The Ajax Dilemma: Justice, Fairness, and Rewards


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More filters. Sort order. Mar 03, Anthony Buckley rated it it was amazing Shelves: philosophy , useful.

Meet a Game Changer: Paul Woodruff

According to the story, the armour of the recently killed Achilles is to be given as a reward to the best soldier in the Greek army besieging Troy. So, it is he who wins the contest. His friend, the dependable, courageous, taciturn giant, Ajax, feels he has been dishonoured. While Ajax can be replaced, albeit by four other men, Odysseus cannot be replaced.

Ajax, thefore, goes off on a murderous rampage that threatens the lives of his king and colleagues. When Ajax cools off, he kills himself in shame, both because he was denied the prize and because he disgraced himself by behaving badly. Woodruff uses this tale to explore the nature of justice, rewards and leadership. Cooperation and conflict often coexist. In a competive game, for example, competitors must at first cooperate to create the game. Even in warfare, there is often secret discussion between enemies, and opponents will tacitly refrain from all-out conflict, restricting the means to be used in fighting.


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So too, conversely, cooperation between teammates is often riven with rivalry and competition. This book deals specifically with the competition found between team members. Can one outstanding individual be given an appropriate reward without offending other worthy individuals and tearing their team apart?


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  4. Woodruff sees justice as the essential means to maintaining unity in an army, a company or in any community. Justice is founded in wisdom, leadership and compassion. It arises through dialogue and through the discovery of shared goals. Fairness, in contrast, is the application of pre-conceived algorithms to human situations. A central issue here is the imcommensurability of different kinds of work. In the last resort, two people act differently, exercising qualitatively different abilities.

    Sometimes, as in a competition such as boxing, one can indeed decide whether a wiley Odysseus is a better boxer than a slugger like Ajax. In a team, however, one needs both the qualities of an Odysseus and those of an Ajax, and there is no satisfactory measure to judge one set of qualities as more important than another. Nor can one award the prize to Ajax out of mere pity, claims Woodruff, for pity is always insulting. Rather, one must find a way to exercise genuine compassion towards potential rivals, finding a way to grant rewards in a manner that a rival can accept without suffering dishonour.

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    The book concludes by asking how Agamemnon, the king, might have acted differently, and with true leadership, using thoughful compassion to avoid offending both Odysseus and Ajax. I feel, however, that it fails to have a satisfactory answer. In the final analysis, it seems Agememnon is being condemned for not flying by the seat of his pants. More than this, like the man who asks the way to Tipperary, Woodruff seems to be saying that Agamemnon should not have started from here. This is an intelligent, thought-provoking book.

    Of course, one looks for wisdom, compassion, a sense of justice and good leadership in all people, and not least in those who have authority. Nevertheless, clearly defined rewards and punishments, clear targets, algorims, principles — even boring old management — all have their place both in ancient armies and in the modern corporations that also haunt this book. St Paul once differentiated between the letter of the law and its spirit, and there is more than an echo of this distinction here.

    In arguing for justice but not fairness, compassion but not pity, thoughtfulness but not principles, and for other high ideals and not their lowly doubles, Woodruff is invites us to live too much by the spirit. It is useful to have a corrective to an uninspired management swimming in an audit culture. All the same, it is also useful sometimes to rely on the letter of the law.

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    Aug 28, Ryan rated it liked it. Second time - June 18, Second time.


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    Makes a case for particularism vs. First time - Aug 28 - Sep 9, An interesting perspective on, as the subtitle says, justice, fairness, and rewards. I don't agree with everything in here, and the author sometimes walks away from arguments half-made, but he will certainly make you think. Recommended for anyone in a leadership position, particularly military officers. The Navy's system of incentives and rewards - and I suspect the other services' - tends very much toward fairness at the expense of justice, so much so that I found myself realizing that it was built into my thinking as an assumption rather than as a conscious choice.

    To be honest, this goes beyond just our ranking and awards systems. Perhaps the submarine force is worse than other communities, but we tend towards process-driven approaches to problems; we tend to give "leaders" managers the answers in advance in an attempt to reduce "leadership" management to a rule-based procedure, both because that's more conservative and poses less risk of catastrophic failure and probably because it suits the engineering-oriented average submarine officer. I could go on at more length about this, but that's not really the point of a review.

    Point is: this book is likely to make you think generally about the way your organization does business and specifically about whether you and other leaders are really exercising leadership at all. Paul Woodruff is a philosopher and this Dutch translation of his book starts with a foreword by another philosopher. Too much terms and words too complicated for a book like this one. Read the full review at my blog. Aug 09, Michiel Mennen rated it it was amazing.

    Very inspiring and insightful.

    Download The Ajax Dilemma Justice Fairness And Rewards

    The buildup is well done from the mythology to general discourse to specific guidelines for good just leadership. Food for thought. They express the values of a community. Strength or intelligence? Loyalty or inventiveness? One reason Agamemnon fails so badly here, Mr. Woodruff argues, is that he displays little or no compassion for the shame and dishonor Ajax feels in not winning the armor.

    This might make a terrific companion book. The word "justice" is thrown around so loosely these days, and is often used as a synonym for revenge. Mar 11, Allan Elder rated it it was amazing Shelves: organizational-justice. I have a lot of books on justice and this one is unique. My specialty in this area is organizational justice and this book adds new dimensions to consider.

    One thing the author carefully does is to provide very clear distinctions between justice and fairness. If you are a Rawls fan, this will be an eye opener for you. You may not agree with his analysis, but you can't deny its plausibility. What makes the book fun is his rendition of the battle of Troy and the decision about who should receive t I have a lot of books on justice and this one is unique. What makes the book fun is his rendition of the battle of Troy and the decision about who should receive the armor of Achilles - Odysseus or Ajax?

    He carefully outlines the story, provides distinctions between the characters, explores the decision from the perspective of both fairness and justice, and explains his conclusions. Don't worry, the book constantly relates the relevance of the decision back to real life and business. Jun 22, Blair rated it it was amazing. Just enter the department, course number and section optional. Example: ACCO Enter in your Concordia student ID to get your personalized booklist for all of the courses you are registered for.

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    Justice, Fairness, and Rewards

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    The Ajax Dilemma: Justice, Fairness, and Rewards The Ajax Dilemma: Justice, Fairness, and Rewards
    The Ajax Dilemma: Justice, Fairness, and Rewards The Ajax Dilemma: Justice, Fairness, and Rewards
    The Ajax Dilemma: Justice, Fairness, and Rewards The Ajax Dilemma: Justice, Fairness, and Rewards
    The Ajax Dilemma: Justice, Fairness, and Rewards The Ajax Dilemma: Justice, Fairness, and Rewards

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