Solving ethical dilemma

8 August 2016

Alice, a manager at Shore Manufacturing’s plants, faces a dilemma. Her boss told her in the strictest confidence that the company will have to make workers redundant and the rumour is circulating round the plant. Her old school friend, who now works for her, asks her “Am I going to lose my job? ” This essay will examine this ethical dilemma, evaluating and highlighting the process for moral decision making with the significant ethical theories. Through the process for solving the ethical problem, she may ensure that her decision is ethical and fair.

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An ethical dilemma may be defined as a problem situation in which there can be less immoral choices, but “there is no obvious right or wrong” (Ferrell, Fraedrich & Ferrell, 2011, p. 64). Alice is in an ethical dilemma because her decision may conflict with her moral values whether or not she tells her friend about the redundancies. Then how could she morally choose the right decision in her way? To solve the ethical dilemma faced her, she could utilise the six step process, which is called an ethical decision making progress.

She firstly identifies the ethical issues involved, defines the problem she has. Secondly she identifies alternatives from a variety point of view, listing the options she could choose. For the next step, she considers the available moral imagination-Alice should perceive her moral issues of both company and her friend, through using the ethical theories. Next, she should consider how a decision affects stakeholders about the effects from her decision making. Now, make a decision. For the last step, she monitors, learns and reflects on the decision making (Weiss, 2003).

Ethical theories and principles bring significant help to the decision making, so Alice needs to consider several ethical theories to make a decision. The first ethical theory that she could consider, is known as egoism. It can be explained that the results, consequences determined the rightness of an action (Shaw, Barry & Sansbury, 2009). The term ‘ego’ means the unique identity of the individual human self. This theory pursues the better consequences as a person enhances one’s welfare and benefits, not for their society or others (Hartman & Desjardins, 2008).

It means egoism concerns with one’s desires and getting what one want. “What is right for you may be wrong for me? ” (Weiss, 2003, p. 78) Only individual’s values suggest directions for his or her actions on the theory. If Alice tells her friend about the redundancies, she may face being fired from the company or she may have disadvantages in a way. This gives her the bad consequences. Nevertheless, if she does not tell her friend, and the relationship between Alice and her friend breaks, then that situation also can be a bad result for her.

The decision on the theory may not be accurate, or not be defined as right or wrong, because a person may decide things by what I perceive as ‘fact’ (Weiss, 2003). Alice may conflicts with herself and others’ beliefs. Like egoism, utilitarianism is based on consequences, but concerned with the greatest total amount of everyone’s happiness (Shaw, Barry & Sansbury, 2009). The right or wrong actions themselves are not really significant, but their consequences for everyone are important rather than my good and benefits.

This word, utilitarianism, was invented by Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), and the theory was refined by John Stuart Mill (1806-1873). According to the theory, an action is morally right, if it produces the good results in the greatest good, for the greatest number of people affected by it (Ghillyer, 2010). In the situation seen in the case study, Alice would ‘follow’ the company’s policy or plan, as not telling the truth over her friend’s happiness, if the assumption is made that she chooses to base on the utilitarianism, for the greater good of the company and its people.

The decision would give advantages to the remaining people at Shore Manufacturing’s plants, but the 200 workers who have faced the redundancy. In this case, she could secure her job as well. This concept, utilitarianism is often used by organisations or business professionals, even government policy makers on the greatest good in the real world (Weiss, 2003). Unlike utilitarianism, Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) argued “universalism that holds that the means justify the ends of an action, not the consequences”. It is called as Kant’s theory or deontology.

The theory focuses on the right actions with a particular behaviour rather than on its consequences (Shaw, Barry & Sansbury, 2009). By this theory, there are some things that we should not do because the actions may be defined as ‘bad’ (Ferrell, Fraedrich & Ferrell, 2011). This theory is based on universal principles; justice, rights, fairness and so on (Weiss, 2003). It tells that our actions are from duty and obligation with moral worth. So whether she does tell her friend or not tell, her action can be judged as the ‘right’ or ‘bad’ action as the action itself, not by the results.

At this point of view, she is may forced not telling about redundancies because she may think that is company’s policy and her duty. The decision would be based on justice and fairness. Another theory, virtue ethics treats people’s action and choices through their virtue. As Plato and Aristotle believe that “all human beings aim at being happiness” (Werhane & Freeman, 1997, p. 647), happiness is the ‘end’ of human action in virtue ethics. A person’s performing the act which is connected with virtue determines that the action is ethically good or bad (Shaw, Barry & Sansbury, 2009).

Alice could make a decision upon her own values and so she would have the moral responsibility. The development of process gives people the moral responsibility of individuals. The theory is on the basis of the quality of the person. The most important thing in ethics and social relationships are not in the actions on the theory. An action is judged by the virtuousness of a person rather than the results or justice (Shaw, Barry & Sansbury, 2009). The virtue ethics gives us a question, “what sort of person do I want to become and how do I go about becoming that person?

The last theory is an ethic of care. This theory emphasizes the significance of the relationships. It approaches “argues that since we are interdependent upon others for our individual identity and well-being we have a moral obligation to consider the needs, desires, values and well-being of those with whom we have special, close or concrete relationships” (Shaw, Barry & Sansbury, 2009, p. 93). At this point of view, Alice may care her friend, as she may be close to her friend, having a moral duty as a friend. Those theories may help to build Alice’s morality which is her moral judgement.

The concept of the term moral judgement which is an ethical judgement of values that may be cognition decided good or bad and right or wrong. Actually, in human society, there is a socially accepted idea that ethics is equal to rationality, so that moral judgement should be logical, should be based on facts. Alice could prioritize what she really cares about in this case by her logical value. However, there is also another idea. As Joshua Greene published in 2001, the results of his study, that the intuitive emotion is more affected than rationality to make ethical actions, in an ethical dilemma situation (Jo, 2011).

This could make Alice’s decision totally different. The different way to judge moral decision would bring different process and consequences, depending on Alice’s value or feelings. Alice would morally judge her situation using those theories. Egoism and utilitarianism are consequential theories that refer to that the outcomes are the most importance. However, there is a big difference, egoism pursued my benefits and utilitarianism aims to the greatest mount of people’s benefit and their happiness. Kant’s ethics, virtue theory and ethic of care are non-consequential theories.

Kant’s ethics focuses on the right action rather than its consequences. The action may be occurred by justice and rights by the theory. On virtue theory, the action is determined by one’s virtues. Ethic of care is concerned with the dependent sides, the social relationships. Through the study of the case ”The Layoff” and those several theories, Alice would make a better choice, but the better choice may not be judged as a right or wrong answer. The six step process would be used to analyse her situation and the ethical dilemma.

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