It appears to many of us that organizations are only concerned with making a profit regardless of how they go about it. While essentially there is nothing wrong with making a profit because businesses have to in order to survive, it is how they obtain their profits that make us question their ethical behavior. Organizations have to be able to decipher between right and wrong, and then decide to do the right thing in order to achieve success. In many instances, the ethical dilemmas that organizations encounter will involve values that clash with each other; therefore, it is critical that management can be able to decide which is most relevant in making the best ethical decision. Consequently, the amount of success that an organization achieves depends on how effectively they handle the ethical dilemmas they come across, and the final actions that they take.
As I have learned, business ethics is a complex topic, and there are many details that you have to take into account in order to make the best decision when faced with an ethical dilemma. For instance, organizations' actions, procedures, and policies have an effect on numerous people; therefore, they need to consider how their decisions impact their stakeholders. Stakeholders can include individuals inside and outside the organization, such as shareholders, employees, customers, suppliers, the community, the environment, and the government. Because all stakeholders are imperative to success, organizations need to consider the interests and needs of each group of stakeholders. This is known as corporate social responsibility and involves managing the overall effect of an organization on society (Christie, 2009). An organization's social responsibility deals with doing its best to make a profit while complying with the law, behaving ethically, and acting like a respectable citizen. It is extremely imperative for organizations to strive to reach organizational goals as well as societal goals. By staying up to date on the wants and needs of the individuals that an organization serves, they can avoid alienating their stakeholders and achieve long-term success.
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Another important aspect of business ethics that I have learned is the importance of being aware of values, morals, and ethics when making decisions. When individuals encounter ethical dilemmas it is crucial for them to remember values, morals, and ethics as well as all of the stakeholders who are influenced by their decision. By examining their beliefs, values, and ethics, and understanding how they relate to the beliefs, values, and ethics of others who partake in the risk that is associated with making ethical decisions, organizations can strengthen their awareness of dilemmas (Seidman, 2010). Unfortunately, ethical dilemmas are not always easily identified; however, individuals need to be able to identify a situation's ethical concerns in order to make the best decision. When people are morally aware, they are able to recognize situations that bring about ethical issues and think about them in moral terms (Hosmer, 1988). Although a significant amount of ethical dilemmas are solved by thinking about one's own moral standards of behavior, we need to consider the values, morals, and ethics of the stakeholders in order to make an ethical decision.
I learned that certain steps need to be taken in order to make sound ethical decisions. These steps include collecting all of the facts, identifying the ethical issues, naming all of the stakeholders, recognizing the consequences for each group of stakeholders, recognizing the obligations that are owed to each group of stakeholders, the consideration of your integrity and character, thinking innovatively regarding the potential decisions, and taking into consideration your gut feelings. By following these steps, an individual can identify all of the pertinent stakeholders, which is critical to the success of solving a problem ethically. When managers fail to identify the pertinent stakeholders, they have absolutely no way of knowing the impact of their decision on the stakeholders who were not identified. Therefore, managers with the best intentions can make an unethical decision when they omit stakeholders from the decision making analysis (Fritzsche, 2000). Managers need to follow these ethical decision making steps and use their power ethically to avoid mismanaging an ethical dilemma, which would be harmful to their career. If they consider what can happen before it actually does, managers would be better prepared to properly approach ethical dilemmas. The more informed managers are the more successful they will be in protecting the company and themselves. The truth of the matter is the prevention of an ethical dilemma is better than a remedy for an ethical dilemma every time (Stevens, 1999).
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When I worked for a large, well-known insurance company, I witnessed first-hand how a company can be impacted by an unethical decision. The insurance company had an opening in their sales department, which involved managing all of the sales people, dealing with the problems of the existing clients, and helping identify potential clients. While the majority of this position involved work in the office, there was a minimal amount of work that required face-to-face interaction with clients. The company's policy was to hire from within if an employee applied for the position and met the qualifications; however, they would hire someone outside of the firm if they had better qualifications. In this case, Michelle who had previous experience in sales, worked for the company for five years, and showed exceptional performance applied for the job. She was the only internal applicant but there were numerous external applicants. After interviewing all of the candidates, it ended up being between Michelle and another woman. Michelle was a better match for the opening and had better qualifications; however, she was slightly overweight and the other applicant was slim. While upper management was concerned about the impression Michelle would make with the people that she dealt with face-to-face, they knew the other applicant would be physically appealing to the stakeholders. Therefore, the company hired the slender woman because they thought it would be better for business and portray a better company image.
At first, Michelle had no idea why she was not chosen for the position. Michelle thought that the woman the company hired must have been more qualified for the position; however, shortly after the woman started working it was obvious to everyone around that she did not have the necessary experience for the position. At that point, Michelle began questioning the company's decision. Many people gave her the run-around and would not give her a direct answer. Finally, one of the managers explained to her that the woman they hired had the image that they were looking for and they thought she would be good for business. The manager tried to soften the blow by adding that Michelle was very good at her job, and that they would be lost without her in her current position. However, she was furious that she was not chosen for the job because of her physical appearance. Of course no one would admit that it was because of her physical appearance, but the other woman was more attractive physically. Additionally, Michelle knew the job, could do the job with minimal guidance, and had extensive sales experience, while the woman that they hired required a significant amount of help and was continuously messing up. Therefore, everyone around believed that Michelle was not given the job due to her being overweight.
Michelle was very upset with the company's unethical behavior but there was not much that she could do about it. The company would not actually admit that her weight was the real reason for their decision, and the law does very little to protect employees from being discriminated based on their weight so she did her best to forget the situation. However, she could not get past the humiliation and disappointment so she quit her job. The company continued to have problems with the woman they hired because she failed to do the job effectively. The sales people complained because she could not handle their problems, clients were unhappy because she could not answer a lot of their questions, and she failed to secure new clientele. The company ended up firing her due to her inability to perform well, and the loss of numerous clients. Michelle on the other hand was hired by a competitor and obtained many of the clients that my company had lost. She did very well for the competitor, and my company suffered considerably because of their unethical behavior.
The sad fact is there are negative beliefs, stigmas, and stereotypes placed on people who are overweight. In reality, people tend to develop opinions about someone or something in thirty seconds or less. For the majority of us, these opinions are established for the most part on visual features and mannerisms, and on an unconscious level. Many people believe that people who are overweight do not have control and do not worry about their personal health. Therefore, many organizations' main concerns are whether they would be pleased to have an individual speak for their company and if that individual portrays a superior image to everyone he or she encounters. If this individual shows the top-notch level of visual image, companies believe they have an edge over their competition. While it is impossible to influence the way bystanders see a person, it is important for companies to remember that what people look like is not who they are.
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Organizations are morally obligated to produce a culture that demonstrates the highest standards of ethical behavior; however, in this case, they failed to do so. The choice would have been a no brainer if Michelle was not overweight. The insurance company knew that Michelle was the most qualified person due to her internal position, positive personality, and successful performance. However, management was fearful of being judged and worried that her weight would reflect badly on them. Instead of worrying about the potential prejudices of their stakeholders, the company should have realized that they had an ethical obligation to make sure that their decision was established solely on legitimate, work related facts instead of on stereotypical assumptions. It is vital for management to distinguish between right and wrong, good and bad, and focus on the utilization of moral standards to organizational guidelines (Natale, 1984). In my opinion, Michelle deserved the chance to prove what she could do, and the company had a moral obligation to give her the opportunity to do so.
Being a manager in today's business world is complex and requires constant effort to achieve success. Many managers struggle with the goal of making the company profits and choosing to do the right thing. Frequently, managers have to make challenging decisions, which may involve making major personal sacrifices in order to make the right decision. In this case, it is evident that Michelle's qualifications were superior; therefore, management should have determined whether or not they would have felt comfortable to have their decision publicized. I am certain that the company would not have wanted their decision disclosed, and if they would have taken the time to determine this they would have realized that their decision was not the most ethical choice. If situations or decisions cause apprehension, they should be regarded as unfavorable and inconsistent with accepted standards, which signal the existence of an ethical dilemma (Gaudine & Thorne, 2001). As soon as individuals are conscious of an ethical issue, they ought to make use of the sound ethical decision making steps to aid in settling on their final decision.
Managers need to go above and beyond their legal obligations and conduct themselves in a way that is centered on morals, stewardship, and obligations. However, the insurance company did not behave in this manner. They did not take into consideration the morally right decision. The company took the consequentialist approach when they were faced with this dilemma. They believed that they could make the company more profits by having a slender, good-looking woman working in the sales department instead of woman that was not nearly as physically attractive. I believe that the company should have taken the virtue ethics approach, and given Michelle the chance to prove herself to the company. Because the company was focused on making profits, they overlooked the consequences of making this unethical decision. The company failed to use its power ethically, which resulted in the immoral treatment of a good employee, a tarnished reputation, significant expenses, and the loss of business.
Business ethics is extremely important to an organization's success. Even though generating a profit is essential, organizations have other obligations that are philanthropic, ethical, and legal in nature (Carroll, 1991). Organizations that are able to attain and sustain success appreciate and make use of good business ethics every time they are confronted with an ethical dilemma. Managers ought to be cognizant of values, morals, and ethics when they are making decisions, and they have got to follow the ethical decision making steps in order to make good decisions. The insurance company failed to utilize these steps and to take into consideration the moral and ethical implications of their decision. Many Americans face weight discrimination in their place of employment. This common phenomenon has a harmful effect on the lives of countless people, and it is an organization's responsibility to be attentive in identifying the ethical problems related to how overweight people are treated and in creating ethical solutions for this problem. In order to be successful, organizations have to address this issue, as well as others, and let it be known that all types of unethical behavior will not be permitted.