gekko.jpgGreg Smith, the former Goldman Sachs executive who caused an uproar earlier this year with his opinion piece in the New York Times exposing the corruption and greed that’s rampant on Wall Street, is about to debut his new book: “Why I Left Goldman Sachs: A Wall Street Story.”

Surely Smith will regale us with more in depth explanations of the sickening stories he shared in his oped:

It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off. Over the last 12 months I have seen five different managing directors refer to their own clients as “muppets,” sometimes over internal e-mail.

This disregard for others in the name of money isn’t only the domain of Wall Streeters.

If you’ve been paying attention to the news lately you’ve probably heard about the tainted steriod injections that have killed 19 and sickened many others.

The problems aren’t only an issue for a lone lax pharmacy that produced the injections. A story in the New York Times today points to rampant violations at drug factories around the country. The first paragraph of the story will make you sick to your stomach:

Weevils floating in vials of heparin. Morphine cartridges that contain up to twice the labeled dose. Manufacturing plants with rusty tools, mold in production areas and — in one memorable case — a barrel of urine.

How does this happen? Clearly, someone, or a group of someones, decides to cut corners all for the good of the bottom line, and it turns out we may be teaching the idea that “greed is good” to students studying economics.

A study conducted by researchers at Northwestern and Harvard found that:

…economics education is consistently associated with positive attitudes towards greed, even after controlling for gender effects…

They also found:

Although greed is one of the seven cardinal sins, and possibly the mother of them all, regarding the arguments that discuss the benefits of self-interest seems to encourage people to see it more positively.

And finally:

Our findings clarify and extend earlier findings by suggesting that the study of economics may not only promote self-interest, or behavior that is consistent with the predictions of standard economic models, but may also (unintentionally) encourage greed.

Given this reality, how can we expect executives and managers operating organizations to make sure their products are safe, and also, how can we expect them to pay workers a fair wage and treat them fairly when it comes to working conditions, or providing opportunities to have more flexibility in their jobs?

In my new job as communications director for the Families and Work Institute, I have seen many corporate managers passionate about employees and seriously wanting to help them have better work and family lives.

But lately it seems greed has intensified in a host of industries. Deadly injections. Wall Street corruption. iPad sweat shops.

Could it be we’re educating generations of business leaders to be greedier?

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