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Ethical Presuppositions of the Army's Professional Slogans

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Journal article

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In every person there is an unremitting tug of war between self-interest and self-fulfillment. Men are not fools. We live and work in groups, and we care about what our colleagues think and expect of us. We also have an opinion of ourselves. How each of us resolves this conflict between survival and achievement is a function of what we expect of ourselves as well as what we think others expect of us. In a chain-of-command organization, pleasing superiors is usually the path of self-interest and survival, while pleasing ourselves is the path of self-fulfillment and mastery. Where these paths begin to diverge is the critical juncture between the system and an officers professional ethic. That behavior which officers think the system will reward is just as important an influence on their decisions as are their personal and professional values. If most officers think the system rewards only acts of self-interest, then acts of self-sacrifice or self-fulfillment will appear to be risky, and thus become rarer. This perception of risk puts a heavy strain on the integrity of the officer corps. Certain recurring slogans, mottoes, and catch-phrases used by respondents on the anecdotal portion of the Army War College Professionalism Study of 1970 highlight the conflict between self-interest and self-fulfillment. Five of the slogans imply a corporative frame of mind Mission First, Take Care of Your Men, Your Command Characterizes You, SNAFU, and Im OK -- Youre OK. Alongside these corporative slogans we find another series of catch-phrases which reflect an egoistic fear of failure, concern for recognition, and preoccupation with how things look to the boss Career Development, Be Competitive, Tickets Punched, and Up or Out. Another three slogans characterize a mind-set toward the chain of command in which role-playing equals performance, appearance equals reality, and anything is appropriate as long as the boss desires it Zero Defects, Dont Rock the Boat, and Can Do.

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  • Psychology
  • Personnel Management and Labor Relations
  • Military Forces and Organizations

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