Approaches To Ethical Decision-Making In Business Research Paper

Length: 5 pages Sources: 5 Subject: Business - Ethics Type: Research Paper Paper: #32781083 Related Topics: Conflict Decision Making, Decision Making Process, Business Decision Making, Ethical Considerations
Excerpt from Research Paper :

Ethical Decision-Making in Business

Ethics refers to what we believe is right or wrong and shows in what we do or do not do (Walsh 2003). It does not provide all the answers or clear answers about what is right or wrong to everyone at all times. But it does propose what is acceptable universally in all or many of the aspects of life. It involves standards of actions or human conduct. It is applied consciously or unconsciously in the choices that people make, whether in ordinary circumstances or in times of crisis. These choices we make actually shape our personality and also result from our personality. In most cases, ethics refers to what people ought or should do and thus reflects people's values and priorities. It is most crucial when making major or life-and-death decisions. In situations such as these, it is important that the decision-maker obtains as much information as possible that will help him in reaching an ethical or correct decision. The consequences of any major decision must always be considered along with the information. Then all sides must be weighed and balanced and all biases eliminated. If the consequences are serious or irreversible, I may be wise to delay making the decision until most of the risks are eliminated. But if a choice must be made on the spot, the decision-maker must do so using his best judgment, which in turn, relies on his highest values and priorities (Walsh).

In a business environment, an ethical decision must be drawn from the laws of the land or State, organizational policies, guidelines and practices (Walsh 2003, Shafgat 2013). These should not conflict with one's personal moral values. There are, however, times when an ethical decision is difficult to make or reach despite the agreement between company rules and one's values. At such times, one can only resort to the use of reason and best judgment (Walsh, Shafgat).

Literature Review

Six Steps

ERC (2009) lists the six steps in the natural decision-making process, These are define the problem, identify the available solutions or options, assess each of these options or alternatives, choose the best option and make the decision, act on the decision or implement it, and assess it and its results and consequences (ERC). The first step entails a rationale for making a decision. That rationale must state the problem or an expectation that is necessary, desirable or ideal for the organization. A clear awareness of the outcomes will provide the rationale of the proposed decision. Once this is settled, the next step is to identify all options in solving the problem or meeting the expectation. Options should not be limited to known resources but extend to new ones. Many managers come up with three to five alternative solutions or options rather than simply two usual ones. The third step is to carefully appraise each of these alternative solutions or approaches. Facts should be established and differentiated from mere possibilities, trifles or fallacies. All those involved in decision-making should give their inputs at this stage. The best alternatives should be compared until the best one is selected. The fourth step is making the decision itself. Whether there is only one decision-maker or the decision will emanate from a group, the decision should be grounded on a strong, realistic and clear rationale, a group of sound alternatives, and down to a similarly clear rationale for the chosen alternative. The fifth is acting on the decision. It is entirely different to simply consider a problem or expectation, discuss it and design the best option from actually implementing it in order to change or improve the environment or situation. And the last step is to evaluate the decision. The question to ask is whether it created or improved the problem or realized the expectation (ERC).

The Nature of Ethical Decisions

It draws from the leader or team's commitment to do what is right (Shafgat 2013). It has to be consistent with one's moral beliefs and the decision-maker's capability to make that critical decision. Ethical decisions cannot and should not be made haphazardly. Their impact on all stakeholders in business can be far-reaching and serious. If the decision is likely to damage, it should be modified to avoid that consequence. Options should imply trust, responsibility, caring respect and loyalty rather than by rewards, money or fame. Decision-makers must look hard at long-term consequences rather than short-term ones (Shafgat).

An organizational decision for something necessary or enhancing to the business should not only effective but also ethical (Shafgat 2013). They should breed trust and reliability as they denote the individual's sense of responsibility, justice and good citizenship. The more these are practiced, they more strongly they grow and ready for use in future decision-making effort (Shafgat).

Values and Rules of Management


This serves as guide in eliminating wrong or bad choices and substituting good ones. Doing so requires that management chooses that which a reasonable man would under the circumstances. Three rules often guide decisions in critical situations (Hojnacki 2004 as qtd in Chmielewski). These are the rule of private gain, that everyone does it, and benefits vs. burden. The first rule focuses on a single person's benefiting from the decision and questions his or her ethics or values. The second rule reveals the unethical behavior or attitudes of those who go by this rule. And under the third rule asks if the choice should be in favor of benefits just because they outweigh the burden. An ethically successful organization considers and observes values, which affect both the inside and the outside environments. Internal perceptions and operations necessarily direct the formation of rules of ethical behavior. Organizations, which handle power and responsibility and pattern their decisions after ethical values produce employees that both environments need. These employees function and behave with honesty and integrity within the business milieu as well as in the outside world (Chmielewski).

The Ethical Choice Model: Intent

Human resources professionals should be fully aware of the organization's ethical policies, apply them every day, and function as ethical role models (King & Powell 2006). Intent has a pivotal role in this model, which helps these professionals reach ethical decisions. It also serves as a framework for communications and learning throughout the organizational structure. It enables the organization to move from an authoritarian set of values to a less authoritarian one, which acknowledges the value of a person and his or her beliefs. It can serve as a training format for supervisors and managers. It can lead them to review their role in supporting an ethical environment within the organization. In the current digital environment, this model can be taught in an e-learning format virtually and globally. It can thus traverse diverse cultures in teaching values and allowing universal understanding of these values (King & Powell).

More Approaches to Ethical Decision-Making in Business

Velasquez and his team (n.d.) list five approaches to ethics and rendering ethical decisions. The virtue approach emphasizes attitudes, dispositions and character, which develop the human potential. It advocates that what is ethical is what forms moral values within a person and the community. Examples of virtues are honesty, fidelity, courage and endurance. The utilitarian approach places the highest value on actions, which produce the greatest advantage over disadvantage to the greatest number of people directly or indirectly. It views benefits as the most appropriate basis of decisions. It is the most popular approach in many situations universally (Velasquez et al.).

The rights approach champions the private rights of every human being (Velasquez et al. n.d.). It recognizes that every person is endowed with intrinsic rights, which guarantee his freedom and equality with other persons everywhere and under all circumstances. Examples of these rights are privacy, freedom of consent, freedom of conscience and the other freedoms. It says that an action or decision within an organization is ethical or morally correct if it acknowledges the person in that light and not as a mere means to some objective. Every human being has the fundamental right to be informed and to free give his consent, deny or withdraw it as he pleases. The fairness or justice approach involves the fairness with which actions or a decision distributes benefits and burdens to members of an organization. It also deals with the fairness of treatment with everyone. It advocates equal or equitable treatment among everyone as regards merit, performance, effort, mistakes and other related aspects. And the common good approach has the welfare of society or the community as the central consideration. It holds that what is ethical is that which advances or preserves the collective good of the organization or community. It often stands above individual welfare. (Velasquez et al.).


Chmielewski, Christine. The Importance of Values and Culture in Ethical Decision-

Making. NACADA National Academy Advising Association, 2014. Retrieved on November 23, 2014 from http://www.nacada.ksu, edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Values-and-Culture-in-ethical-decision-making.aspx

ERD. Plus: The Decision-Making Process. Ethics Today: Ethics Resource Center,…

Sources Used in Documents:


Chmielewski, Christine. The Importance of Values and Culture in Ethical Decision-

Making. NACADA National Academy Advising Association, 2014. Retrieved on November 23, 2014 from http://www.nacada.ksu, edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Values-and-Culture-in-ethical-decision-making.aspx

ERD. Plus: The Decision-Making Process. Ethics Today: Ethics Resource Center, 2009.

Retrieved on November 23, 2014 from
King, Christine and Powell, Toni. The Role of Intent in Ethical Decision-Making: the Ethical Choice Model. Barry University, 2009. Retrieved on November 23, 2014 from, 2013. Retrieved on November 23, 2014 from
Edmund Rice Business Ethics Initiative, 2003. Retrieved on November 23, 2014 from

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