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Summary Business ethics: Concepts and cases
Te gebruiken bij
Auteur(s): Velasquez, Manuel
Druk/Jaar van uitgave: 7, 2014
Remarks & Related
Chapter 5 and 8 are missing
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Chapter 1. Ethics and business
Business ethics is about how a company incorporates ethics into its operations. There are many firms that choose profits over ethics; they profited through unethical behaviour. Even though there are many firms that at one time have engaged in unethical behaviour, it is not a good long-term business strategy for a company.
Unethical behaviour of a company may change its reputation. Employees are more likely to loyally serve a company with a good reputation. Therefore, many argue that ethical behaviour is the best long-term business strategy. However, doing what is ethical may be very costly to a company.
Ethical behaviour is not always rewarded and unethical behaviour is not always punished. But ethical behaviour can give a company significant competitive advantages over companies that are unethical.
Consumers and employees do not like and support unethical behaviour. This leads to the fact that unethical behaviour of companies leads to a loss of consumer and employee support.
Ethics may be the best policy in the long run, but the ethical course of actions is not always clear to the managers of a company. Everyone in business has to deal with ethical choices. For instance; if you found out that a friend of you is stealing from the company and have to decide whether you turn him in or not.
The nature of business ethics
Ethics can have several different meanings. The dictionary gives two meanings:
It is the principles of conduct governing an individual group. Personal ethics refers to the rules of an individual and accounting ethics is used to refer to the rules that accountants use.
It is the study of morality. Ethics can be seen as a kind of investigation that investigates morality.
Morality can be defined as the standards that an individual or group has about what is right or wrong or good and evil.
Moral standards are the norms about the kinds of actions believed to be morally right and wrong as well as the values placed on what we believe to be morally good and morally bad. These moral standards can be seen as general rules about our actions.
Moral standards are learned as a child from his family, friends, school, television etc. Later, when one experiences intellectual development, these standards are revised. With the new knowledge one decides whether he judges them reasonable or unreasonable.
In the maturing process one may discard some standards and may adopt new standards that suite more with the life of an adult. But we do not always live up to our moral standards. One does not always what is morally right.
In contrast to moral standards we have nonmoral standards and norms. These are the standards by which we judge what is good or bad and right or wrong in a nonmoral way. These include the standards of etiquette, rules of teachers and parents, the law, the standards of language, rules in sports etc. These nonmoral standards are often called conventional standards.
All our judgments are based on some kind of standards and norms, moral and/or nonmoral. Sometimes we choose nonmoral standards over moral standards. The ability to distinguish between moral and nonmoral norms emerges at a very early stage in life and will remain throughout the entire life.
Elliot Turiel found that at the age of three, a child is able to tell the difference between moral and conventional norms. This is an ability that every human being in every culture develops. However, there are differences between cultures in the field of which norms are moral and which norms are conventional.
Even though three year olds seem to know the difference between moral and conventional norms, this is not an easy question to answer. Philosophers have found six characteristics that help to show the nature of moral standards.
Moral standards deal with matters that are standards. Things that can matter or benefit human beings. Like moral standards against theft.
Moral standards should be preferred to other values including self-interest. The moral standards should always be maintained even if they conflict with self-interest.
Moral standards are not established or changed by the decisions of the authority.
Moral standards are felt to be universal. We want that everyone lives up to these standards and feel upset when someone else does not live up to it.
Moral standards are based on impartial considerations. Moral standards are not based on interest of a particular individual or group but are about whether something is morally wrong.
Moral standards are associated with special emotions and a special vocabulary. When someone does not live up to the standards he will feel guilty and wrong. The same happens when someone else does not live up to the standards, others may feel disgust toward this person.
In this book ethics is defined as the discipline that examines one’s moral standards or the moral standards of a society to evaluate their reasonableness and their implications for one’s life. Ethics is about how moral standards you have absorbed apply in situations in life.
In some situations one can apply various moral standards. When this is the case one has to decide which moral standard is more important. The ultimate aim of ethics is to develop a body of moral standards that you feel are reasonable for you to hold.
Ethics is a normative study of morality; an investigation that attempt to reach conclusions about what things are good or bad or about what actions are right or wrong.
Another way to study morality is with social sciences; sociology, thropology, psychology. These studies are descriptive studies; an investigation that attempts to describe or explain the world without reaching any conclusions about whether the world is as it should be.
Business ethics is defined as a specialized study of moral right and wrong that concentrates on moral standards as they apply to business institutions, organizations and behaviour. It is a form of applied ethics.
Business ethics is about a wide range of topics. We divide these into three different kinds of issues:
Systematic issues: ethical issues about economic, political, legal and other institutions.
Corporate issues: ethical questions about morality of activities, policies, practices and organizational structure about a particular organization.
Individual issues: ethical questions about particular individuals within a company and their behaviour and decisions.
When one analyses an ethical issue it is helpful to first determine whether the issue is systemic, corporate or individual. The three different issues each have different solutions so therefore it is important to determine which issue you deal with. A systematic issue must be solved on systematic level while and individual issue needs to be solves through individual decisions.
The question is: can we say that acts of organizations are moral or immoral in the same way that actions of human individuals are? Can moral notions be applied to groups such as corporations, or are individuals the only moral agents? In response to these questions two views have emerged.
Those who argue that if we can say that something acted and acted intentionally, then we can say it is a moral agent. In that case it is morally responsible for its actions just like humans. The major problem with this view is that organizations do not seem to act or intend in the same sense as human individuals do.
Those who argue that it makes no sense to say that companies are morally responsible or have moral duties. These people say that companies must be seen as machines which members must blindly conform to formal rules. The problem with this view is that at least some members of organizations usually do know what they are doing and are free to choose whether to follow the rules or not.
Perhaps neither view is correct. Both views face some difficulties and are struggling with the following: although organizations exist and act like individuals, they are obviously not the same as human individuals. We can see through this by noticing that organizations and their acts depend on human individuals. Corporate actions result from behaviour and decisions of individuals.
An organization has a moral duty in a secondary or derivative sense. It has a moral duty to do something only if some of its members have the moral duty to make sure it is done. The human individuals are the primary carriers of the moral duties and responsibilities that we attribute in a secondary sense to the corporation.
Many people object the view that ethical standards should be applied to the behaviour of individuals in business organizations. Individuals involved in business should pursue the financial interest of the firm and ignore ethical considerations. There are three arguments in favour of objection.
Some argue that in perfectly competitive free markets profit will ensure that members of a society are served in the most socially beneficial ways. The benefit for the members will be highest when they devote to the goal of profit and produce efficiently. However, this argument has some questionable assumptions.
Most industrial markets are not perfectly competitive.
It assumes that increases in profit will necessarily be socially beneficial. However, some increases in profit actually harm society.
It assumes that by producing what the buying public wants, a firm produces what society wants. However, this is not always true in practice.
The argument makes a normative judgment on the basis of some unspoken and unproved moral standard. (People should do whatever will benefit those who participate in markets).
The second argument is called the loyal agent’s argument. It can be paraphrased as follows:
A manager has the duty to serve the employer as the employer wants to be served.
An employer wants to be served in a way that advances his interests.
As a loyal agent of the employer, the manager has a duty to serve the employer in whatever way that will advance the interests of the employer.
Often this argument was used by unethical managers to justify unethical conduct. This argument, again, rests on questionable assumptions.
The law of agency is a law that specifies the duties of persons who agree to act on behalf of another party and who are authorized by an agreement so to act. When signing the agreement an agent accepts the legal duty to serve his client loyally. This law also states that the agent has not the duty to perform in activities that are illegal or unethical.
For business people to be ethical it is enough to follow the law. If something is legal than it is also ethical. However, this is wrong because ethics is more than just the law. Many moral standards are incorporate into the law but these laws alone are not enough.
Most ethics find that all citizens must obey the law as long as the law does not require unjust behaviour. It would be immoral to break the law according to them. A conflict can arise when the law is in conflict with the moral standards of a business person.
So far we looked at objections of ethics into business. However, there are also arguments in favour. Ethics should be brought into business because it governs all voluntary human activities and business is a voluntary human activity.
For a business to exist it is necessary that the people involved in the business have some sort of minimal standards of ethics. A business would fail if all members think that it is normal and acceptable to steal, lie to and break agreements. Besides that a business also needs a stable society in which it carries out its business. The stability of a business depends on some standards of ethics.
So a business cannot survive without some standards of ethics. Therefore it is in the best interests of business to promote ethical behaviour among their members and society. It can also be said that good ethics is good business. When two people have to deal with each other repeatedly it makes no sense to get in conflict with each other. Good interactions make the business better. Ethical behaviour can set the stage for such beneficial interactions.
Several studies show that unethical behaviour may be harmful to a company while ethical behaviour tends to produce cooperative behaviour.
Moral standards are used in social situations when someone has done injustice. The moral anger motives someone to restore the justice by punishing the one that has done the injustice. When a company has done injustice in the eyes of a customer, the customer will turn against the company.
Many studies have found that there is a positive relationship between socially responsible behaviour and profitability. Other studies have found no relationship and there is not one study that has found a negative relationship. These results together suggest that ethics seems to contribute to profits.
Business ethics is sometimes confused with corporate social responsibility (CSR); a corporation’s responsibilities or obligations toward society. Is it responsible for money to charities or give their employees higher wages? There is a disagreement about what these obligations are.
Friedman argues that corporate executives work for the owners, which are nowadays the shareholders. As their employee, the executive has the responsibility to run the company in accordance with the desires of the owners embodied in law and in ethical form.
Friedman says that the only responsibility of the company is to legally and ethically make as much as money possible for its owners. His theory of CSR is known as the shareholder theory.
He also argues that the manager has no right to give company money to social causes when this leads to a reduction in profits for the shareholders. However, a manager can pay higher wages to employees etc. when it does lead to more profits for the shareholders.
He thinks that companies provide benefits to society. Profit maximization should lead to higher competition leading the fact that firms will increase efficiency, increase wages, make better products and provide better working conditions. These actions are a gain to society.
There are people who criticize the theory of Friedman. They do not agree with his claim that the manager or executive is the employee of shareholders. According to them, the executive is the employee of the corporation and severs its interests.
These others say that shareholders only hold stock and have some rights but that they do not have all the rights that a true owner of a company has.
There is also critique on Friedman’s statement that profit maximization will benefit society. Competitive forces may fail to let the society benefit and instead lead to harm to society, like pollution.
A stakeholder is any identifiable group or individual who can affect the achievement of an organization’s objectives or who is affected by the achievement of and organization’s objectives. It is someone who can influence the corporation; he has a stake in the company.
Edward Freeman and David Reed had a different view of CSR than Friedman did. Their view is called the stakeholder theory and is based on the definition of a stakeholder as described above. This theory states that when making decisions, a manager should take into account all stakeholder interests.
In this theory the manager has the responsibility to run the company in a way that will best serve the interests of all stakeholders. Managers should not try to maximize profits but they may make some profits. The manager should give the stockholders a fair share of the profits but in a way that allows other stakeholders to get also their fair share.
There are two main arguments that support the stakeholder theory:
Instrumental arguments: these arguments claim that being responsive to the interests of all stakeholders is in the best interest of the corporation even though it is not in the best interests of the shareholders.
Normative arguments: these arguments claim that the company has an ethical and moral obligation to be responsive to all its stakeholders. Everyone that contributes his share into something should advantage from the benefits of it.
The question is what theory is correct; the stakeholder theory or the shareholder theory. In the business world we see that many businesses accept the stakeholder theory.
Many argue that being ethical as a company is an obligation they owe to society. In this sense, business ethics is a part of corporate social responsibility.
Ethical issues in business
Businesses and societies are continuously changed and transformed by the rapid evolution of new technologies. These new technologies lead to new ethical issues in business. These changes have had an impact on businesses and society in several decades.
In the agricultural revolution humans developed farming technologies. Because of these new technologies they did not had to rely on foraging and hunt anymore. The new farming technologies provided them with a constant supply of food.
In this revolution there was also the invention of irrigation, wind power, levers, wedges, and hoist. All the new technologies increased the trade. With this trade came the first issues related to business ethics. They had to make rules and agreements for fair trade.
There was another transformation during the Industrial Revolution with the introduction of electromechanical machines. To manage the enormous amount of people that were needed for these machines large organizations were founded. These large corporations dominated the society and led to new issues related to business ethics.
In the end of the twentieth and begin of the twenty-first century there have again been transformations in society and business due to technology changes. The most of these technology changes are developments in information technology.
Information technology is the use of extremely powerful and compact computers, the internet, wireless communications, digitalization and numerous other technologies that have enabled us to capture, manipulate and move information in new and creative ways.
Information technology raises new ethical issues related to risk, privacy and property rights. Computers enable us to collect detailed information about individuals which reduced out privacy. To deal with these rapid changes in technology, business organizations have to become smaller, flatter and more nimble.
Cyberspace: a term used to denote the existence of information on an electronic network of liked computer systems.
The development of computers also helped the development of nanotechnology. This is a new field that encompasses the development off tiny artificial structures only nanometers (billionths of a meter) in size. Critics have raised questions about the potential harms of nanotechnology to the environment.
Another ethical issue is created by biotechnology: genetic engineering. Genetic engineering refers to a large variety of new techniques that allows change in the genes of the cells of humans, animals and plants.
Nanotechnology and biotechnology both raise new ethical issues related to risk and the spread of dangerous products.
The ethical issues we discussed so far arise within the national borders of a single country. We will now turn to ethic issues that occur in the international area. Most of the issues in business ethics in this area are related to globalization.
Globalization is the worldwide process by which the economic and social systems of nations have become connected, facilitating between them the flow of goods, money, culture and people.
The amount of goods traded and moved across national boundaries has increased significantly since World War II. Products that one uses at home can be found everywhere in the world because of globalization.
At the heart of the globalization process we find multinational corporations. A multinational corporation is a company that maintains manufacturing, marketing, service or administrative operations in several host countries. These corporations are responsible for a large part of the international transactions.
Two huge benefits of globalization:
It enabled multinationals to build factories and start operations in countries with low labor costs. They bring jobs, skills, income and technology to regions of the world that were formerly underdeveloped. These actions made it possible to offer the products at a lower price.
It enabled nations to specialize in producing and exporting the goods and services that they produce most efficiently. These specialized goods then could be traded for goods that the nation does not make. This specialization has increased the overall productivity of the world.
However, there are also negative effects of globalization:
It brings significant harms on the world. Poor nations with only cheap agricultural products to trade have been left behind. Inequality between and within nations has increased because of the globalizations. The Western culture has been spread to many parts of the world driving out local cultures and traditions.
It is charged with paying the way for multinationals to have a kind of mobility that critics say has had adverse effects. When a company moves its operation to another country the factories in the home country shut down leading to enormous job losses.
Some critics say that multinationals import technologies or products into a developing country that is not ready to deal with the risks of the new technologies and products.
When a multinational moves to another country it has to deal with other laws, regulations, cultures, practices or even an entire other government than it faces in its home country. This leads to dilemmas for the managers of the company.
Managers may be in countries that are very underdeveloped. When this is the case then the actions of a manager could have a different effect on the people there than on the people in developed countries. The question then is how should the manager act? Scholars have suggested that managers should stick to the higher standards that are typical in their home country.
If the cultures of the home and host country differ a lot than it could happen that there is a misunderstanding or misinterpreting between managers and the people in the host country. Managers often find it very difficult to deal with the differences in moral standards.
Ethical (or moral) relativism is the theory that there are not ethical standards that are absolutely true and that apply or should be applied to the companies and people of all societies. According to this theory, the actions of a person are morally right if they are in line with the ethical standards accepted in the culture of that person. So in each society with its own moral beliefs there is another way of determining whether the actions of a person are morally right.
In the world we find that some practices are judged very differently in different societies. Examples of such practices are polygamy, abortion, homosexuality and slavery. However, critics point out that there are some moral standards that are binding for everyone.
Many moral standards that seem to be different among societies turn out to have underlying similarities when one takes a closer look. When people have different moral beliefs about something that does not mean that there is no absolute truth or that all the different belies are equally acceptable.
The most important criticism of ethical relativism is that it has incoherent consequences. According to them; if ethical relativism would be true than it would make no sense to criticize the practices of other societies. Then it would also make no sense to criticize the moral standards accepted by your own society.
Another critique is that ethical relativism privileges whatever moral standards are widely accepted in a society. The standards in the society are the only standards by which actions in that society can be judged. The moral standards had a privileged place in society.
From all the critics we can say that the theory of ethical relativism seems to be incorrect. However, it does teach us that there are differences in moral beliefs between societies and that we should not easily dismiss the moral beliefs of another culture than our own.
We can distinguish between two kinds of moral standards:
Those that differ from one society to another
Those that should be applied in all societies
These two kinds of moral standards are adopted in a framework called Integrative Social Contracts Theory (ISCT). This theory calls the first type of moral standards microsocial norms and the second type of moral standards hypernorms.
This framework says that hypernorms are part of a social contract that everyone has accepted. Microsocial norms are part of a social contract that the members of a specific community have accepted.
ISTC argues that hypernorms are more important than microsocial norms and that microsocial norms should not contradict hypernorms. When it does contradict then the microsocial norm is unethical and should be rejected.
People in a community ought to follow the microsocial norms in their society but must be free to leave the community whenever they disagree with these microsocial norms. A manager should follow the microsocial norms as long as they do not violate the hypernorms. There are many critics that reject this ISCT framework.
A person develops its ability to use moral standards in practice during his life. Personal experience as we mature changes the moral standards that are learned to us as a child. When we grow up we will look more critical to the moral standards learned.
The psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg has done research on the development of the moral view and found that there is a sequence of six stages. The six stages can be categorized into three levels and are summarized as follows:
Level one: Preconventional stages. In these levels the child can label things as good, bad, right or wrong. His motivations are primary self-centred.
Punishment and obedience orientation
The actions and punishments of the authority figure determine what is right and wrong.
Instrumental and relative orientation
The child is now aware that other people also have needs and sees right actions as the actions that satisfy his own needs.
Level two: Conventional stages. The child learns moral right and wrong from the conventional norms of his family, group or society.
Interpersonal concordance orientation
The young adolescent wants to be liked by his family and friends etc. Therefore he lives up to the expectations of those persons.
Law and order orientation
In this stage is learned that right and wrong are based on loyalty to one’s nation or society.
Level three: Postconventional stages. In these two levels the person will not simply accept standards but will criticize and evaluate them.
Social contract orientation
The adult starts to see that people can have different beliefs and that all these different beliefs should be tolerated.
Universal moral principles orientation
The adult chooses his moral principles based on reasonableness, universality and consistency. He sees these principles as the criteria for evaluating all society accepted norms and values.
According to this theory, the moral reasoning of people improves as the individual reaches later stages. Individuals in later stages are more able to see things from a wider perspective and are more able to justify their decisions to others.
However, there are some that criticize his theory. They criticize the claim of Kohlberg that higher stages are morally preferable to lower stages. These critics are right; higher levels may be broader but that does not mean that they are morally better.
A second criticism is pointed out by Carol Gilligan. He argues that the stages are correctly identified but that the theory fails to trace the development path of women’s morality. According to them, there are different approaches in morality between male and female.
It is important to notice that both Kohlberg and Gilligan agree about the fact that there are stages of growth in our moral development.
Ethics is about developing the ability to deal with moral issues. A central aim of the study of ethics is the stimulation of the moral development. When reasoning about moral judgements that you make you develop habits and a way of thinking that you can use for your own moral decisions.
Moral principles in a later stage of development are better because they have undergone reasoned examination and discussion with others. The discussion tends to improve as one develops as their knowledge increases during life.
William Damon found with his research that morality is not a dominant characteristic of someone until the middle adolescence. So before that age we do not see morality as an important part of who we are. As we age and morality becomes more important for our character, we tend to have a stronger motivation to do what is morally right.
Moral decisions are not only based on logic, reasoning and cognition. Also emotions play an important role in moral decisions. Moral standards are connected to certain emotions and feelings. Sometimes emotions make it harder to think clear but we cannot engage in moral reasoning without any emotions.
People who have lost their ability to have emotions also have lost the ability to engage in moral reasoning. This is because there is a strong link between emotions and moral reasoning. Many studies confirmed the presence of this link.
Because of this link emotions and feelings can give us some information about what is going on around us. An example is empathy; it allows us to know that the victim is feeling. Emotions let us know that we are facing a situation which raises ethical issues.
Moral reasoning is defined as the reasoning process by which human behaviours, institutions or policies are judged to be in accordance with or in violation of moral standards. Moral reasoning involves three components:
An understanding of the moral standard on which the judgment is based.
Factual information: Evidence or information about the particular person, policy, institution or behaviour under consideration.
A conclusion or moral judgement whether the person, policy, institution or behaviour is right or wrong, just or unjust. The moral judgement is drawn from 1 and 2.
The moral standards and factual information are crucial for a conclusion or moral judgement. Without these, one cannot make a logical conclusion. We often assume that moral standards are obvious and therefore we put most effort in looking for factual information.
The unspoken moral standards are not examined a lot. Because the judgement is also based on these unspoken and spoken moral standards it is very important to explicitly state these.
To evaluate whether a piece of moral reasoning is good ethicists use various criteria.
The moral reasoning must be logical.
The factual evidence that the person uses for his moral judgement must be accurate, relevant and complete.
The moral standards involved in the moral reasoning must be consistent with each other and with the other standards and beliefs of the person.
Consistency is very important in ethical reasoning. Moral standards must be consistently applied to all persons in similar circumstances. One should accept the consequences of applying the same standard to similar hypothetical cases. Whether a principle is acceptable or not can be tested with a hypothetical example.
According to James Rest, there are four steps leading to ethical behaviour:
Recognizing that a situation is an ethical situation.
Before one can think about how to deal with ethical issues one first has to recognize a situation in which ethical reasoning is needed. We can see a situation as a business, legal or family situation. Each type of situation needs its own type of thinking to deal with it.
There are six criteria to determine whether a situation is an ethical situation or not:
Does it harm or inflict one or more people?
Is the harm concentrated on its victims so that each victim sustained a significant amount of harm?
Is it likely that the harm will occur?
Are the victims close or accessible to us?
Will the harm occur fairly soon or has it already occurred?
Is there a possibility that the infliction violates moral standards that most people accept?
When one tries to determine whether a situation requires ethical reasoning, one can encounter several impediments that can get in the way. The main moral disengagements that function as impediments are:
By using euphemisms we change how we see a situation and instead of framing it as an ethical situation we frame it as something else.
Rationalizing our actions
One can tell himself that his harmful actions are justified because one is punishing a moral cause. One does not look at its own actions through an ethical frame.
One can see the situation in comparison to other large evils. Then the wrongdoing of ourselves diminishes and we think that it is not necessary to see the situation through an ethical framework.
Displacement of responsibility
When we do a job that harms others we argue that the harm is inflicted by the one who told us to do the job. Mentally we find then that we are not responsible for the harm.
Diffusion of responsibility
When a large group is responsible for the harm than one can see itself as only a small part of the group playing only a small role in the harm.
Disregarding or distorting the harm
One can deny, disregard or distort the harm resulting from his actions.
Dehumanizing the victim
One can see the victims as not real or not full human beings. Then these victims have no feelings and concerns and one cannot harm these people.
One can blame the adversary or the circumstances so that one is seen as an innocent victim provoked by others or by the circumstances.
Judging what the ethical course of action is.
As we have recognized the situation we have to look for information about the situation. There are several biased that can prevent us from getting the information we need. A bias is an assumption that distorts our beliefs, perceptions and understanding of a situation.
There are several forms of biases that have been studied and which have been put into three groups:
Biased theories about the world
These theories are about the beliefs we have about how the world works. How our actions have an effect on the world and what causes things to happen. The information that the world presents us is very complicated and to understand it we have to simplify the information. One way to simplify it is to limit the amount of information we allow ourselves to think about. This may lead us to ignore critically important information about the ethical situations we face.
Biased theories about others
These theories include beliefs we have about how we differ from others or what the members of certain groups are like.
One important class of this belief is ethnocentrism. Ethnocentrism is the belief that what our nation, group or culture does seems normal, ordinary and good while what others do seems foreign, strange and less good. This leads to unintentional discrimination
Stereotypes are beliefs we have about the members of any group, not just groups that are culturally or ethnically different from us. We believe that all or most members of the group live up to a certain image/look. Stereotypes may result in unethical decisions in business.
Biased theories about oneself
Our views of ourselves tend to be flawed. We believe that we are more capable, insightful, honest, ethical and fair than others. We have high confidence that we are able to control random events and are very optimistic about our future.
Deciding to do or not to do what we judge is right.
Although we have determined what is a morally right action it does not mean that we always will decide to do what is right. People often decide to do unethical behaviour even though they know that their actions are unethical.
Deciding to do what is ethical can be influenced by:
The culture of an organization
Decisions are influenced by peoples’ surroundings, especially their organizational surroundings like the ethical climate and ethical culture of an organization.
Ethical climate refers to the beliefs an organization’s members have about how they are expected to behave. In some organizations people are egoistic while in others people are expected to do what is best for various stakeholders.
Ethical culture refers to the kind of behaviour an organization encourages or discourages by repeated use of examples of appropriate behaviour, incentives for ethical behaviour etc.
Moral seduction can lead an ethical person into decisions that he knows are wrong. An organization that accepts unethical actions may lead a person to accept these unethical practices which he might had rejected before based on his own moral standards.
Carrying out the decision.
A good intention does not always lead to good behaviour because we often fail to do what we had intended to do. When the time comes we may lack to do what we intended to do. Carrying out the decision made can be influenced by:
One’s strength or weakness of will.
Strength of will refers to our ability to regulate our actions so that we resolutely do what we know is right, even when powerful emotions or social pressures urge us not to.
Weakness of will refers to the inability to regulate our actions so that we fail to do what we know is right when emotions, desires or social pressures tempt us.
One’s belief about the locus of control of one’s actions.
Locus of control refers to whether a person believes what happens to him or her is primarily within his or her control, or the result of external forces such as other powerful people, luck or circumstances.
One’s willingness to obey authority figures.
Research has shown that many people obey authority figures even when they know or suspect that they are doing something wrong.
Moral responsibility and blame
We also have to determine whether a person is morally responsible for an injury or for a wrong. When we say that someone is morally responsible we judge that the person acted intentionally and should be blamed or punished.
When we know who is moral responsible for something allows us to:
Identify who should fix the wrong.
Ensure that we do not mistakenly punish or blame an innocent person.
Ensure that you do not end up feeling shame or guilt when you are innocent and should not feel these emotions.
May help keep us from wrongly trying to rationalize our conduct.
A person is morally responsible for an injury if:
The person caused or helped cause it, or failed to prevent it when he or she could and should have prevented it. causality
The person did so knowing what he or she was doing. The person must be aware that his or her actions will injure someone else. The person can either be ignorant of the relevant facts or the relevant moral standards. knowledge
The person did so of his or her own free will. Someone is not responsible when he or she is physically forced or his actions are driven by an uncontrollable mental impulse. freedom
When one of the three requirements is absent then the person is not morally responsible. There are also several mitigating factors that can lessen the moral responsibility of a person. Such factors include:
Circumstances that minimize but do not completely remove a person’s involvement in an act. The degree to which the person caused the wrong is diminished by these circumstances.
Circumstances that leave a person somewhat uncertain about what he or she is doing. The person may be uncertain about how seriously wrong the action is.
Circumstances that make it difficult but not impossible for the person to avoid doing what he or she did. A person can be subjected to threats and the action would have imposed heavy costs on the person.
The seriousness of the wrong. The other three factors depend on this factor. The extents to which these three circumstances can diminish a person’s responsibility depend on how serious the wrong was.
The moral responsibility of a person is not removed nor mitigated by:
The cooperation of others. When an injury is done by more than one person this does not mean that the moral responsibility of each person diminishes.
Following orders. Someone is responsible for his injuries as long as he knows what he is doing and did it on free will even when it is an order from someone else.
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