key element from the employee’s perspective; it needs to emanate from the management’s credibility. Particularly, the extent to which the employees feel they are treated, and the extent to which they expect to be fairly treated. Trust is generated in an employee by the interplay of fairness, respect, and credibility.
The factors that help achieve organizational objectives includes: inspirations; listening; and speaking. Those that help the employees work together as a team includes: sharing; hiring; and celebrating. Finally, those that facilitate them to give their personal best are; thinking; developing; and caring.
Comparing Aristotle’s Ideas with the Notion of Best Places to Work
In this section, we will be comparing the attributes of the best places to work, from both the employee and leader’s perspective – and comparing them with Aristotle’s ideas of civic relationship.
Employees typical expect fairness from their employers. In that context, the leaders should be virtuous. From that standpoint, it is expected that the managers and leaders are able to demonstrate reasoning, or at least follow reasoning. They should be able to reach a decision about what to do in a particular situation. And in that respect be able to resist counter-rational pressures while try to balance or mean all the employees. In other words, they should show the qualities of a “continent”.
The other quality that the employees expect is respect. Employees get a feeling of respect if they observe justice at their place of work. They expect their leader to strike a balance between giving too much and too little. At the same time, he cautions against misinterpretation. He clarified that this striking of balance does not mean not giving just because you gave the last time.
The last and the most important attribute is credibility. To generate a sense of credibility the leaders should exercise deliberations. A leader is expected to be a good person, which means he is good at deliberations, which is a process of rational inquiry. The intermediate point or a point of balance a good person tries to find determined by logos or logical thinking. Such persons use their reasoning to successfully analyze the best among many options in any particular situation. Against this background, they make logical and credible decisions as far as possible. Their capacity to settle disputes is enhanced by their ability to find a balance in a difficult situation. In additions, their ability to provide fair advice, which is invariably heeded, adds to the atmosphere of credibility.
Talking about the factors that promote organizational objectives, we take up the first factor which is an inspiration. Employees can derive inspiration if they witness fairness at the place of work. To spread the notion of fairness, the leaders should be virtuous. It is expected that the managers and leaders are able to demonstrate reasoning. This will allow them to reach a decision about what to do in a particular situation. Their ability to resist counter-rational pressures will further inspire the employees. Put differently, they should show the qualities of a “continent”.
The next quality, which the employers should look for in employees, is listening. Active listening skills will help make the employees virtuous and contribute positively towards achieving organizational objectives. These listening skills will allow them to resist the counter-rational pressures. They should try to be fit within the parameter of what Aristotle described as “continent”.
Further, to promote the objective of organizational objectives, the employees should build their speaking skills. Active speaking skills will help build their credibility. They will learn how to stand by their words. This will make them good at deliberations, which is a process of rational inquiry. In the process they will try to find a balance, which is determined by logos or logical thinking.
Moving on to attributes that allow the employees to work as a team, we now discuss the role of sharing. Here the Aristotle’s notion of friendship shall find useful application. At workplaces, nobody expects a true friendship in a classic sense. What is required is a general sense of goodwill amongst them. He has described goodwill as wanting good for the sake of another. It is expected that employees recognize this attribute in each other, and respect it. There is absolutely no harm if goodwill goes to the next level, which is friendship. However, they should be cognizant of each other’s attribute.
Next, we move on to the next attribute that allows the employees to work as a team, which is hiring. Here the attributes will be similar to sharing, abet few differences. In attrition to the Aristotle’s notion of friendship, there is also need to be good at deliberations. This quality will allow them to be logical in their approach to hiring new employees. If fact, I would rate it higher over friendship, as while hiring they are looking for good people, and not necessarily friends.
The last attribute that promotes an atmosphere of working together as a family that is celebrating. Here the notions will be very similar to that required for sharing. The celebration of organizational achievements would require preexisting atmosphere of goodwill. In this context, there is no harm if the relationship between any two employees progresses to the level of friendship. In fact, the more such bonds, the greater will be the celebrations.
Finally, coming to the objectives that help employees developing a temperament that promotes giving their best, we take up thinking as the first attribute. The Aristotle’s notion that applies best in this situation is deliberation. A thinking person should be a good person, who is able to do rational thinking. Such a person will be able to strike a balance between conflicting options and indulge in rational thinking. This virtue will enable the employees to be successful in identifying best among many options when the situation demands. These notions will also allow them to adept in settling disputes, which are common in workplaces. They will be at ease at striking a balance in difficult situations. Thinking people are generally looked up to for advice; their advice is generally heeded.
Next the objective to in this context will be developing. In addition to the attributes of deliberation, the person should exhibit the notion of justice. Such person should be benevolent, which means, they are able to strike a balance between giving it too much to those who don’t deserve and not giving to anyone at all. As a word of caution, this striking of balance should be between two co-employees, and not two different situations with the same employees. The latter approach will create inconsistency and adversely affect the credibility.
Lastly, the attributes required to promote caring are very similar to those required to promote working together as a team/family.
Great Place To Work. What is a Great Workplace? n.d. Web. 18 Feb 2014. <http://www.greatplacetowork.com/our-approach/what-is-a-great-workplace>.
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Aristotle's Ethics. 29 Mar 2010. Web. 18 02 2014. <http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aristotle-ethics/#VirDefConInc>.
The Pursuit of Happiness. INTRODUCTION: ARISTOTLE’S DEFINITION OF HAPPINESS. n.d. Web. 18 02 2014. <http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/history-of-happiness/aristotle/>.