Ethical Decision making

01/09/2021 1 By indiafreenotes

An ethical decision is one that engenders trust, and thus indicates responsibility, fairness and caring to an individual. To be ethical, one has to demonstrate respect, and responsibility. Ethical decision-making requires a review of different options, eliminating those with an unethical standpoint, and then choosing the best ethical alternative.

Ethical decisions come from a place of conscience. For many, conscience is simply an internal source of reward and punishment. But according to researcher Lawrence Kohlberg, conscience is only one of several ways in which ethical values are represented in the personality. Kohlberg believes there are higher levels of moral development and these are acquired in three stages.

The words “Ethics” and “Morals” are frequently used interchangeably and relate to the “wrong” and “right” conduct. Ethics refer to behavior customary in a culture or society, whereas Morals refer to personal standards of right and wrong. Morals do not change as a person moves from one society to the next, while ethics could change with the addition and loss of community members. Business ethics is associated with the creation and application of moral standards in a business setting.

Basis for ethical decisions

Various factors are in play when making decisions. In terms of ethics, the following are significant:

Organizational or group codes

Castes or groups in society may have their own moral syndromes that simplify the types of decisions they make, e.g. as professionals in a commercial or governmental field. Jane Jacobs claims there are two irreconcilable moral syndromes that arise from those contrasting views:

  • Guardian syndrome
  • Trader syndrome

A large portion of the study of ethics deals with the approach or source of the principles or standards to be used for ethical decision making in business. A number of schools of thought have developed that include the following approaches (in no specific order):

  • Moral rights
  • Utilitarian
  • Universalist
  • Fairness or justice
  • Common good
  • Cost-benefit
  • Virtue
  • Deontological (based on study of moral obligation)
  • Theological
  • Principle-based
  • Contextualist

In confining ethical decision making to a business or group context, decisions on ethics are necessarily limited to actions and words (e.g., no deceit in sales promotion, use words to manipulate performance, …). Right behavior can be evaluated though actions and words, but there is no way to know one’s thoughts. Per our distinction, thoughts and beliefs (e.g., I want to help and benefit my customer as opposed to I want their money without regards to what is right, personal gain at the cost of someone else’s reputation, …) will be confined to moral decisions that are part of personal decision making.

Clearly our thoughts affect our words and deeds, and in a group context, ethics in decision making can be evaluated through the tangible evidence and outcomes from words and actions. Again, thoughts and motivation are left to the personal realm. As a consequence, evaluation of appropriate ethical behavior will have limitations. In all outcomes there are the following possibilities:

  • Right motivation with right action
  • Right motivation with wrong action
  • Wrong motivation with right action
  • Wrong motivation with wrong action