50 Shades of Business Ethics


I am striving to become a marketing executive. I need to know all things new, hot, and in the public eye to try and determine how to entice the public to buy the next “big thing”. With that justification, I jumped on the bandwagon and read Fifty Shades of Grey… I swear I did it only for the advancement of my professional career.

Anyway, after wishing that E.L. James had a thesaurus to help her explain Grey’s “long fingers,” I determined this was not a novel that should be going down as a “classic” of our day. However, after flipping the pages and reading about the BDSM contract that the two main characters were in the throws of negotiation over, I realized: this is not a smut filled novel – it is a case of business ethics! Is this contract, and what would transpire after the agreement, ethical? I delved back into my notes from my business ethics course to analyze this situation further.*†

Justice Theory – UNETHICAL

Rawls outlines in his theory that what is ethical is what gives the greatest benefit to the least advantaged. With regards to 50 Shades it obviously depends on how we view advantaged and disadvantaged. Grey is getting his sexual kicks and he pretty much has everything else to be desired: wealth, good looks, long fingers, business power…. But, Anastasia is getting a free wardrobe (if she likes it – I assume in the second instillation we get to see if she does or not), a car, a laptop, fancy dinners, trips in a helicopter and a glider, a room in the nicest apartment ever, a pretty good sounding sex life, and I’m sure a ton of other stuff that I have forgotten. She keeps harping on the whole relationship-love thing, but since she didn’t have that in the beginning, I feel we can’t factor that into the Rawlsian picture.

Rawls’ theory also outlines Distributive Justice – how things should be distributed in a just society (wealth, money, power, etc). Based on this idea, I see ethical and unethical portions of The Contract. Ana will be receiving money and objects (distribution of wealth) but she is giving up her sexual power – which it seems Grey has plenty of. We can imagine behind the Veil of Ignorance many risk averse people would not agree to operate under a contract such as that between Ana and Grey. They would be worried they would be the ones experiencing the pain.

Finally, the theory provides us with the Principles of Justice (I am using the Principles prior to some of Rawls’ revisions):

  • Each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive basic liberty compatible with a similar liberty for others. There are five basic liberties: freedom of speech, thought, etc.

Immediately, I see a huge issue. The Contract takes away Ana’s basic rights – no speaking without permission, being told what to wear, and no direct eye contact. Since the rest of the Principles are in lexical order and the first is NOT MET, we can stop here and conclude that under Rawls the contract is not ethical.

Rights Theory – ETHICAL

Nozick describes his what is ethical under his Rights Theory as anything that is free from force or fraud. He does not consider all threats to be force. Force is only physical (or the threat of physical) harm or outright deception. Based on the story we know that although Ana and Grey both threaten to back out of the “relationship” if certain aspects are not met, these threats are not considered “force” by Nozick. Even though there may be “force” that occurs in the “Red Room of Pain,” this pain does not have anything to do with forcing Ana to sign The Contract and would occur only if she agrees. Also, both Grey and Ana are extremely forthcoming in their dealings with The Contract and what they would like added/subtracted.

Therefore, The Contract is ethical under Nozick’s view.

We can even use Nozick’s theory to say that all of the gifts Ana has received from Grey were received in an ethical manner. According to Nozick, “you deserve whatever you have received if force or fraud have not come into effect.”‡ Meaning us ladies all need to find a Grey-type figure to willingly give us things (if we are Nozickians).

Utilitarianism – UNDETERMINED

Under this theory the option that maximizes common good, wins. For Utilitarianism, we will look at the two options Ana and Grey have: to sign, or not to sign.

We would have to employ the Hedonic Calculus that is outlined by Utilitarianism to see which option wins, obviously this would weigh differently for each person:

  • Intensity (of pleasure or pain) – I think we see in the book that even though physical pain may occur once The Contract is signed the mental pain for Ana is stronger when she leaves Grey. Grey obviously has more pleasure if The Contract is signed.
  • Duration (of pleasure or pain) – If The Contract is signed this factor is continually negotiated, if it is not, the pain of loss is forever (man that was sappy).
  • Certainty/Uncertainty (probability of pain/pleasure occurring) – I think here we have a tie. 100% pain will occur if signed and 100% will occur if not.
  • Fecundity (amount of pain/pleasure that will continue to occur) – I think we can say that either way the pain will end. If The Contract is signed and either party doesn’t like it, it can be stopped at any point. If Ana or Grey walk away eventually the hurt will stop.
  • Purity (how pure is the pain/pleasure – not mixed) – I think on both ends it would be mixed, there is pain and pleasure associated with both options.
  • Extent (number of persons being affected) – Immediately, only Grey and Ana are affected. However, I can see Ana’s circle of friends being negatively affected if she signs.

According to the math it seems there is a tie, except with intensity, which seems to lead to the opinion that they should sign, and extent which leads to the opposite conclusion. Ana and her wavering soul would really have to sit and think about this one.

Objectivist Theory – UNETHICAL

Ayn Rand developed the Objectivist Theory. Under this mode of ethical determination it is essential for a person to sit down and ask themselves, “What’s good for ‘me’ in the long run? How can I be rational, use reason, and be the best I can be.”

Rand requires a little more detail than the plot tells us. At this point Ana wants to become the best publishing house intern she can be (really, the girl needs some higher aspirations), Grey wants to basically be the best controller of the universe and end world hunger (now, THERE are some goals). I’m not 100% sure about how a sex contract works into either of these two ambitions. So, if there is the possibility that it could hinder these goals it would be unethical – but Grey has seemed to manage just fine with similar contracts in the past. However, Rand claims that happiness is a by-product of virtue and one of the Three Cardinal Virtues is Pride. To gain and maintain Pride you must act to gain Self-Esteem. To me, through the book it does not seem that Ana gains as much Self-Esteem while experiencing “Red Room of Pain” exploits as she does “Vanilla” exploits. That leads me to believe she could be happier and more ethical if she does not sign The Contract.

Integrative Social Contract Theory – UNETHICAL

To determine ethicalness under ISCT we must determine:

  • Does this violate a hypernorm (the global test)?
  • Does this violate an authentic norm (the regional test)?

Although there is no set way to determine a hypernorm the two that are outlined are:

  • Core Human Rights: including those to personal freedom, physical security and well-being, political participation, informed consent, the ownership of property and the right to substance.
  • The obligation to respect the dignity of each human person.

A norm is authentic if:

  • Compliance is approved.
  • Deviance is disapproved.
  • Almost everyone does it.

If the situation violates either of these norms you stop because the situation is unethical – I think it’s pretty obvious from both a hypernorm and authentic norm analysis that The Contract would be deemed unethical. Unless I’m missing something and these contracts ARE the norm – then I guess I’m abnormal :/

Did I get these right? Do you see the analysis in the same way or differently? Please leave some discussion points below and don’t forget to follow Masters of What (it’s that little button over there on the right hand side)!

*Disclaimer: I have ONLY read 50 Shades of Grey, no further into the series…Don’t be mean and spoil all of the salacious details! Plus I’m sure MORE contract negotiation occurred in the other 2 books.
†Another Disclaimer: I did get an A in my business ethics course but I will not lie and say I 100% understood all of the intricacies in all of the theories, I maintain my right to have interpreted some things wrong – This is a big deal because I NEVER admit I could be wrong 😉
All quotes (and CORRECT knowledge about the subject) are attributed to my fabulous professor of my MGT 722 course: Seminar in Business Ethics and Social Institutions, Dr. Lori J. Ryan. Any INCORRECT information I managed on my own.
My Business Ethics Folder

I still have my Seminar in Business Ethics and Social Institutions folder, and love it. So much hard work was put into this folder.

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How to Win Stuff on Social Media


As a PR practitioner, I have implemented a few social media contests in my day. During these contests you can tell which people are actually fans of your brand and who just goes around trying to win free stuff. I won’t lie, in my personal life, I fall into the latter category. I will whore out likes, comments and retweets all in the hopes of a freebie. My shameless behavior has proven to be profitable though! Here are some of the things I have won:

  • Coachella tickets and shuttle passes ($670 value)*
  • Best of San Diego tickets ($100 value)
  • Movie tickets ($24)
  • MP3 player (that’s right, not an iPod– $40)
  • Lipstick ($8)
  • Tickets to Taste of Hillcrest ($50)
  • Fancy earbuds ($50)
  • In-n-out gift card ($15)
  • Eden gift card ($20)
  • Fancy Christmas ornaments ($50)
  • Bath set ($50)
  • Aztec basketball tickets ($40)
  • Starbucks giftcard ($10)

*Prices are just estimates.

I know it seems like I must spend a ton of time doing this, but I really don’t. Usually I will just enter a contest that I see on Facebook or Twitter when I’m doing my usual scanning. Other times, I’m watching TV and feel like doing something mindless so I actually seek out these contests and “like” brands I’ve never heard of.

Do you like free stuff too? You can do the same thing! On Facebook, you find opportunities by going to the sweepstakes app where you can search for contests based on all sorts of criteria. Some have restrictions based on state or age, so  pay attention to that. On Twitter, you can seek out contests by searching certain hashtags like #contest or #giveaway or the phrase “RT to win”. The problem with Twitter contests, however, is that you can piss off your followers and look really spammy if you RT too many promos. I tend to only enter one if it comes up on my feed and is from a reputable company.

As you can see, most of my prizes are fairly small. That’s because far fewer people enter giveaways for smaller prizes – it’s all a game of stats. Another tip is to enter local contests rather than national ones, again the pool of entrants is usually much smaller making it more likely for me to win! If I measured my ROI on contests, I think I’d come up on top.

PR is Math


We’ve all heard it at least once, “I got into PR because I suck at math”. Sorry, but if you suck at math or don’t like math, you probably aren’t going to get very far in your PR career. There, I said it. Now stop making the rest of us look bad.

You can be a great communicator and have creative ideas, but unless you can show your organization or client the impact of your efforts through research and evaluation, they will have no reason to keep you around. Research means measurement and measurement means math. You have to be able to understand statistics to show your client their ROI.

So, now that we agree that you need to at least tolerate math if you want to be a successful PR practitioner, what about those who love math (yes, we’re out there)? You know, the few of us who get giddy over statistics. Well, one option is academia. There will always be a need for passionate PR professors who give back to the field through research and education. But, that’s not the only option for math lovers.

Somewhere between traditional practitioners (media relations, community relations, etc.) and academia is the world of applied research. This is a world that I will explore this summer in Ann Arbor, Michigan at PRIME Research as part of a research fellowship I was rewarded. PRIME’s services include advanced media analytics and stakeholder surveys to aid in planning and evaluation.

PRIME is not the only agency out there that values research. If you love stats and PR, but aren’t sure about teaching, a career in applied research may be something to explore. I suggest checking out the Institute for Public Relations to learn more about the research side of PR. Are you now drooling over these possibilities? If so, get back to analyzing some data on SPSS!

What to do When Your Friend Gets YOUR Dream Job


Yup, that just happened. Even if it’s not your EXACT dream job, it seems like it. They just signed on for a full time gig: salary, benefits, cubicle, coffeemaker in the kitchen, all that grown-up job-y stuff.

What do you do? In one way you’re happy for them, “Yeah, they’re my friend… Good for them… The economy must be picking up, I’ll get a job in no time… This means I’ll get better Christmas presents…” (obviously my mind wanders, my train of thought is often exhaustingly annoying). But, on the other hand, that little devil on your shoulder is screaming, “WHY NOT ME!!!!” Often, you have gone through school with these people, attended the same networking events, applied for the same positions, and all you can think is, “Aren’t I just as good?”

Instead of giving you all the obligatory, encouraging “your day will come” statements, I plan on giving you some advice you can actually use. You have to keep in mind that although they have started a bit ahead of you, they are still your peer and you may need to call on their help and connections one day, so you must keep the relationship a good one.

Generally, I have discovered that a hearty congratulations will usually suffice in this situation, but how you look when you hear their exciting news is what it really comes down to. It’s all about how you control your facial expressions.

Acceptable “Happy” Faces:

Masters of What - Happy.jpg

A pained face of happiness is ok, as long as you can hold it.

Masters of What - Actual Happy.jpg

Try for a truly happy face – this is the hardest but most fail-safe method.

Stay Away From These:

Masters of What - Disgust.jpg

Don’t do this face – I mean look at it, it’s hideous.

Masters of What - Eye Roll.jpg

I love a good eye roll as much as the next gal but this will not keep your contacts intact.

Masters of What - Cry.jpg

DON’T CRY! Hold it in, whatever you do, hold it in until you get in your car/home.

If you keep your face plastered in one of the first category expressions, you’ll probably make it out of the situation with most of your dignity intact. Immediately following the interaction you need to calm yourself down and get back to basics, this usually will require either a beer or glass of wine. However, I highly encourage you to politely decline to grab celebratory drinks with this person, lest you embark upon an alcohol-infused evening of explaining to all the patrons of the bar that someday you will make it too.

A Recap of Social Media Day San Diego


Cities around the world celebrated Social Media Day with meetups this past Saturday. Social Media Day aims to bring the online community together offline and celebrate, “the revolution of media becoming a social dialogue,” at least according the San Diego chapter website.

The Masters enjoying Social Media Day with Young-Professional-Friend-Sarah

The coolest thing about Social Media Day (and the deciding factor as to why The Masters decided to attend) is that the event is FREE. It’s not everyday that you get to attend a cool networking event for free, and have amazing free swag dangled in your face (take a look at the fun sponsors the SD event had here). With the free entrance, the swag bags offered to the first 100 entrants, free prizes being announced all night, and free tasty treats, we were sold!

We got to the event just minutes after it started, but unfortunately, the swag bags had already been snatched up. I guess that is the downside to a free event open to the public. It was even rumored that hotel employees snatched them up – oh the drama us social media types can create! However, we didn’t totally miss out on the freebies.

Best free stuff we got? Food and booze. Yup, that’s right, free drinks. In addition to the free wine tastings and Magners Irish Cider samples, we were hooked up with an incredibly strong vodka drink from Cirrus. We got it just because we were fascinated with their pretty ice orbs that aren’t supped to melt (or at least melt very slowly). The ice balls were very cool-looking (pun intended), but they melted just like their lowly cube cousins.

Overall, it was great to meet some new people, especially the ones we already have some sort of relationship with online. “So great to finally meet you in person” was probably the phrase of the night. We also got to hang out with some of the cool peeps from NBC San Diego, such as our good friend and web producer, Sarah Grieco (center of photos). Just to put a little frosting on this networking cake we each received some new Twitter followers so we were content!