Ethical Decision-Making

Ethical Decision-Making


Chapter 5 is about ethical decision making. In this chapter, there will only be 3 benchmark
items but I don’t want you to get the feeling therefor it’s not an important chapter because
it’s probably the most important chapter in the book. So in terms of the three items in the ethical
decision making what really matters is that you train your employees how to think through
ethical dilemmas and that’s what this chapter highlights. Benchmark item number 15 –
Ethics is an important consideration in our decision making process. That’s pretty straightforward. Let’s say your company has an opportunity
to sell a product that’s faulty but you’re the only one that knows that or a small group
in your organization is the one only that knows that. Meanwhile, the price for your product is extremely
high. Should you sell it or not? This question is just asking straightforward
– “Are you only focusing on profitability and
the revenue or are you also considering ethics when making these types of decisions at work?” The same way in terms of hiring employees
or determining your suppliers, are you taking ethics into consideration when you are looking
for a supplier to use or are you only looking at the bottom line number and it turns out
that the supplier you’re using is racist or sexist or really creates a lot of damage to
the environment. Employees all know when ethics matters and
when it doesn’t matter. So if you think that the employees don’t realize
when you make a decision only based upon financial considerations and not ethics, you’re not
getting away with that because that sets a message throughout the entire organizational
culture that ethics really doesn’t matter. So you want to be real clear that ethics does
matter and when you make decisions like this, you want to tell the employees here’s how
ethics applied in this particular situation, just to reinforce in their minds, that you
do consider ethics when you make your decisions within the organization. Benchmark number 16 –
Employees are trained to use an ethical decision making framework to help them derive moral
answers when issues arise. So this is probably the most complicated benchmark
to explain, in terms of what to do with your employees. You want to take some time with all your employees
to say “Here’s how we make ethical decisions in this
organization.” Every now and then, when Edgewood hires a
new faculty member, I’m assigned to them as a mentor and what I’ll do with them as a mentor
is I’ll give them a couple of ethical dilemmas and I’ll ask them how do they think through
these dilemmas and apply ethics in their decision making process. And then I’ll help them step through how I
make a decision. Let’s say you if catch a student cheating
on an exam or let’s say you catch an employee, cheating in terms of misusing company assets
and being abusive. How do you work through those dilemmas? You want to be able to train your employees
so that they don’t have to come running to you to figure out what the right thing to
do is but they can determine it by themselves. Once again, they can also go to the code of
ethics but code of ethics are very general and can, at sometimes, be a little bit ambiguous. So instead, you want to make sure that your
employees can really, really think through an ethical dilemma. The big question, then, is how do you think
through an ethical dilemma? And the substantial amount of the chapter
deals with training people to do that. In real life, when an ethical dilemma happens,
let’s say I find another employee taking credit for the work of somebody else’s performance,
I respond with my gut. And my gut might say “that is totally unacceptable
and I’m not going let the employee get away with that.” But let’s say that the employee is my boss.
And let’s say that my boss does this at a big meeting with other bosses. Do I engage
my boss at that time and say “hey, you’re taking credit for my work” or do I wait until
later on in a less contentious situation and tell my boss “by the way, it seems as though
you’re taking all that credit and I’m the one who did all that work and you didn’t mention
it, that I was the one who did the work.” So the ethical dilemma framework helps employees
to think through how best to handle contentious situations like this. So we got out of gut reaction, but the ethical
framework says let’s really, really think through how, what the right thing to do in
this particular situation. The first step in this framework is egoism. Egoism says how does this action affect me
and my life? Does it make my life better, then it’s the
right thing to do. Does it make my life worse, then it’s the
wrong thing to do. And that’s how an egoist looks at the world. If it makes them richer, if it makes their
work easier, then that’s what their going to do. It is okay to be an egoists. We’re all born
egoists. As children, all we think about is feed me,
feed me, feed me, love me, love me, love me, care for me, care for me, care for me. And that’s normal. That goes back to chapter
1 in terms of human nature. We’re all born self interested and we always
think about ourselves first. However, if you don’t change or evolve when
you become an adult, it’s very annoying to be around with people who are always an egoists,
and they’re always thinking about themselves. So you want people to expand their conscience
and that’s what the ethical decision making framework does. So it begins off with egoism and the next
step in the process is social group relativism. Social group relativism says where all members
of a group, we all have have friends. If I’m a manager, I hangout with other managers. If I’m a laborer or a union work, I hangout
with other union workers. Right or wrong for social group relativists,
is whatever my social group says it’s right or if it’s wrong. So if the managers says it’s okay to pollute
the environment, then it’s okay to pollute the environment. If managers say it’s not okay to to pollute
the environment, then it’s not okay to do that. That’s how a social group relativist thinks. As a manager, social group relativist says
“I want to be an excellent manager, as this this organization defines excellence.” So you do what other managers would do. If you’re an union worker, you do whatever
the union tells you to do. And sometimes it might be great advice and
sometimes it may not be great advice. But as a social group relativist, you don’t
want rock the boat of your social group because you don’t want to alienate your friends. So once again, you brought in your conscience
because your not thinking just about yourself, you’re thinking about your social group. But in terms of moral philosophy, you’re still
at a pretty low level. As might gather by now, I’m covering the entire
history of moral philosophy in about a couple of minutes here, so I to ask for some latitude
in explaining these ethical theories as we evolve. After social group relativist, the next higher
level is cultural relativist. A cultural relativist says “something is right
or wrong based upon the laws of the culture that I am a member of.” So if the law says I shouldn’t do gratuities
or accept gratuities more than $25, the right thing to do is not accept the gratuity more
than $25. It’s no questions about that. That’s if your
a cultural relativist. Cultural relativists are concerned about the
laws that are created in the land. If you look at federal laws and regulations,
how do they come about? Typically, what they’ll do is to say that
all laws apply to everybody, no matter if you’re a liberal or conservative, if you’re
rich or you’re poor, this is the law of the land and therefore it is fair. And that’s
how laws are created. In terms of cultural relativists, what matters
then is what the law says. So you might be at a meeting, let’s say the
organization is wondering wether or not they should take a toxic chemical and bury it somewhere
without the EPA knowing about it. If you’re a cultural relativist at this meeting,
you slam your fist at them, you say “that is wrong because it violates the law.” And that’s better than what a social group
might think or what you might think is in your own interest because your expanding your
conscience, because you’re respecting what the laws says. Philosophers, though, want you to go beyond
the law because why is the law the law? The law is the law because that’s what utilitarians,
deontologists, and virtue ethicist say is the right thing to do. So we’re going to take you through each of
those stages in determining, using ethical decision making framework. A utilitarian says that right thing to do
is that which has the greatest benefit. And the wrong thing to do is that creates
the greatest harm. So as a utilitarian, you’re looking at a situation,
you’re doing costs and benefits, and you want to make sure that the benefits outweigh the
costs. Democracy is very utilitarian. An issue comes
up, what’s the right thing to do? And this might happen in a manager meeting. Somebody says “let’s take a vote on this.
I’m tired of arguing about it.” So you do a vote and you do whatever the majority
says is the right thing to do. That’s being a good utilitarian. Utilitarians care about the well being of
the organization because they want to make the organization operate efficiently and effectively
for the sake of the owners and the shareholders and all of its members. So as a good utilitarian, you’re always trying
to do whatever it is does the greatest good. And you hope that the laws then reflects that. And if the law does not reflect the greatest
good, a lot of times we’ll then change the law so that it does. So once again now, a utilitarian has brought
in his or her conscienceness beyond the law and their understanding why that the law is
the way the law is. Deontology is the next step higher, in terms
of ethical theory. A denotologist says “I have to respect every
stakeholder in this situation.” As you mentioned early in a previous chapter,
respecting all stakeholders all the time is very difficult because sometimes they have
competing interests. Sometimes, when you respect customers, you
have to ask employees to sacrifice. And the employees will say that’s not fair
and that’s not right. But you have to reach this balance as a manager. So as a good deontologist, you want to make
sure that nobody is hurt in the process. Under utilitarianism, it’s okay to harm a
minority. Under deontology, you cannot harm a minority unless the minority says it’s ok,
you have their permission. So denotologist says you have respect everyone. Denotology says that you should never ever
lie. You should never ever steal. Utilitarianism will occasionally allow lying
if it’s for the greatest good. Maybe it’s going to save the organization
and it’s okay. But if you’re a denotologist, that one little
lie bothers you and you know that sometimes one small lie will lead to bigger lies in
the future. So the deontologist will say “you should never
ever lie to a client. You should never lie to a customer. You should lie to the employees. You must
always, always tell the truth.” The highest level is virtual ethics. At virtue ethics, you want to be able to say
that “you’re going to make a decision that a person of high moral character would do. In this case, you think of yourself as a saint.
What would Ghandi do? What would Jesus do? What would Mohamed do? So you have a vision of this person of extreme,
high moral character and you want to embody that character in all the decisions that you
make. So that’s what you consider are virtue ethics. And once again you want to step yourself each
of these questions in determining what is right or what is wrong. I just reviewed for you the 6 ethical theories
that moral philosophers highlight in terms of we arrive at moral conclusion. The chapter has a particular framework to
use that is easy to adapt when you face an ethical dilemma. Now I’m just going to step you through the
7 questions of how to use it. Because it’s essential once again, once you
have this down dealing with ethical dilemmas become a lot easier and giving yourself confidence
that you’re making an ethical decision. Question 1 – Who are the people affected by
the action? So let’s say your organization is thinking
about selling a faulty product. Who’s going to be affected by that? Clearly customers are a major factor in this
particular situation that takes prominence over a lot of other people. They say they might be hurt by using a faulty
product or this might hurt their own product process. So you just want to be clear who are all the
stakeholders in particular situation that you need to consider? Question 2 – Is the action beneficial to me? That’s egoism. And that’s important to know. Am I going to lose my job over this? Am I
going to get promoted over this? These are important just to know, in terms
of reaching your conclusion. Item number 3, question number 3 – Is the action supported by social group? If I’m a manager, how would a good manager
decide this particular situation? You want to have that in your mindset. Question number 4 for you to answer – Is the actions supported by national laws? Is this faulty product illegal? Because if
so, you’re opening yourself up to huge lawsuits. Or is it something that’s minor and marginal? And it might be expected. Often times, we
buy computer products with bugs. So sometimes, clients will allow some mistakes
in products. But you want to make sure that the client
knows about the mistake in advanced, so their fully informed and you’re being transparent. Question number 5 – Is the action for the greatest good of the
greatest number of people affected by it? So that’s a utilitarianism question. What are the greatest benefits in this particular
situation? Question 6 – Does the action treat every stakeholder with
respect and dignity and is the act something that everyone should do? Deontology saying “if it’s okay for me to
do it, it’s okay for everybody in the world to do it.” And those are often as red flags as you soon
as you say “well it’s okay for me but I wouldn’t want anybody else to do it.” Deontology is often used as “do onto others
as you want done to you.” So it’s something that a universal citizen
would do all the time. And then question number 7 – Is this how a virtuous person would act? On the case of faulty product, it’s clear
that that’s not what Ghandi would do, and that’s not what Jesus would do and that’s
not what Mohamed would do. Because it takes away from your spirit and
it takes away from the kind of person we are trying to evolve into doing. So you answer all those 7 questions – Who where the stake holders in each of the
ethical theories? If questions 2 through 7 all say something
is right, that’s a no brainer, it’s the righter thing to do. If questions 2 through 7 all say that it’s
wrong, it’s a no brainer, it’s the wrong thing to do. The most interesting ethical dilemmas is when
these questions disagree with one another. How do you balance these questions? For philosophers, virtue ethics, deontology
and utilitarianism are the most powerful ethical theories. So if they say something is right, but egoism
says it’s wrong, ideally, you should do what deontology, virtue ethics and utilitarianism
says is the right thing to do, even if it might personally hurt you in your organization. So those top 3 theories are the ones that
guide you the most. Sometimes the top 3 theories might disagree
with one another. Sometimes what is the greatest good for the
greatest number might hurt a minority person, might hurt an individual. So when they’re in conflict, you want to be
aware that those conflicts exists, and once again, for moral philosophers, virtue ethics
is the highest ethical theory. So that should drive your decision – what
would an ideal person do in this particular situation, and ideal meaning an ideal moral
person. Deontology is rated higher than utilitarianism,
so what would a deontologists do in this situation? Well, once again, we live in a complex world
and sometimes we don’t always do what is best in the ethical ideal because of complex situations: is this something worth that I might be fired
for over, is this something that might bankrupt the company? So are things that you want to consider and
then you are going to want to get these different questions, do what are the strengths and weakness
and pros and cons of each of these different moral strategies and then come up with your
own conclusion. I will now briefly mention the last benchmark,
benchmark number 17 for this chapter and it’s simply “employees are comfortable engaging
each other in an ethics discussion when contentious issues arise.” As mentioned in chapter 1, employee silence
happens too often in organizations where people see something unethical take place, even something
as unethical as violating EPA rules and regulations, and then the employee doesn’t say anything
about it. Because they’re afraid of getting into trouble,
they’re afraid of rocking the boat. Benchmark number item 7 is saying are the
employees comfortable with each other to the extent that they can say “hey, by the way,
is this our organization at it’s best? By the way, does this decision were making
support the code of ethics? By the way, does this decision support our
code of conduct?” So you want to make sure for benchmark number
seven, that employees are comfortable talking about these issues and they’re not afraid
of approaching one another. And then those are the three benchmarks for
chapter number 5 in making ethical decisions.

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