Overview My experience in the business world has shown a variety of ethical decision making practices. The beauty industry has a somewhat skewed view of ethics as it appeals to the vanity and esteem of consumers around the world. The health care industry must provide health care to its customers yet maintain the business with the goals of making a profit. Yale University is known for its research in the fields of science and medical technology. All these companies practice ethics, but view ethical behavior in a different way.
This paper will explore the definition and principles of ethics and discuss the impact of ethics on the decision making process in the work place. Definition Pearson Custom Publishing (Pearson, 1998-2002) defines ethics as the “standards of conduct and moral judgment. ” Markula Center for Applied Ethics (1995-1998) defines ethics as those standards that compel one to refrain from committing crimes against another person such as stealing, murder, assault, slander, and fraud. It is also the standards that encourage honesty, integrity, compassion and loyalty.
Ethics is not a religious principle, nor is it based on “feelings” about a particular problem. It cannot be defined as a legal practice because laws are created to protect rights, not manage ethical principles. While the definition may seem clear, ethics as a practice is somewhat ambiguous since interpretation plays a big part in how people perceive right from wrong. The Markala Center for Applied Ethics (1995-1998) states that in order to understand the meaning of ethics we must find answers the following questions, “According to what standards are these actions right or wrong?
What character traits (like honesty, compassion, fairness) are necessary to live a truly human life? ” Defining ethics is relatively easy compared to practicing ethics in the work place. Since the primary concern of most businesses is the bottom line, the ethical views may differ based on the type of business. Ethical views of employees may also differ from the views of the company. This can cause conflict among workers and management as companies strive to improve the bottom line. Personal ethics may be compromised in an effort to keep a job. In business, what are the ground rules?
Since ethics is not an exact science it is easy believe that if it is legal it is ethical and therefore acceptable. This is not always the case and recent examples of Enron and Microsoft prove this point. Enron has shown us that greed can interfere with good judgment and the impact of their decisions was grave. Microsoft is another company whose ethics have been questioned as it strives to maintain its place as the software giant. Is it unethical for Microsoft to work towards the demise of its competitor Netscape? Or is this the normal competitive spirit.
Another good example is the beauty industry that built a billion dollar business convincing consumers that cosmetics and perfumes will make them perform better, become more powerful and/or more popular if the products are used. Is this behavior legal, yes. Ethical, well, that is questionable and based on personal interpretation.
So how can ethical behavior be judged? Markala Center for Applied Ethics (1999) provides the following questions to help us more clearly ascertain ethical behavior. “Is there something wrong personally, interpersonally, or socially? Is there conflict that could be damaging to people?to animals or the environment? to institutions? to society?
Does the issue go deeper than legal or institutional concerns? What does it do to people as persons who have dignity, rights, and hopes for a better life together? “ These questions will help us to get the facts necessary to understand the problem, but we also need to know the values. Markula Center for Applied Ethics (1995-1998) suggests asking these additional questions to further determine values; “Is the solution to this problem for the common good of the community? Does it violate any rights? Is it fair and non-discriminatory?
Will it benefit the majority of the people? ” So when a problem occurs that requires a solution, it is necessary to review these questions and ask ourselves, based on a desired approach, if the outcome is ethical. This can be a difficult decision since often there is clearly no right or wrong answer. How could ethics benefit the decision making process? Incorporating ethics in the decision making process could making the process easier or more difficult. Easier by providing an additional layer that would justify a difficult decision based on whether it was ethically right or wrong.
Ethics could make the decision making process easier by helping to eliminate choices that would not benefit all parties involved. For instance, let’s say there is a company who produces steel wires for construction projects. They need to build a larger factory in order to keep up with the demand. They are a fairly small operation, but complex in that they use dangerous chemicals in the finishing of their products. They have found a couple of locations which meet their needs; one in a location that is isolated a far from any residential areas, the other is located directly on a river that flows into a lake used for recreational purposes.
The first location is considerably cheaper and would add an additional 30 minutes to the current employees commute. The second is closer and less expensive. In making the decision on where to build, management must consider the ethical ramifications to the environment. If they were to build near the river there would be a chance of chemical run off that would pollute the river and ultimately the lake. The use of ethics in the decision making process would make it easier to eliminate this location as an option and help to justify the additional expense and commute.
Ethics could also make the decision making process harder by adding another layer of complexity to the problem. Take for instance, the issue of stem cell research. The research is performed on human embryos which some say is an unethical practice. Others say that using stem cells for research will make technological advances in medicine that cannot be achieved in other ways. These groups are opposed to the ban on federal funding for research that involved human embryo research (Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics). In the meantime, there are many diseases in which the cure points to more search in the area of stem cells.
This research could help to save lives, but it is being held up due to the ethical beliefs of opposing parties. How should ethics be used in business? Ethical decision making should be a method by which decisions are made for the good of all people. Ethics should provide a code of behavior that is used as a base for all decision making. They should provide specific guidelines that ensure that decisions are always made in the interest of helping or protecting the rights of people. Many professional groups had specific practices by which they are expected to adhere as stated by Larry Colero of the U. B.C.
Centre for Applied Ethics; “professional associations have codes of ethics that prescribe required behavior within the context of a professional practice such as medicine, law, accounting, or engineering. ” These types of associations lay the ground rules in the decision making process. What are the ethical implications of the decision? Ethical implications in the decision making process could have a positive and negative outcome. I do believe that if a decision is not made in an ethical manner, the outcome will be negative. Using ethical decision making will most likely provide a positive outcome.
Although it may not benefit the bottom line, it will surely benefit the community and the company long term. The negative implications come from situations where the decision is made without consideration for ethics. A sales person who is desperate to make quota for the quarter sells a product to the customer even though the customer does not need the product at this time. The customer may feel that the sales person does not have their best interest in heart and take their business elsewhere. Initially, the sales person benefited from an unethical decision, but in the long run, this type of decision making did not pay off.
From a positive perspective, if the sales person had used ethical decision making, his sales may have increased not only through this one particular customer, but also from referrals due to the excellent customer service he/she had provided. Initially, the numbers may not have been satisfactory, but the long term results might have overcome the initial down turn. Conclusion Utilizing the principles of ethics in the decision making process will help to ensure that decisions made are fair and respect the rights of those parties involved. Unfortunately, ethical decision making is only as morally sound as the person making the decision.
If the person making the decision is does not live by an ethical code, the decision will be swayed in the direction of that belief. Therefore, in order to make sound ethical decisions, decision makers must constantly evaluate their own beliefs and strive to live in an ethical manner. References Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics, (n. d. ), On human embryos and stem cell research: An appeal for legally and ethically responsible science and public policy. Retrieved from the World Wide Web: May 18, 2002 http://www. stemcellresearch. org/statement/statement.
htm Colero, L. , (n. d. ) A framework for universal principles of ethics. Retrieved from the World Wide Web. May 18, 2002 http://www. ethics. ubc. ca/papers/invited/colero. html Pearson Custom Publishing, (1999-2002) Ethics. Retrieved from the World Wide Web: May 15, 2002 http://www. pearsoncustom. com/link/humanities/philosophy/crithink/ethics. html Markula Center for Applied Ethics, (1995-1998) A framework for ethical decision making. Retrieved from the World Wide Web. May 15, 2002. http://www. scu. edu/SCU/Centers/Ethics/practicing/deci3sion/framework. html.