What is the ethical decision making model? What is critical thinking? In this paper I will discuss the ethical decision making model and how critical thinking impacts ethical decisions. Personal experiences will be used as examples.
When we are faced with making an ethical decision we are usually faced with an ethical dilemma. To make a good decision we need to use “Logical thinking that draws conclusions from facts and evidence” which according to www.ncrel.com is the definition of critical thinking. Recently I was personally faced with an ethical dilemma that has to do with work and school. I’m currently on a tuition reimbursement program though my company and there are certain criteria that will make my paid education taxable or nontaxable. Of course if my tuition is nontaxable I don’t have to pay taxes and I’ll be saving lots of money.
One of the criteria for making my tuition taxable is if my educational program qualifies me for a new position at work. If I answer no, the tuition is not taxable and I’ll save some money but, in my situation the answer would be yes so my tuition should be taxed but, If I answer no, no one will find out and I’ll be cheating my company or the government out of some money. I’m now stuck with an ethical dilemma. In the end I choose to answer yes and pay the taxes, following an ethical decision making model helped me do the right thing.
The ethical decision making model I followed and will break down is from the Josephson institute of ethics. The model follows 7 simple steps to finally come to a conclusion and make a decision.
1. STOP AND THINK One of the most important steps to better decisions is the oldest advice in the world: think ahead. To do so it’s necessary to first stop the momentum of events long enough to permit calm analysis. Stop and think won’t always be used if you are faced with a decision that needs to be made very quickly but, if you’re permitted the time to think about the situation you should. In my case I though about what could happen if I were to avoid paying taxes. I could get in trouble with the law and even my company. Would it be worth getting fired? No I don’t think so. “Stopping to think provides several benefits. It prevents rash decisions. It prepares us for more thoughtful discernment. And it can allow us to mobilize our discipline” (1).
2. CLARIFY GOALS Before you choose, clarify your short- and long-term aims. Determine which of your many wants and don’t-wants affected by the decision are the most important. The big danger is that decisions that fulfill immediate wants and needs can prevent the achievement of our more important life goals. If I were to break the law it would definitely affect my goal of getting my BS in business management. I could also loose my job if I didn’t pay taxes and I wouldn’t have the resources to pay for school.
3. DETERMINE FACTS Be sure you have adequate information to support an intelligent choice. You can’t make good decisions if you don’t know the facts. To determine the facts, first resolve what you know and, then, what you need to know. If you don’t have enough facts then go find out more about it. Once we know more facts we then see that more decision factors come into play and it’s easier to make a decision.
Here are some guidelines provide by Josephson institute:
Consider the reliability and credibility of the people providing the facts.
Consider the basis of the supposed facts. If the person giving you the information says he or she personally heard or saw something, evaluate that person in terms of honesty, accuracy and memory.
Remember that assumptions, gossip and hearsay are not the same as facts.
Consider all perspectives, but be careful to consider whether the source of the information has values different than yours or has a personal interest that could affect perception of the facts.
Where possible seek out the opinions of people whose judgment and character you respect, but be careful to distinguish the well-grounded opinions of well-informed people from casual speculation, conjecture and guesswork.
Finally, evaluate the information you have in terms of completeness and reliability so you have a sense of the certainty and fallibility of your decisions.
To find out the facts about my tax evasion I ask my friend Megan Kau who’s a tax attorney what she thought I should do. Let’s just say that the punishment is worse than the crime and that’s all the facts that I needed.
4. DEVELOP OPTIONS “Now that you know what you want to achieve and have made your best judgment as to the relevant facts, make a list of options, a set of actions you can take to accomplish your goals” (2). If it’s an especially important decision, talk to someone you trust so you can broaden your perspective and think of new choices. If you can think of only one or two choices, you’re probably not thinking hard enough but, in my case I would be breaking the law so actually there were no other choices. I was either breaking the law or not breaking the law.
5. CONSIDER CONSEQUENCES Two techniques help reveal the potential consequences also provided by Josephson Institute:
“Pillar-ize” your options. Filter your choices through each of the Six Pillars of Character: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship. Will the action violate any of the core ethical principles? For instance, does it involve lying or breaking a promise, is it disrespectful to anyone, is it irresponsible, unfair or uncaring, does it involve breaking laws or rules? Eliminate unethical options.
Identify the stakeholders and how the decision is likely to affect them. Consider your choices from the point of view of the major stakeholders. Identify whom the decision will help and hurt.
In this case, I’ve said before, I would have been breaking the law and if I anyone were to find out about it I would be very ashamed of what I did. In prior readings I remember a quote that said “to make a ethical decision ask yourself, would you be ok with it if it was posted on the front page of your local news paper”, If the answer is no, then don’t do it. 6. CHOOSE It’s time to make a decision. If the choice is not immediately clear, use on of the following strategies to make the decision: Talk to people whose judgment you respect.
Seek out friends and mentors, but, once you’ve gathered opinions and advice, the ultimate responsibility is still yours. What would the most ethical person you know do? Think of the person you know or know of who has the strongest character and best ethical judgment. Then ask yourself: what would that person do in your situation? Think of that person as your decision-making role model and try to behave the way he or she would. I choose to do the right thing which is to pay taxes.
7. MONITOR AND MODIFY Since most hard decisions use imperfect information and “best effort” predictions, some of them will inevitably be wrong. “Ethical decision-makers monitor the effects of their choices. If they are not producing the intended results or are causing additional unintended and undesirable results, they re-assess the situation and make new decisions” (3). In my case I think I’ll live with the decision I’ve made. No one will be hurt by my decision and the law won’t be broken on my part.
As you can see making an ethical decision can be broken down with the 7 steps provided and if the steps are followed, an ethical decision should be made. Critical thinking plays a big part in making my decision even when following the 7 steps listed. Again critical thinking is “Logical thinking that draws conclusions from facts and evidence”. Critical thinking plays a huge role in step 3 of the model that I used. I think step 3 is one of the most important steps in the process. Sometimes I still have the urge to save some money and skip out on paying taxes but, because I’ve used critical thinking as part of my decision, I’ve learned to know that facts are important and in the end making the right decision will better me in the future and also help me reach my goals with less obstacles.
The seven step path to better decisions