Associate Professor of Business Administration, Marvin Bower Fellow
Nien-hê Hsieh is an associate professor of business administration and a Marvin Bower Fellow in the General Management Unit. His research concerns ethical issues in business and the responsibilities of global business leaders. Professor Hsieh teaches Leadership and Corporate Accountability to first-year MBA students and to Executive Education participants in the Program for Leadership Development. He joined the faculty from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, where he was an associate professor of legal studies and business ethics and served as co-director of the Wharton Ethics Program.
Professor Hsieh’s research centers on the question of whether and how managers ought to be guided not only by considerations of economic efficiency, but also by values such as freedom and fairness and respect for basic rights. He has pursued this question in a variety of contexts, including the employment relationship and the operation of multinational enterprises in developing economies. Professor Hsieh also studies foundational aspects of this question, examining principles for rational decision making when choices involve multiple values that appear incomparable. In his current work, he focuses on institutional dimensions of this question. In this research, he investigates standards managers should follow even if not required by legal and public institutions, and how managers should respond when existing institutions make it difficult to meet these standards.
Professor Hsieh's work has been published in Business Ethics Quarterly, Economics and Philosophy, The Journal of Political Philosophy, Philosophy and Public Affairs, Social Theory and Practice, Utilitas, and various other journals. He serves on the editorial board of Business Ethics Quarterly and the executive board of the Society for Business Ethics.
Professor Hsieh holds a B.A. in Economics from Swarthmore College, an M.Phil. in Politics from Oxford University, and a Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard University. Before joining the faculty at Wharton in 2001, he was a Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard Business School, and he has held visiting fellowships at Harvard University, Oxford University, and the Research School for Social Sciences at the Australian National University.
Professor Hsieh’s research concerns ethical issues in business and the responsibilities of global business leaders. His work centers on the question of whether and how managers ought to be guided not only by considerations of economic efficiency, but also by values such as fairness and freedom and respect for basic rights. He has pursued this question in a variety of contexts, including the employment relationship and the operation of multinational enterprises in developing economies. He also studies foundational aspects of this question, examining principles for rational decision making when choices involve multiple values that appear incomparable.
Multinational Enterprises and Corporate Responsibility
Multinational enterprises, especially those operating in developing economies, face wide-ranging demands to help persons whose basic needs are unmet. Pharmaceutical companies, for example, are asked to provide access to life-saving therapies to patients in countries whose health-care systems do not provide for them, and apparel companies are pressured to require their suppliers to pay above-market wages to their workers.
In much of the debate, the answer to the question of whether managers have a responsibility to help meet these needs has turned on views about the nature and purpose of the for-profit corporation. To advance the conversation, Professor Hsieh addresses the question of responsibility in a manner consistent with a range of views about the corporation and without having to settle longstanding debates about such matters as shareholder primacy. The approach he takes is to start with widely accepted standards of minimally required conduct, such as a duty not to harm, and to examine what such standards require for the decisions of managers.
Managers and Employees: Justice at Work
The employment relationship represents another significant area for managerial decision making. While much of what managers and employees owe one another depends upon mutual agreement, not all of the terms can be specified in advance. Given these conditions, what are the responsibilities of managers? Professor Hsieh pursues this question by extending the influential work of Harvard political philosopher John Rawls. Professor Hsieh concludes that on the issue of managerial discretion, Rawls’s theory of justice is far more demanding than previously recognized. In his research, Professor Hsieh explores the implications for managerial responsibility as well as for the organization of work and economic institutions.
Incommensurable Values and Rational Decision Making
Rational decision making is widely thought to require comparing alternatives with respect to a single measure of value. Accordingly, asking managers to consider values in addition to economic efficiency has been criticized on the grounds that doing so violates the requirements of rationality. In this more foundational area of his research, Professor Hsieh examines possible responses to this criticism. One response is to recognize that seemingly incomparable alternatives are in fact comparable. Another response is to reconsider the role that comparisons play in rational decision making. A third response is to acknowledge that what appear to be considerations of economic efficiency may in fact reflect other values instead, such as equality or fairness.