Tag Archives: Ethics

Moral Issues in Business focusing on Kant’s Duty-Based Ethics.

Introduction

According to Soanes & Stevenson (2010), ethics can be defined as ‘a set of moral principles, especially ones relating to or affirming a specified group, field or form of conduct.’ Ever since the olden days, human beings have been trying to decide a clear distinction between right and wrong. Although there are a set of rules or norms that society follows, however, the line between black and white is often blurred making it hard to determine what is ethically correct or unjust.

Currently, the world is following three general moral philosophies. They are metaethics, normative ethics and applied ethics (Shaw & Barry, 2009). Each school of thoughts portrays different issues that argue about the meaning of being morally right. However, one concept cannot stand on its own without being dependent on the others (Shaw & Barry, 2009). Therefore, these moral philosophies are inter-related. Metaethics is the general outlook to ethical studies. It involves the study on metaphysical and psychological issues (Shaw & Barry, 2009). Normative ethics involves coming up with a moral standard to judge an action whether it is morally right or wrong (Shaw & Barry, 2009). Meanwhile, applied ethics will look at, examine and analyze moral issues that are specific or controversial such as abortion and homosexuality (Shaw & Barry, 2009).

This article will discuss moral issues that are involved in a business environment by using the principles from normative ethics or deontology. There are three strategies that are suggested; virtue theories, duty theories and consequentialist theories (Brenkert & Beauchamp, 2009). However, this article is only going to focus on analyzing and examining duty based theories. Immanuel Kant is probably one of the most prominent figures in this area (Brenkert & Beauchamp, 2009). Therefore, this article will evaluate the strengths and weaknesses on Kant’s duty-based ethics. It will also include suggestions for managers or professionals who want to apply this ethical theory in their organization and the benefits that they can gain from it.

Kant’s duty-based ethics

Kant is one of the most sought after names when it comes to business ethics. Having been influenced by Pufendorf, Kant agrees that each individual has the obligation to perform moral duties to oneself as well as to other people (Bowie, 1999). However, he argues that there are two types of duty; hypothetical and categorical imperatives (Bowie, 1999). The hypothetical imperative is when an individual will perform a certain action in order to achieve a desired end result (Bowie, 1999). Meanwhile, the categorical imperative involves an individual performing a certain action as compulsory regardless of the end result or away from any personal influence (Bowie, 1999).

For Kant, he believes that categorical imperative is the basis principle to determine whether one’s action is deemed to be ethically correct. He has proposed three versions or maxims of categorical imperatives (Bowie, 1999). Firstly, an action can only be considered as ethically correct if it can be accepted or made into a universal law (Bowie, 1999). For example, an individual who is in financial trouble make a fake promise to return back the money which he or she has borrowed. One has to decide whether it is possible to make an untruthful agreement when one is in a desperate situation into a universal law. If the answer is no, then, according to Kant, the action is unethical. The second maxim states that a person should be treated as an end and not the means to achieve an end (Bowie, 1999). This means that every individual should be treated with respect and not just as an instrument to achieve personal happiness or goals. For example, it will be morally wrong to commit suicide because an individual is seen as using life as a mean to escape from experiencing further misery or hardship. Finally, the third maxim calls upon each individual to act as a member of an ideal kingdom where he or she is both the ruler and subject at the same time (Bowie, 1999). It simply means that a set of rules that are made should treat every individual with respect and dignity. These rules should also be accepted by everybody.

The next section of this article will delve deeper into Kant’s duty-based ethics by paying special attention to the three formulations that are mentioned above. Each maxim will be examined on their strengths and weaknesses supported by examples that are related to business.

Kant’s Duty-Based Ethics: Strengths and Weaknesses

Based on the first maxim from the categorical imperative, Kant suggests that every action should follow a certain set of guidelines that is adheres by everyone as a universal law without any exception (Pfeiffer & Forsberg, 2004). Both the action and principle must be coherent in order to be considered as ethically or morally wrong (Pfeiffer & Forsberg, 2004). Therefore, if an individual does not agree to follow certain rules, those standards are no longer relevant or valid. For example, if everyone feels that it is fine to break promises in any given situation, then, promises will no longer holds any value in the society.

One of the positive outcomes from the first maxim is that it ensures a certain level of certainty when it comes to ethical decision making (Case, 1996). This is because Kant’s duty-based theories only focus on the actions and not the consequences of those actions. So, an individual should be able to take a moral action without much dilemma if the decision is right and govern to a set of rules that can be universalized (Case, 1996). For example, from a business point of view, a company who tried to re-negotiate a contract is considered as immoral. This happens with General Motors who tried to reduce the price that are stated in the initial contracts with their suppliers (SAGE Publication, 2011). So, one has to think whether the action of breaking contracts can be universalized. The answer is no simply because contracts will cease to exist as nobody will believe that the other party has the intention of keeping their promises.

However, most critics argue that in the real world, nothing is clear cut. Since Kant’s duty-based theories can be considered as an absolutist, there should be no exceptions to any given rules (Smith, 2008). Many business organizations will often re-negotiate contracts due to many factors such as economic change. A contract that is made 5 years ago may no longer be relevant today. Although this situation often occurs, many businessmen still believe in the action of contract making. If it is solely based on Kant’s first maxim, then, contract making will become irrelevant.

Another advantage of applying this ethical theory is the emphasis given to the moral values of every person. Kant’s second maxim proposes that every human being should be treated as an end and not as an instrument to meet an end (Ferrell & Fraedrich, 2010). The focus of this principle is to give equal treatment to every human being (Ferrell & Fraedrich, 2010). In order to achieve this, Kant’s has suggested two different forms of freedom; negative and positive freedom. Negative freedom emphasizes that an individual should not be deceived or coerced into doing something (Ferrell & Fraedrich, 2010). Meanwhile, positive freedom is the privilege to allow an individual to develop to his or her full capability (Ferrell & Fraedrich, 2010). In a nutshell, in order to treat another human being with respect, an action should not involve any form of deception or coercion and it must allow the development of a person’s moral potential.

Due to the current economic downturn, many companies are laying off their employees. To many people, this may seem to be an immoral act. However, according to Kant’s second maxim, this may not necessarily unethical as long as the employers do not deceive or coerce their employees into taking the job (Painter-Morland & Werhane, 2010). This is because most employers argue that employees should be well aware there is a chance of unemployment when they are hired for the job position. Furthermore, workers often jump from one job opening to another in search for better personal benefits. Therefore, this makes the action of laying off employees morally correct. As a result, critics argue that Kant’s duty-based ethics permits wrong actions to occur that consequently will make the world a less happy place (Painter-Morland & Werhane, 2010). Employees lay off during economic turmoil has bad consequences. During this time, workers are looking at their employers to treat them with respect and reward them for their loyalty. When this situation does not happen, critics debate that employers are not exercising human rights. This act in itself goes against Kant’s second maxim.

Finally, the third formulation suggested by Kant that is each member of the society or organization should act as if they are a member of an ideal kingdom in which he or she is the ruler as well as the subject (Donaldson & Werhane, 2007). This brings about the advantage that every individual possesses the autonomy and rationale to make informed as well as ethically correct actions (Donaldson & Werhane, 2007). In a business setting, any regulations and policies that are made by an organization should take into account the interest of every individual before they are implemented (Donaldson & Werhane, 2007). This allows the ability for every human being to be treated with respect under a set of rules that are agreed by everyone.

However, critics argue that Kant’s duty-based theory does not deal with conflicting situations (Donaldson & Werhane, 2007). In a real business scenario, it will involve giving employees a lot of autonomy when it comes to decision making. An individual’s interest has the power to overrule the interest of the whole group. Kant’s third maxim will also mean that an organization should not have a hierarchical organization where workers perform the orders by their managers. When duties are conflicted, Kant duty-based ethics does not suggest any resolution for the situation (Donaldson & Werhane, 2007). Furthermore, without a certain autonomy given to the managers, an organization will cease to work efficiently.

The Usefulness of Applying Kant’s Duty-Based Ethics in a Workplace

Although Kant’s duty-based ethics have its limitations and challenges but if the three maxims are taken as a whole, it can serve as a guide to managers and professionals on managing their organizations better (Boje, 2008). Since Kant stresses the importance of morally motivated actions, organizations will be able to create a positive working experience (Boje, 2008). One of the methods of applying Kant’s duty-based ethics is to have a more democratic workplace. When employees are given more autonomy in an organization, they will feel a sense of belonging making them more motivated to do a better job. Aside from that, companies that place considerable interest on their workers will also provide a sense of security making them more loyal to the firm.

One good example is to implement an open book policy where employees are frequently updated with the financial status of their companies (Case, 1996). This method is headed by Jack Stack from Springfield Manufacturing Company (Case, 1996). Since employees are able to obtain important information at any point of time, this makes it difficult for employers to deceive or hide any unwanted negative news from them. As a result, employees will more likely cooperate with the organization in order to help it to get over these hard times. Motivation to work harder can come in many forms. It can be due to being respected or the work is meaningful giving the workers a sense of satisfaction.

References

Boje, D. M (2008). Critical Theory Ethics for Business and Public Administration. Information Age Publishing. Charlotte.

Bowie, N. E (1999). Business Ethics: A Kantian Perspective. Wiley-Blackwell. New Jersey.

Brenkert, G. G & Beauchamp, T. L (2009). The Oxford Handbook of Business Ethics. Oxofrd University Press. New York.

Case, J (1996). The Open-Book Management: Coming Business Revolution. HarperBusiness. New York.

Donaldson, T & Werhane, P (2007). Ethical Issues in Business: A Philosophical Approach. Prentice Hall. New Jersey.

Ferrell, O. C & Fraedrich, J (2010). Business Ethics: Ethical Decision Making& Cases. South-Western College Pub. Boston.

Painter-Morland, M & Werhane, P (2010). Cutting-edge Issues in Business Ethics: Continental Challenges to Tradition and Practice. Springer. New York.

Pfeiffer, R.S & Forsberg, R. P (2004). Ethics on the job: Cases and Strategies. Wadsworth Publishing. Beverly.

SAGE Publication (2011). SAGE Brief Guide to Business Ethics. SAGE Publications. Thousand Oaks.

Shaw, W.H & Barry, V (2009). Moral Issues in Business. Wadsworth Publishing. Beverly.

Smith, J. D (2008). Normative Theory and Business Ethics. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Lanham.

Soanes, C & Stevenson, A (2010). Oxford Dictionary of English. Oxford University Press. New York.

Ethical Theory and Its Application to Contemporary Business Practice

Introduction

When it comes to determining a set of rules, guidelines or principles to follow in the business industry, many will agree that it is difficult for everybody to agree on one due to the complexities of dealing with human nature. Therefore, to a certain extent, the field of business ethics tries to come up with solutions to handle problems that arise within the business environment. On the contrary belief, one should not be confused with the meaning of morality and ethical theory. Morality has got to do with principles or rules that are used by people to decide between wrong and right (Jennings, 2008). Meanwhile, ethical theory tends to provide guidelines that justify an action to be right or wrong when settling human conflicts (Jennings, 2008). This paper is going to discuss five different ethical theories. They consist of the utilitarianism, Kantian deontology, justice, rights and ethical relativism theories. After that, these ethical concepts will be used to identify some of the ethical issues that are presented in the article entitled ‘News of the World: What was it like on the inside?’ Finally, this paper is also going to come to a conclusion regarding the effectiveness of business theories and practices.

Ethical theories

Utilitarianism

The utilitarian theory insists that an action is considered to be right or wrong based on the consequences of the action and its effects on majority of the people (West, 2004). This means that an action or practice is ethically correct when it produces more positive consequences in comparison to negative ones to those who are involved. The forerunners for this school of thought are Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill (west, 2004). Therefore, utilitarianism goes by the rule that an action is evaluated to be ethical based on a set of rules or principles that can bring the greatest usefulness to the greatest amount of people (Mill, 2006). This is the total opposite to deontological ethics whereby utilitarian believes that there should not be any compromising when it comes to determining the stand point of morality.  Tools such as cost benefit analysis and risk assessment are often depended on by utilitarian for decision making purposes. However, there are some arguments regarding ‘the greatest happiness principle’ that is set forth by utilitarianism. This is due to the difficulty in measuring unit of happiness or in order to determine an action that will bring the most benefit comparing to other actions (Mill, 2006).

Kantian deontology

Kantian deontology stresses that an action is considered to be ethical if it can be accepted as a universal law by every individual (Makkreel & Luft, 2010). It is first introduced by a philosopher from Germany named Immanuel Kant. He believes that morality must follow a set of rules without any exceptions. Therefore, this school of thought looks at categorical principles whereby they are imperatives and instructions are given on the way one must act (Holzhey & Mudroch, 2005). Besides that, Kantianism also emphasizes on treating each other with respect. A person should not be used as a mean to get to an end (Holzhey & Mudroch, 2005). This means that an individual is bound or obligated to their duty to follow a set of maxim in order to determine whether their actions are ethically right. However, there have been arguments on Kantian deontology mostly due to the narrowness and inadequacy of this theory to handle various moral problems or dilemmas (Makkreel & Luft, 2010). For example, there is no moral guidance or solution when an individual’s rights and duties crosses path.

Justice

Justice can be defined as the importance of getting fair treatments, equality and having rights (Rawl, 1999). In order to grasp a better understanding on the theories of justice, this section is going to look at Nozick’s libertarianism and Rawl’s justice as fairness. According to Nozick, every individual has the right to own a piece of property as long as it is acquired fairly without going against other people’s rights (Paul, Miller & Paul, 2005). In the world of economy and business, libertarian believes in a free market where it is no influenced by government policies or public services. When an organization or individual is taxed by the government for their property which they have obtained fairly, this action is considered to be unjust even if the money is distributed to public schools, prisons or fire departments (Paul, Miller & Paul, 2005). However, many argue that absolute power that is encouraged by Nozick can bring about negative consequences such as oppression. For example, it is justified for a country to export all its food produce to another country in order to gain better profits and ignore the starvation experienced by its people.

Meanwhile, Rawl’s theory of justice is called ‘Justice as Fairness’. There are two main principles in this theory. The first principle advocates that every individual should have equal rights to a fair distribution of social goods such as education, food and housing (Rawl, 1999). The second principle stresses if there is any existence of social and economic inequalities, they should benefit members of society who are at the most disadvantage (Rawl, 1999). Therefore, unlike Nozick’s libertarianism, Rawl supports the redistribution of wealth and taxes to those who are socially and economically disadvantage. He believes that this action is just and promotes productive behavior. Many people argue Rawl’s theory of justice is too restrictive and pro-communism.

Rights

The rights theory finds that the best method to deal with ethical issues is to form a basis of obligations in order to justify every individual’s entitlement to human rights (Shaw, 2010). Besides that, the rights theory also insists that human rights should be independent from the influence of other factors. Human right is simply the natural rights belonging to every person by virtue of being a human being (Shaw, 2010). There are two types of human rights; positive and negative rights. Positive rights are obligations put open people to provide goods and services to other people (Jennings, 2008). On the other hand, negative rights are obligations imposed on people to stop them from interfering with other people’s freedom of action (Jennings, 2008). One of the major arguments pertaining to the rights theory is the lack of hierarchy to determine which rights has more value than the rest.

Ethical relativism

Ethical relativism is a theory that decides whether an action is right or wrong solely based on the moral norms that adheres to the culture of one’s society (Shomali, 2001). Therefore, an action can be seen as ethically right in one society does not mean it will be in another. Unlike Kantian deontology, ethical relativist believes that there is no such thing as a universal law when it comes to determining a set of maxim (Jhingran, 2001). Any sort of moral problems or disputes should be judged and handled within the members of a society by coming to an agreement (Jhingran, 2001). However, there are many people who argue against the theory of ethical relativism. Although moral practices may differ from one society to another but the underlying principles of these practices are the same (Shomali, 2001). As a result, skeptics consider the possibility of the universalization of ethical values to be conceivable. For example, every society acknowledges that certain actions are deemed wrong such as the act of torture and slavery. Besides that, individuals from the same cultural background can hold different moral beliefs as well as practices and decide that these actions are right or wrong (Shomali, 2001). Despite being widely accepted by the Nazi society, the genocide of Jews is considered to be ethically wrong by many Germans. This is proven when some of them try to help Jews to escape from their country.

Ethical issues in the article ‘News of the World: What was it like on the inside?’

The article ‘News of the World: What was it like on the inside?’ portrays the vicious competition among journalists and newspaper companies. When this situation happens, many individuals resort to unethical business practices in order to get ahead from the competitors (Ferrell & Fraedrich, 2012). There are many reasons that can lead to unethical business behavior. Therefore, this section is going to identify various ethical issues that happen in a newspaper company called ‘News of the World’ or NoW through the eyes of one of their journalists named Dan Arnold.

One of the most obvious ethical issues is the pressure from the supervisors to get a story no matter what cost it takes (George, 2009). Journalists for this newspaper are pushed to obtain newsworthy material by hook or by crook. Since the competition between NoW with Sunday Mirror and People are tight, the company uses their journalists as a mean to get ahead and of course, to obtain a larger profit margin. Journalists from this newspaper have to work extra hard and are moved from one project to another without any consideration for their health. This action is considered to be unethical if it is based on Kantian deontology. He stresses that every individual should be treated with respect and should not be used as mean to reach an end.

Besides that, the way NoW runs its company creates fear and paranoia in every journalists (Geroge, 2009). Their employees often have to work throughout the week and sometimes late into the evening. Apart from that, they also have to be on the pager 24 hours a day and they are expected to travel around the globe in a short period notice so that, they can catch the next big story. As a result of living in fear of getting terminated from the ‘best’ newspaper company, journalists are often stressful and resort to drinking in order to curb with the pressure. Aside from that, the amount of time spend in offices also means they have neglected their families back home. This is considered to be unethical based on utilitarianism as the company’s action of pushing their journalists to work harder does not bring the greatest benefit to the greatest number of people. It only serves to bring larger profit for the company’s shareholders while sacrificing the happiness of their employees.

Not just that, people outside of NoW are scared of the journalists from this company and more often not, give in to interviews and provide information that are required although they may feel reluctant to do so (Ferrell & Fraedrich, 2012). This action is considered to be unethical based on the rights theory. These individuals or organizations have the freedom to say ‘no’ to the journalists from NoW without any negative consequences that may be inflicted upon them by the massive influence of a successful company. Besides that, the action of firing journalists just because their stories are not publish in the newspaper is also against human rights. It is not the journalists’ faults if their stories are pushed aside by the newspaper committee for another piece that seems to be trendier due to a sudden change in circumstantial events. These journalists have also worked hard just like the others and deserve some sort of job security and protection from the newspaper company.

In addition, there seems to be an unequal distribution of wealth between the profit gain by the newspaper company with their employees as well as between the journalists (Ferrell & Fraedrich, 2012). For instance, journalists who successfully get their stories published are paid more in terms of salary and are also secure from termination. Based on Rawl’s theory of justice, this action is considered to be unethical. Every journalists in NoW has worked hard in order for the newspaper company to succeed in the industry. Therefore, to be fair, salary should be equally distributed among the journalists.

Furthermore, in NoW, journalists are awarded base on their success to get a juicy story for publication. There are instances whereby the company is willing to do anything in order to obtain the most current news. Sometimes, journalists are asked by NoW to offer cash and other bonuses such as cars as well as housing property to informants. This act of bribery can be seen as unethical based on the ethical relativism theory (George, 2009). In many societies around the world, bribing is against their moral norms. Although the company may view this action as a mean to get their hands on precious information, it may be conflicting to certain employees who do not support bribery. However, they will have to push their norms aside to avoid being fired from their jobs.

Conclusion

This paper has discussed the different ethical theories that are relevant to the business industry such as utilitarianism’s pursuit of happiness, Kantian deontology in coming up with a universal law, Rawl’s and Nozick’s definition of justice, human rights as well as ethical relativism’s belief in conforming to society’s cultural norms (Shaw, 2010). Various academic literature provided by these philosophers can be used as guidance when it comes to practicing business ethics. However, there is no one discipline that can stand on its own. This is because the theory that is presented by one school of thoughts is not sufficient or practical enough in overcoming a multitude of moral problems which exist in real life situation. Currently, many businesses choose to adopt interdisciplinary theories in order to achieve better outcomes in handling ethical issues (Shaw, 2010).

References

Ferrell, O. C. & Fraedrich, J. (2012). Business ethics: Ethical decision making & cases. Cengage Learning. Connecticut.

George, R. (2009). Business ethics. Prentice Hall. New Jersey.

Holzhey, H. & Mudroch, V. (2005). Historical dictionary of Kant and Kantianism. Scarecrow Press. Maryland.

Jennings, M. (2008). Business ethics: Case studies and selected readings. Cengage Learning. Connecticut.

Jhingran, S. (2001). Ethical relativism and universalism. Motilal Banarsidass. Delhi.

Makkreel, R. & Luft, S. (2010). Neo-kantianism in contemporary philosophy. Indiana University Press. Indiana.

Mill, J. (2006). Utilitarianism: Easyread large edition. ReadHowYouWant. Sydney.

Paul, E., Miller, F. & Paul, J. (2005). Natural rights liberalism from Locke to Nozick. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge.

Rawls, J. (1999). A theory of justice. Oxford University Press. Oxford.

Shaw, W. (2010). Business ethics: A textbook with cases. Cengage Learning. Connecticut.

Shomali, M. (2001). Ethical relativism: An analysis of the foundations of morality. Saqi Books. London.

West, H. (2004). An introduction to Mill’s utilitarian ethics. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge.

Ethical Dilemma in Workplace

Introduction

In any workplace, there are many codes of conduct involved. Employees are bound to these rules and regulations in order for any organizations to work smoothly (Schermerhorn, 2010). However, there are times where the lines are blurred due to various reasons. Sometimes, relationships, beliefs and principles come into play when the time comes for one to make certain decisions. This scenario is called an ethical dilemma whereby individuals are forced to weigh the right and wrong of their actions (Westerholm, Nilstun, & Øvretveit, 2004). Therefore, this paper is going to examine the ethical dilemma that can happen in a workplace and try to find the appropriate resolution to this conflict based on ethical theories. To answer this question, this essay will, firstly, describe a work situation at my previous employment that has posed an ethical dilemma for me. Later, this essay will look at the resolution, if any, that has taken place to solve the dilemma. Finally, by using the Utilitarianism theory, this paper is going to analyze and assess whether the resolution is ethical.

Description of a work situation with an ethical dilemma

At my previous employment, I have worked as a technical communicator for a major health organization. My task is to develop a new software system acting as a database that will gather all the necessary records from hospitals, clinics, health maintenance organizations, laboratories and physicians around my area. These records that contained personal information about the patients are highly confidential and private in nature. Revealing some of this classified information can cause a lot of damage to these individuals. One likely situation that could happen is limiting their employability. Some employers may not want to hire or tend to discriminate against these patients who can be seen as handicapped. Employers may already form a pre-conceived idea that these individuals will not be able to perform up to par and contribute effectively to the growth of their organizations. Besides a ruined reputation, if this information fell into the wrong hands for example HMO’s or insurance companies, these individuals may also be hindered from receiving access to health insurance at an affordable price. Therefore, keeping and maintaining confidentiality is a crucial part and parcel of my job.

A few months into my software development, I have learnt about a surprising piece of information that will put me in an ethical dilemma. As I am going through my daily routine of gathering information, I suddenly come across a familiar name flashing on my computer screen. The name happens to be my sister’s fiancé. He has been tested and diagnosed positive for HIV. The information has also shown that he is currently receiving treatment as well as counseling for HIV and AIDS at a local clinic. The relationship between my sister and I are very close as we have lost our mother to cancer at a very young age. Growing up without a female figure, we have always count on each other for support. I am certain that my sister is unaware of the situation whereby her fiancé has been tested positive with HIV. She would have told me and my father if she knows. The worst part of my revelation is the fact that my sister’s wedding ceremony will be held in another few weeks’ time.

As soon as I found out about this information, I am flabbergasted as well as torn between my relationship with my family and my obligation towards my job. On one hand, if I choose not to tell my sister regarding her fiancé, I will be able to keep my integrity in order to maintain my job. This is important as this job is a source of income for me and my family. However, by doing so, I would be putting my sister’s safety as well as her marriage in jeopardy. On the other hand, if I choose to reveal what I know to my sister, I will be able to save her from making a stupid mistake. She can make an informed decision whether to continue with the wedding ceremony. Nonetheless, by leaking classified information to my family member, I would be facing a high risk of being terminated from a job which I loved.

Resolution for the dilemma

After finding out about my sister’s fiancé current predicament, I do not know what to do. I have decided to sit on it for some time in order to think through my options. I am put in a situation whereby I could not share or discuss what I know to another person. In my mind, whichever route I take, it would be an unethical decision. Finally, I could only come up with three different resolutions.

The first resolution involves that I do not say anything at all. I will keep it a secret from my sister and pretend as if nothing has ever happened. By doing so, I would be the only one who has to suffer through this ordeal. As for the relationship between me and my sister, I will be able to maintain a healthy bond as I do not have to be the bearer of bad news. After their marriage, they can work things out together and take the necessary precautions in curbing the illness. It is, after all, their private matter. Apart from that, I am also able to continue working for a prestigious company and keep on earning a steady salary for my family’s livelihood.

The second resolution which I can think of is to reveal the truth to my sister. I can tell her the bad news in a number of ways. Firstly, I can request for a meeting with or without her fiancé and talk to her about my findings face to face. This may be difficult as I face the risk of humiliating her and there is also a chance she will think that I am lying to her as well as not being supportive at a crucial time of her life. Her fiancé can also choose to deny this revelation in order to save himself. As a result, this can ruin the relationship between both of us. Secondly, I can also decide to write an anonymous letter to my sister telling her about the truth. By doing so, I will be able to conceal my identity and protect myself. However, leaking confidential information to my sister will put my job in jeopardy. There is a chance her fiancé or my sister will come to my company in order to clarify this piece of information. This will lead to further investigation and eventually, I have to admit my mistake.

The third resolution is for me to confront my sister’s fiancé. There are two ways which I can face him. Firstly, I can call him up and arrange for a meeting. Although it can be a little daunting, talking face to face with my sister’s fiancé will allow me to explain to him that I am aware about his sickness. Besides that, I can also try to persuade him with the appropriate reasons so that, he will finally agree to tell my sister the truth. Secondly, I can choose to threaten my sister’s fiancé. If he is not going to do it, I will reveal the truth to my sister, putting him in a difficult situation. However, if the end result of this confrontation is negative for example, my sister calls off the wedding and break up with her fiancé; I will be in big trouble. He can report what I have done to my superiors out of spite or revenge. Consequently, this will ruin my reputation as a trustworthy employee and cost me my job. Nevertheless, since the news is brought into light by my sister’s fiancé, I am able to keep the integrity of my job but still do the correct thing. There is a 50 percent chance of getting it right.

In the end, I have decided to go with the third resolution. I call my sister’s fiancé and arrange for a meeting over coffee. Slowly, I break the news to him that I know he has been tested positive with HIV. Initially, he is upset as I have put him in a situation where he has to finally face the truth. By using my reasoning skills, I make him aware that if he really loves and respect my sister, he will not want to put her in a precarious situation. Furthermore, a marriage should not be started with a lie as trust is the basis for every relationship. Finally, I manage to calm him down and persuade my sister’s fiancé to do the right thing.

Assessing and analyzing whether the resolution is ethical based on Utilitarianism

Based on Utilitarianism, the theory stresses that a decision is considered to be ethical if it brings goodness or pleasure to a greater number of people (Sharma & Bhal, 2004). Utilitarian simplifies the moral law into a quantitative calculation (Paludi, 2012). It is called the cost-benefit analysis and can be used to decide whether the choices are ethical (Bredeson & Goree, 2011). One has to take into account the total pleasure of their decision minus the total pain from the cause of their action. The end result will give the total utility of the taken resolution. The formula is Total Pleasure – Total Pain = Total Utility (Harman, 2006). Therefore, the highest total utility is considered to be the right action regardless whose happiness is involved (Cornelius, 2002). Consequently, Utilitarian justifies pleasure is above what is just or right.

By using Utilitarianism’s cost-benefit analysis formula, I am going to assess whether the resolution I have taken to solve my workplace dilemma is ethical. As it is mentioned earlier, I have decided to confront my sister’s fiancé and somehow, force him to reveal the truth regarding his condition to my sister. Based on the formula, I will have to analyze the total pleasure from my action first. By facing my sister’s fiancé and making him to tell the truth, I can keep my job because I will not be breaking any rules or obligations. Besides that, I can also save my sister from contracting HIV or even potentially, AIDS, an incurable disease. Secondly, I have to analyze the total pain from my action. The only drawback is that my sister’s fiancé will feel upset as he needs to have a serious discussion with my sister after the confrontation.  Therefore, if I minus the total pain from the total pleasure, not just will I be able to keep my job, I am also able to help my sister from marrying the wrong man and thus, saving her life. I can continue earning to support my family. The total happiness from my action far outweighs the pain that is experienced by my sister’s fiancé. As a result, the total utility is high. Deriving from Utilitarianism’s theory, my resolution is considered to be ethical and the right thing to do.

Using the same formula from cost-benefit analysis, one will come up with low level of utility from the first two resolutions. The possibility of my sister’s death due to HIV or AIDS as well as a ruined reputation that will cause me to be unemployable in future will cause more pain to more individuals in the long run. Therefore, the first and second resolutions are considered to be unethical based on Utilitarianism’s moral law.

Conclusion

In the case of my ethical dilemma, Utilitarianism has proven that the best resolution is for me to confront my sister’s fiancé and make him reveal the truth. However, there is no hard and fast rule when it comes to deciding whether an action is ethical. Many different aspects have to be taken into consideration. For example, Kantians may disagree that the action I have chosen to solve my dilemma is morally right. In both cases, both theories stress that personal relationship should not be taken into account while figuring the resolution for any conflict. Nevertheless, this is often not practical in a real world scenario. These moral theories can only be used as a form of guideline. Ultimately, it is still up to an individual to decide what they need to do when face with an ethical dilemma in the workplace.

References

Bredeson, D., & Goree, K. (2011). Ethics in the Workplace. Stamford: Cengage Learning.

Cornelius, N. (2002). Building Workplace Equality: Ethics, Diversity and Inclusion. Hampshire: Cengage Learning EMEA.

Harman, L. B. (2006). Ethical Challenges in the Management of Health Information. Burlington: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Paludi, M. A. (2012). Managing Diversity in Today’s Workplace: Strategies for Employees and Employers. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO.

Schermerhorn, J. R. (2010). Management. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons.

Sharma, P., & Bhal, K. T. (2004). Managerial Ethics: Dilemmas And Decision Making. Thousand Oaks: SAGE.

Westerholm, P., Nilstun, T., & Øvretveit, J. (2004). Practical Ethics in Occupational Health. Abingdon: Radcliffe Publishing.