Organizational ethics is an area that is gaining increased importance in formal professional education. Ethics are moral rules that guide the behavior and conduct of an individual. Since ethics are shaped by personal factors like religion, family, society, law and culture, it is unlikely that two people share the same ethical standards or viewpoints (Weiss 2008, p. 116). This frequently gives rise to ethical conflicts or internal ethical dilemmas. Ethical dilemmas are becoming increasingly common in modern life because technological advancements are bringing people from diverse cultural and social backgrounds into interaction with one another more frequently. The modern workplace is the best example of an environment that can present ethical dilemmas for individuals as they try to differentiate between right and wrong from two or more choices none of which seems to be absolutely right or absolutely wrong. Philosophers and scholars have developed a number of paradigms for framing an ethical dilemma and determining the fairest and most moral decision to take. One of these is the Kantian approach based on moral rules to be followed irrespective of consequences; the other is utilitarianism based on serving the maximum good for the maximum people.
Case Description and Identification of Ethical Dilemma
The 5-star hotel where I worked was going through downsizing due to declining occupancy during the recession. It was a very important job for me because it helped me pay my living and college expenses. Since I was not very experienced, I realized that I had to bring in some revenue to avoid losing my job. I got an opportunity when I had to make a two night reservation for a conference attendee to the city and his team of six people. Making a seven room booking during a lean period would certainly improve my chances of staying on the job, except for that the prospective guest did not want to have to interact or be served by any black member of the hotel staff.
An ethical dilemma is a situation that involves making a selection between two or more alternatives such that none of which is clearly right or wrong, so that some resolution of the dilemma becomes necessary to avoid an ethical lapse. In the words of Trevino & Nelson (2011, p. 39) "two or more 'right' values are in conflict." In this case the dilemma I faced was whether I made the roster so that no black member of the staff would be assigned to the prospective guests so that I could bring in some business and save my job; or whether I could refuse compliance with the request.
Identification of Alternatives
The first alternative I had was to accept the request of the prospective guest and make up a roster so that the guests would not be welcomed or helped around by any black member of the staff. This would include room service, the welcome lobby or while using any facility of the hotel during the two night stay. I could have assigned other non-black staff to serve the guests during their stay so that they could enjoy a comfortable time while the hotel would earn some business from their stay.
The second alternative that I could select was to reject the request of the prospective guest as politely as possible. I could show my willingness to accept any other request he had for his stay at the hotel but stating at the same time that it was not possible to ask our staff members not to serve our guests to the best of their abilities. I could also explain that as part of the hotel's fairness policy, staff could not be removed or shifted from their duties without a cause that was related to their ability to discharge their duties.
Explanation of Selected Theory: Utilitarianism
Utilitarianism is an ethical perspective that is based on the consequentialist ethical theories. Consequentialist theories determine the rightness or wrongness of an action on the basis of its outcomes or consequences (Mizzoni 2009, p. 76). Each action produces certain outcomes or consequences for the parties involved. These consequences may be positive or negative. In more specific terms, they might produce utility (positive outcomes) for some people and disutility (negative consequences) for others. Proponents of utilitarianism evaluate the overall utility and disutility produced as a consequence of a decision to determine whether the decision or action is moral or ethically right. In contrast, proponents of the Kantian or deontological school of ethics believe that irrespective of their positive or negative consequences, certain actions are inherently right or wrong.
In its common application, utility is usually interpreted in terms of economic gains or losses. This makes it especially applicable in business environments. However, it can also be applied in various other contexts by interpreting the concept of utility in a different light. For example, instead of interpreting utility as financial gain or loss, it can be taken to encompass other satisfactions such as happiness, knowledge and health, as practiced in several traditional societies such as the Navajo (Hinman 2012, p. 59). Therefore, utilitarianism can be used to solve ethical dilemmas related not only to economic decisions but also in social situations where an obvious choice is not clear. The principles of utilitarianism also stress that the collective utility is more important than the utility of an individual person. Therefore, in cases where the group could gain utility from a decision whereas an individual would experience disutility, the interests of the group take precedence over those of the individual (Sheng & Sheng 2004, p. 158). One variation of utilitarianism is rule-utilitarianism which states that we should follow rules that maximize utility if implemented as a rule and not in individual cases. This form of utilitarianism bears some resemblance to Kantianism or right-based theories (Bykvist 2010, p. 143).
Identification and Stakeholders and their Interests
I am one of the stakeholders in this ethical dilemma. As an employee of the hotel, my financial and social position will be affected by the level of business. My interest lies in keeping my job so I can make a career and support myself financially. I also want to behave courteously with clients so that I may develop valuable contacts in society which would help me move ahead in my career.
The black members of the hotel staff are the next group of stakeholders. They are also employees of the hotel and are entitled to fair and non-discriminatory treatment. They also need to keep their jobs so that they may support their families during tough economic times. They are also entitled to take all necessary steps in contributing towards getting business for the hotel so that the employees may keep their jobs.
The next group of stakeholders comprises of the other non-black employees of the hotel. They are also entitled to keep their jobs to support their families. They are also entitled to be protected from adverse circumstances and treatment by their employer and co-workers. They are entitled to fair treatment and full disclosure of facts that affect their performance and their future at the organization.
The fourth stakeholder in this case is the management of the hotel. It is the duty of the management to improve the business situation faced by the hotel at present. They are entitled to receive complete and relevant information from their subordinates about work-related problems so that they may sort them out. They are also responsible for maintaining the profitability of the hotel operations, and to reduce staff if necessary.
The final group of stakeholders comprises of the guests of the hotel who are entitled to fair and courteous treatment. They have a right to expect a pleasant and comfortable environment during their stay. They expect to receive their money's worth in terms of services and special requests. They are entitled to polite and courteous behavior from the hotel staff.
Analysis of Consequences for Stakeholders
For me, the positive consequences of the decision would include keeping my job and developing a positive image in the eyes of my manager and the owners. It could also improve my chances for further advancement in the hotel. The negative consequences would be losing my job if I reject the request and poor relations with black members of the staff if I accept the request. It would also produce negative feelings of guilt within me.
The positive consequences for the black staff members would be keeping their jobs because of the improved business. The negative consequences could be feelings of discrimination and humiliation. If the request is rejected, the black employees could be prevented from embarrassment but could also lose their jobs if business does not come to the hotel during a period of slack.
The other employees would also benefit from the increased business if the request of the guest were accepted. On the other hand, they would suffer from low morale and hostility with coworkers. If the request is rejected, they would experience greater solidarity and unity with coworkers during…