How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying: Ethical Analysis

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying [Motion picture]. (1967). USA: Mirisch Corporation.

how to succeed in business

How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying was directed by David Smith and is based on the 1961 musical that is in turn based on the book by Sheperd Mead. The film is based in 1967 corporate America. J. Pierpont Finch is a window washer who buys the book How To Succeed in Business, and by doing so begins to climb the corporate ladder. The tactics in the book are questionable at best but help him rise to chairman of the board. The core ethical dilemma posed by the film is person gain at the expense of others. The book directs J. Pierpont Finch to lie, steal, and pass blame in order to get ahead of his colleagues. Finch, with the help of this ethically questionable book rises from a window washer to vice president of advertising.

Finch uses many unethical tactics in order to rise through the company. In one part he learns that the president of the company is making advances toward a new employee, Finch quickly uses this information to move up in the corporation. The president’s nephew also tries to use this information to his advantage, however in the end Finch beats him to the job of chairman of the board. Using the secrets of others for personal gain is obviously not something to do in personal or professional life.


Finch uses many more of the unethical advice form the book in order to move up in the company. One of the first things he does is talk his way into working in the mailroom, then from there gains the level of executive. This is unethical because Finch stole the job of someone who was more qualified than him. The company was unethical in this situation as well because they were not just in their promotions. Finch is able to move up faster than anyone else, which is not fair to the other employees of the company. Once Finch gains the position of executive he manipulates more employees to get to the top, including the CEO. Finch fakes his hours and pretends to have been working late into the night when he had not. He fakes pulling all nighters in order to look better. Lying is obviously unethical, especially when doing it for personal gain over someone. Finch can also be seen spying on his colleagues throughout the film, which is an obvious unethical invasion of their privacy.

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