In business, it is essential that you always strive to make ethical decisions. You need to understand ethical dilemmas and the ethical decision-making process. People use different ethical standards to interpret the world around them. To get the best results, you need to put the different approaches together and choose the solution that is the best fit.
- Utilitarian Approach: Focuses on the consequences of actions and the goal is to do more good than harm in a situation.
- Rights Approach: Focuses on the rights of all involved and makes respecting the rights of others a moral obligation.
- Fairness Approach: Focus is on treating everyone fairly using standards to determine actions that are unequal.
- Common Good Approach: System and laws are created to ensure the welfare of everyone.
- Virtue Approach: Uses virtues such as honesty, compassion, love, patience, and courage to guide behavior.
Balancing Personal and Organizational Ethics
Ethical behavior is important both on a personal and organizational level. Your personal ethics influences your decision-making both inside and outside work. While personal ethics is based on personal beliefs and values, organizational ethics determine workplace decisions. It is essential that companies have ethical standards in place. Leadership needs to promote ethical decisions by example as organizational ethics flows from the top down. There may be occasions that personal and professional ethics collide. When that happens, it is crucial to make a decision that will do the most good for all the parties involved.
Common Ethical Dilemmas
Although there are many different ethical dilemmas in business that are specific to industries, there are some common ethical dilemmas that most organizations will face.
- Honest accounting practices
- Responsibility for mistakes such as accidents, spills, and faulty product
- Advertising that is honest and not misleading
- Collusion with competitors
- Labor issues
- Bribes and corporate espionage
Steps to Making Ethical Decisions
- Determine the ethics of a situation: Does the decision affect a group or have legal ramifications?
- Gather Information: Learn as much as possible about the situation, and get the point of view from all parties involved.
- Evaluate Actions: Make different decisions based on the different ethical standards.
- Test Decisions: Would you be proud of this decision if it were advertised?
- Implement: Implement the decision, and evaluate the results.
How to Overcome Obstacles to Ethical Decisions
- Sympathize: Do not attack unethical people. Sympathize with their situation, but refuse to compromise your standards.
- Make them responsible: Do not quibble. Directly ask people if they want you to do something illegal or unethical. This removes their plausible deniability.
- Reason: Provide them with logical reasons for your refusal to compromise your integrity.
- Stay firm: Make a decision and stick to it. Do not let people wear you down.
- Take precautions: Keep a paper trail of your encounters, and be prepared to defend yourself.