What Are Ethics, Theories & Practice?

Ethics, theories and practice are three major components in the study of management.
Ethics, theories and practice are three major components in the study of management. (Image: Patrick Ryan/Lifesize/Getty Images)

Ethics, theories and practice are three major components in the study of management. Ethics guide choices that companies and individuals make. Management theories propose philosophies about how to manage people. In many ways, the three components are related. Practice is the work of management, and ethics and theories provide structured principles from which to work. Whether you are a business major in college or attend training sessions in your organization, ethics, theories and practice make up a major part of what you need to know to be an effective manager.


According to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ethics refers to the ideas of what is right and what is wrong. In management, regulations, laws, and professional codes are part of the dynamic that forms the ethics of an organization. Organizational values, societal values and religious values in faith organizations may guide the formation of ethical standards as well. Some companies write ethical standards into organizational policy, while other standards are unwritten but understood to be part of acceptable behavior in the organization.


Theories refer to concepts about how to manage based on the philosophies of leaders in business related fields and academics who study business developments and ideas. Theories may cover best practices, how to manage employees or how to compete in the marketplace. Economics and political conditions may also influence new theories about managing businesses, such as finding the best ways to deal with change brought by globalization.


The difference between theory and practice is that theory often proposes the ideal way of managing, while practice refers to how managers do things in the real world. Practice also refers to the accepted way of doing things, such as operations and procedures. There may be situations on the job that theory does not cover or is not adequate to address, which is where a strong knowledge of ethics helps managers deal with new situations.

Why Study Ethics, Theory and Practice?

Case studies of real-life circumstances serve as examples and help managers deal with similar situations. Ethics and theory guide practice, but individuals make choices that determine how to carry out today's operations and interactions with people. According to the University of Utah, ethics studies either describe the state of ethics at a given time or propose ethical standards. Ethical guidelines help keep managers and employees on the same page as their organization. Theories help managers form a consistent philosophy of how to manage. Studying a variety of theories also increases understanding of how others in your industry do business.

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