Challenges of Applying Ethical Theories to Practical Workplace Dilemmas

1713 words (7 pages) Essay in Management

08/02/20 Management Reference this

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Theories about Ethics provide very little guidance to managers who must resolve practical ethical dilemmas arising in their workplace.

 

Ethics or moral philosophy is a branch that involves systematizing, defending and recommending concepts of right or wrong conduct. Ethics seek to resolve questions of human morality by defending concepts such as good or bad, right or wrong, justice or crime.

What is an Ethical Dilemma?

There are three conditions that should be present for a state to be considered as an ethical dilemma. The first condition occurs in situations when an individual called an agent must decide about what is the best course of actiont. The second condition is that there must be options of situations to choose from. The third condition is no matter what course of action is taken some ethical principle will be compromised, in other words,no perfect solution is available. (social worker, 2018, p. 1)

Ethical Dilemma is a decision-making problem between two possible situations neither of which is actually accepted or can be preferable.

Some of the theories/models of Ethics are as follows: –

  • Egoism – Attitudes in business have often been deemed fundamentally egoistic. The egoist contends that all choices should involve self-promotion as their sole objective.
  • Utilitarianism – Utilitarianism theories hold that the moral worth of actions is determined solely by their consequences. An action is right if it leads to the best possible balance of good consequences over bad consequences for all the parties affected.
  • Kantian Ethics – in Kantian theories respect for the human being is said to be necessary not just as an option, because human beings possess a moral dignity and therefore should be treated with respect.
  • Rights theories – unlike legal rights, human rights are held independently of membership in a state. Human rights evolved from the notion of natural rights. Many influential philosophers have maintained that Ethical theories of some parts of it must be rights-based.
  • Virtue Ethics   – Virtue Ethics as it is called descends from the classical Hellenistic tradition in which the cultivation of virtuous traits of character is viewed as mortality’s primary function. (Beauchamp and Bowie, 2018, pp. 12,17,24,(31&32),33)

Theories about Ethics are present everywhere. All the managers rather all the organizations have their own set of Ethics which must be followed by the managers as well as the rest of the employees. But very often it is seen that not all the theories can be applied in the real working environment.

Ethical theories gives the manager basis of decision makinhg when ethics are in play because these theories represent lookouts by which managers take guidance when they are about to make certain decisions in an organization. Each theory has different set of points, decision making style or a decision rule.

To understand Ethical decision making it is important to know that not everybody  makes a decision, in the similar way, using the similar information, employing the same decision rules. If managers wants to realize Ethical decisions properly then there must be some common knowledge or common set of areas that managers seek to achieve if they want to be successful.

Managers face dilemmas in the workplace but are not aware of it.  To make Ethical decisions managers should consider whether conflicting interests exist in the situation. To do this manager should ask whether one decision harms one or more parties while benefitting others.

Actual Ethical role of a Manager

In a broad construction of the ethical role of the manager, managing and leading is said to be integrally ethics-laden tasks because every executive choice affects either people or the natural environment in some way and those effects or impacts should  be taken into account as decisions are made in an organization. A narrower perspective of the ethical role of the manager is that, managers should have sole objective of serving the interests of the shareholder; that is, their sole ethical task is to meet the believable obligation to maximize shareholder wealth that is embedded in the law. The ethical role of managers is much more beyond the actual acceptable responsibility when consideration is given to the multiple stakeholders who constitute the organization being managed and to nature, on which human civilization hinge on for its survival. Therefore, ethics and the actual role of the manager cannot be teased apart. (‘Business Ethics and society’, no date, p. 1)

In the present study business managers were trained in the use of the autonomous method in their decision-making about solving real-life business ethics problems in a one-day educational programme which focused on the training of the autonomous cognitive ability and not on the transfer of moral content, was enough to provide a shift in the mode of decision-making about business ethics problems towards the autonomous ethical function. The conviction that a problem-solving ability is more reliable for the resolution of moral conflicts and problems is based on the knowledge that the same moral principles are not valid everywhere, on every occasion and for everyone. However, nearly all research done in this area, especially in business ethics education, is confined to the study of moral content (for instance Glenn, 1992) and almost neglects investigation of the different methods people use to solve moral problems. Ethical development is understood as the successive improvement of a person’s ability to solve moral problems which he/she encounters in his/her real life. (Kavathatzopoulos, 1994, p. 1)

Ethics is a very delicate word, easy to say but difficult to practice. Every business has their own drafted Ethical policies which sorry to say mostly stay only in black and white. There was a time when Ethics carried a lot of weight in every walk of life but as the world grew competitive and as the firms grew result oriented the Ethical weightage started facing a downfall. 

For example: –

Top management of a technical organization has told their production manager to hire a new employee for the technical work by giving advertisements in newspapers and on the internet. After looking at one of the advertisements one person shows up for the interview and the manager accepts that the person has a very good experience in working in this field and is the proper person for the job and tells him to start the work from the following week,

Followed by this at the lunchtime the manager of the accounting department of the same organization requests the production manager to appoint his nephew for this technical job. The nephew comes with as good as the working experience as the person he told to start working from the following week. Now here the Ethical dilemma arises, what does the manager is supposed to do? Having found out that both are equally good for the job, but whom should he hire? The person who is the nephew of his friend and the manager of accounts of the same company? Or a person who ethically has the first say?

In this given situation the manager should follow the Ethics and should appoint the person who he interviewed earlier because that person Ethically has the first say for the job, but on the other hand he can’t even ignore the request of his friend and the working manager of accounts of that same organization so somewhere he may be forced by himself to appoint the nephew of his friend working in the same organization.

Ethical dilemmas can be solved in various ways by giving that the situation is only deceptive and does not actually occur. Solution to Ethical Dilemma involves choosing the greater good and lesser evil.

The issues of ethical decision making in organizations have received much attention in recent years for a variety of reasons. Managers are not likely to allow their “Ethics” to be directly observed nor it will be acceptable to attempt to manipulate Ethical decision making in the field. A cited survey of Harvard Business review readers showed that one half from an organization reported that managers do not apply the Ethical standards, reasons provided were the preoccupation with gain, lack of reinforcement of ethical behavior, competition and a sense that only “results” are important to supervisors. (‘ethical decision making in organizations.pdf’, no date, p. 3)

Therefore, in my view theories about Ethics certainly provide very minute guidance to managers who must resolve practical Ethical Dilemma arising in their workplace because at some point a manager might face a situation where a theory about Ethics may not work or even taking into consideration the Egoism Theory which contends that all the outcomes in the organization should have profits as their sole objectives we can say that the managers are keen only on the results or the profits and are not willing to work according to Ethical standards to achieve these results.

Reference list

  • Beauchamp, T. and Bowie, N. (2018) Ethical Theory and Business. 6th edn.
  • ‘ethical decision making in organizations.pdf’ (no date). Available at: https://s3.amazonaws.com/academia.edu.documents/7526861/ethical%20decision%20making%20in%20organizations.pdf?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAIWOWYYGZ2Y53UL3A&Expires=1540140427&Signature=W9CpXE8nveb6jfHnNWMauNacnrA%3D&response-content-disposition=inline%3B%20filename%3DEthical_decision_making_in_organizations.pdf (Accessed: 21 October 2018).
  • ‘Business Ethics and society’ (no date). Available at: http://homepages.se.edu/cvonbergen/files/2015/01/Ethical-Role-of-the-Manager.pdf (Accessed: 24 October 2018).
  • Kavathatzopoulos, I. (1994) ‘Training professional managers in decision-making about real life business ethics problems: The acquisition of the autonomous problem-solving skill’, Journal of Business Ethics, 13(5), pp. 379–386. doi: 10.1007/BF00871765.
  • social worker (2018) What Is an Ethical Dilemma?, SocialWorker.com. Available at: http://www.socialworker.com/api/content/11c62c15-7b66-3a7d-80bc-2d837d5ddcaf/ (Accessed: 24 October 2018).
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