Ethical problems are inevitable at all levels of a business and a company needs to take ethics seriously by institutionalizing ethics in their organizations. Accordingly, an important segment of corporate America has begun relying on such tools as: statements of corporate values, codes of conduct, ethics workshops, hotlines, even corporate ethics offices and board level ethics committees. Fueled by recent corporate accounting scandals and heightened scrutiny from shareholders and federal regulators, more companies are ramping up ethics training programs for executives and employees. An association of America's top corporate leaders announced plans to launch a business ethics institute as part of a plan to restore public confidence and limit scandals (AFP, 2004). There are many training institutes offering training courses for corporations and companies hiring an ethics specialist into their organization as full-time employees. Ethic codes are critical to the success and integrity of an organization. Respected organizations will suffer damage to their reputation when questions concerning ethical behavior arise.
This is due to increased concern about ethical issues by the public. As a result, the company must hold the image that their customer's value and retain their loyalty and respect for the company. The public not expects but demands more from businesses in this era than they did in the past. This is one of the reason formal codes of ethics, developed by many business organizations, and trade associations are popular today.
In order to make an ethical decision one must look outside the box of ones own ethical values. To begin to understand the concept of right and wrong we must understand as much as possible different diverse ethic values and treat them as they were equal and just as important as your own ethical values. Because we are different, we can expand each other's reality of ethic values and not be limited by just our own. Once we open our selves up to these new view points we develop a consensus of shared meanings of ethic values and what actions are appropriate for those meanings. Once this has been established, ethical decisions can be made that will impact the entire diverse organization. Ethics is not about self interest or expediency. This creates distrust, corruption and lack of human freedom. Ethical decisions are based on acceptance and valuing the humanity of others. Decisions made from this perspective create a solid baseline for a cooperative atmosphere, an ownership of the outcome, a sense of acceptance and self esteem. Making good ethical decisions requires a trained sensitivity to ethical issues and a practiced method for exploring the ethical aspects of a decision and weighing the considerations that should impact our choice of a course of action. Understanding different approaches to ethical decision making that will impact and organization or an individual is essential. Four common approaches are:
- The utilitarian approach to ethical decision making focuses on taking the action that will result in the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Considering our example of employing low-wage workers, under the utilitarian approach you would try to determine whether using low-wage foreign workers would result in the greatest good.
* Moral Rights
- The moral rights approach concerns itself with moral principles, regardless of the consequences. Under this view, some actions are simply considered to be right or wrong. From this standpoint, if paying extremely low wages is immoral, your desire to meet the competition and keep your business afloat is not a sufficient justification. Under this view, you should close down your business if you cannot operate it by paying your workers a "living wage," regardless of the actions of your competitors.
- The universalist approach to ethical decision making is similar to the Golden Rule. This approach has two steps. First, you determine whether a particular action should apply to all people under all circumstances. Next, you determine whether you would be willing to have someone else apply the rule to you. Under this approach, for example, you would ask yourself whether paying extremely low wages in response to competition would be right for you and everyone else. If so, you then would ask yourself whether someone would be justified in paying you those low wages if you, as a worker, had no alternative except starvation.
- Under the cost-benefit approach, you balance the costs and benefits of taking versus not taking a particular action. For example, one of the costs of paying extremely low wages might include negative publicity. You would weigh that cost against the competitive advantage that you might gain by paying those wages.
In our complex global business climate, ethical decision making is rarely easy. However, as a business owner, you have several models available for analyzing your ethical dilemmas. Sometimes one approach will be more appropriate than another. If you take time to consider the various possibilities, you are more likely to make a decision you believe is ethically correct (Pozak,2005).
Technology has assisted in the training of ethic behavior in organizations through simulation programs, and several interactive programs to create a social environment with in the workplace. These technology programs have proven to reduce the work related stress and more employees are taking the training to learn how to manage there day-to-day work stress.
Recognizing and committing to business ethics and investing in new technologies to reduce work related stress, business leaders can provide distinct advantage in attracting and retaining employees, dealing with diverse ethical behavior, strengthening customer relationships and providing positive returns for investors. As a corporation demonstrates these values their business will be recognize will gain respect from society.
Pozak Law Firm LTD, 2005 Approaches to Ethical Decision Making