Managers and the Ethical Dilemmas
This essay will examine thoroughly whether the guidance of ethics theories is sufficient to enable managers to deal with the ethical dilemmas that occur daily in any workplace. Starting with the definition of ethics, along the way it will analyze the different theories such as consequentialist theories, deontological, virtue ethics and models that are available, how they have been formed and the way that these can help. Simultaneously it will mention other influences that exist there. In addition, reference will be made to the decision-making process for the factors influencing that and at the different stages. Another topics that will be explored in detail are ethical issues and problems encountered by the companies, which over the years differ due to the fact that they change the data, such as the development of new technologies(Velasquez, 2014), financial crises and others which require a wider approach to business ethics(Google Books, 2018). Ethical as a definition is the rules and patterns of behavior that govern a person or a group (Trevino and Nelson, 2011).
Another approach by Andrew Crane and Dirk Matten deals with the “study of morality and the application of reason to elucidate specific rules and principles that determine morally acceptable courses of action”. Manuel G.Velasquez perceives it as “an examination of moral standards of a person or a society in order to evaluate their logic and their impact on one’s life”. On the other hand business ethics is ” a specialized study of what is right and wrong which focuses on business institutions and activities as applied to the social system and organizations through which modern societies produce goods and they also distribute services to the activities of people working in their organizations”(Velasquez, 2014). Finally, the term moral dilemma identifies a situation in which two or more values collide ( Trevino and Nelson, 2011). From large corporations to small businesses individuals and businesses have to manage a wide range of ethical issues. New technologies and cultural differences creates new ethical issues (Velasquez, 2014.) According to Trevino and Nelson the common ethical problems are human resource issues, conflicts of interest, customer confidence issues and use of corporate resources. J. W Weiss separates ethical and moral issues in five levels:
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From his point of view angle the changing workforce creates issues and impacts like ” age discrimination, sexual harassment, health care provisions, educational challenges and paradigm shift toward a new work life model”. Therefore managers take on their difficult role in solving a complex spectrum of moral problems and dilemmas and making ethical decisions that can be extremely difficult due to concurrent existence of conflicting values. According to “bad apple theory” as mentioned by Trevino and Nelson, people are bad or good and companies are impotent to change them. Bad work environment can affect employees and transformed them into bad, so only special training can prepare them to identify ethical dilemmas and not the character. Besides “employees are attracted and committed to ethical organizations (Trevino and Nelson, 2011). In order to achieve managers an ethical decision they are assisted by various theories and models, which will be followed by a detailed analysis. Initially starting from the philosophical theories that are categorized in Consequentialist, Deontological and virtue ethics will be referenced to each separately and to the main characteristics of each. Consequentialist as a general term pay particular attention on the implications of the results of the decision (teleological) (Trevino and Nelson, 2011) and supports that ” an action is morally right if it results in the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people affected by the action” (utilitarianism) (Crane and Matten, 2016). Then another theory that “have been traditionally applied to business ethics are non-consequentialist” which are divided in ethics of duty and ethics of right and justice.
The first one is based on what is correct accordance to the principles of morality and has the roots from the Greek word “deon” that means duty.On the other hand the second type concentrate more on the rights as the Greek Natural rights derivering from the the natural law rather than the principles and duties (Trevino and Nelson, 2011). Nevertheless in order to define which rule is appropriate for someone to follow, it is enough to refer either to the biblical tradition with the Golden Rule or to the German philosopher according to which if the logic of your action can turn into a global law that everyone will follow, then it is the right one (Trevino and Nelson, 2011). However, there are some core problems that are identified in the above-mentioned theories. For instance in ethics of duty, Kant’s theory is presented enough optimistic due to his opinion of “man as a rational actor who acts consequently according to self-impossed duties seems more of an ideal than a reality with regard to business actors” (Crane and Matten, 2016). Furthermore undervaluing outcomes and complexity are considered as problems as well, due to the results of one’s actions are estimated very little and Kant’s “categorical imperative can be quite complicates to apply” (Crane and Matten, 2016).As concerns utilitarianism the main problems are:
- problems of quantification,
- distribution of utility (Crane and Matten, 2016).
Another ethical approaches that have emerged and developed in recent years are worth mentioning as alternative prospects are that based on character and integrity (virtue ethics), on relationships an responsibility (feminist ethics), on procedures of norm generation (discourse ethics) and on empathy and moral impulse (postmodern ethics) (Crane and Matten, 2016).Virtue ethics concentrate more in the integrity of the moral individual who aims to be a good person and create with other similar people an enterprise in which the moral conquest will prevail (Trevino and Nelson, 2011). Feministic supports that ” healthy social relationships and avoidance of harm above abstract moral principles”. Discourse mainly intends to solve ethical conflicts and postmodern identifies ethics beyond the sphere of reasonability in an emotional moral impetus to others (Crane and Matten, 2016). In ethical decision-making process as Trevino and Nelson states “the first step is ethical awareness which defines to be able to understand that it is an ethical issue and can think of it morally, in ethical terms. Having identify the issue as ethical the next step towards is ethical judgment and the last one is ethical action. Trevino and Nelson also mention eight steps which can help in ethical decision making in business:
- Gather the facts,
- Define the Ethical Issues,
- Identify the affected parties,
- Identify the consequences,
- Identify the Obligations,
- Consider your character and integrity,
- Think creatively about potential actions,
- Check your gut.
In the process of good ethical judgment it is possible to be mentioned some obstacles. Thinking about fact gathering might be confusing as the individual could not see the right one. Thinking about consequences the person might take into account a reduced number of consequences or for the self-versus consequences for others. Additionally due to people having the illusion of control they undervalue risks (consequences as risk) and since decisions usually come from a variety of choices which are included by a grand decision people fail to think about consequences (consequences over time). Another barrier is the conviction of people that are the most moral and legitimate so thinking about integrity is incomplete. Thinking about your gut as a counseling may also be wrong because moral psychology come up with the conclusion that moral judgment is more incentive and automatic (Trevino and Nelson, 2011). Ethical decision-making models generally distinguish factors influencing decisions in two categories, the individual and the situational (Google Books, 2018). The first ones includes factors by birth experience, socialization and attitudes like age and gender, national and cultural characteristics, education and employment, cognitive moral development, locus of control, personal values, personal integrity and moral imagination. It is obvious that theories may be helpful to managers, however they are elliptical as they are more theoretical and not practical in the efficient operation of enterprises. In addition there is a limitation on the choice of ethics, they are impersonal ( Gilligan, 1982) as they are based on abstract principles, are very reasonable and encoded. Finally they are ” too imperialist” since they consider Western theories to be the most appropriate (Crane and Matten, 2016).