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Ethical problems in management

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1.0 Introduction
At its simplest, ethics is a system of moral principles. They affect how people make decisions and lead their lives. Ethics is concerned with what is good for individuals and society and is also described as moral philosophy. The term is derived from the Greek word ethos which can mean custom, habit, character or disposition. Ethics covers the following dilemmas:

how to live a good life
our rights and responsibilities
the language of right and wrong
moral decisions – what is good and bad?
The concepts of ethics have been derived from religions, philosophies and cultures. They infuse debates on topics like abortion, human rights and professional conduct. Approaches to ethics
There are however, approaches to ethics. Philosophers nowadays tend to divide ethical theories into three areas: metaethics, normative ethics and applied ethics. Meta-ethics deals with the nature of moral judgement. It looks at the origins and meaning of ethical principles. Normative ethics is concerned with the content of moral judgements and the criteria for what is right or wrong. Applied ethics looks at controversial topics like war, animal rights and capital punishment

What use is ethics?
If ethical theories are to be useful in practice, they need to affect the way human beings behave. Some philosophers think that ethics does do this. They argue that if a person realises that it would be morally good to do something then it would be irrational for that person not to do it but human beings often behave irrationally – they follow their ‘gut instinct’ even when their head suggests a different course of action.0020However, ethics does provide good tools for thinking about moral issues. 1. Ethics can provide a moral map

Most moral issues get us pretty worked up – think of abortion and euthanasia for starters. Because these are such emotional issues we often let our hearts do the arguing while our brains just go with the flow. But there’s another way of tackling these issues, and that’s where philosophers can come in – they offer us ethical rules and principles that enable us to take a cooler view of moral problems. So in other words, ethics provides us with a moral map, a framework that we can use to find our way through difficult issues. 2. Ethics can pinpoint a disagreement

Using the framework of ethics, two people who are arguing a moral issue can often find that what they disagree about is just one particular part of the issue, and that they broadly agree on everything else. That can take a lot of heat out of the argument, and sometimes even hint at a way for them to resolve their problem. But sometimes ethics does not provide people with the sort of help that they really want. 3. Ethics doesn’t give right answers

Ethics does not always show the right answer to moral problems. Indeed more and more people think that for many ethical issues there is not a single right answer – just a set of principles that can be applied to particular cases to give those involved some clear choices. Some philosophers go further and say that all ethics can do is eliminate confusion and clarify the issues. After that it is up to each individual to come to their own conclusions. 4. Ethics can give several answers

Many people want there to be a single right answer to ethical questions. They find moral ambiguity hard to live with because they genuinely want to do the ‘right’ thing, and even if they can’t work out what that right thing is, they like the idea that ‘somewhere’ there is one right answer. But often there isn’t one right answer – there may be several right answers, or just some least worst answers – and the individual must choose between them. For others moral ambiguity is difficult because it forces them to take responsibility for their own choices and actions, rather than falling back on convenient rules and customs.1 Management ethics, however, is the ethical treatment of employees, stockholders, owners, and the public by a company.

A company, while needing to make a profit, should have good ethics. Employees should be treated well, whether they are employed here or overseas. By being respectful of the environment in the community a company shows good ethics, and good, honest records also show respect to stockholders and owners. Ethics and ethical behavior are the essential parts of healthy management. From a management perspective, behaving ethically is an integral part of long – term career success. Wide access to information and more business opportunities than in the past makes ethics a need in modern business world.

Ethical Dilemma or problem is a situation that, although offering potential benefits, is unethical. One of the most common ethical problems occurs when a company’s culture conflicts with an employee’s personal ethics. An Ethic Based on Individual

First, let us take a look at ethic based on Individual. Individuals have equal political rights. They deserve to be treated fairly and they have the right to live as they want, as long as they do not harm the rights of others. This includes the right to live badly. A good society is one that treats individuals fairly and protects their rights. This requires efficient, non-corrupt government and business as well as a clean, non-toxic environment. An Ethic Based on Relationships, Family and Community

Relationships, Families and Communities require loyalty, honor, friendship, humility, self-sacrifice and a clean, non-toxic environment. A good individual has the qualities that promote stable, long-lasting relationships, families and communities. Factors that Affect Employee Ethics

Moral Development is a measure of independence from outside influences. Levels of Individual Moral Deveopment includes: Preconventional, Conventional and Principle. In the Preconventional level is sticking to rules to avoid physical punishment and following rules only when doing so is in your immediate interest. The Conventional level is living up to what is expected by people close to you and maintaining conventional order by fulfilling obligations to which you have agreed while the Principle level is valuing rights of others and upholding absolute values and rights regardless of the majority’s opinion and following self-chosen ethical principles even if they violate the law. The Stage of moral development interacts with individual characteristics, the organisation’s structural design, the organisation’s culture and the intensity of the ethical issue. Research findings include that people proceed through the stages of moral development sequentially and there is no guarantee of continued moral development. Furthermore, most adults are “good corporate citizen”. Individual Characteristics Affecting Ethical Behaviours

Individual Characteristics affect Ethical Behaviours. Values are basic convictions about what is right or wrong on a broad range of issues. Stage of Moral Development is a measure of an individual’s independence from outside influences. Individual Characteristics

Personality variables include Ego strength and Locus of control. Ego strength is a personality measure of the strength of a person’s convictions whereas locus of conrol is a personality attribute that measures the degree to which people belive they control their own life. Locus of control is divided into two namely Internal locus that is the belief that you control your destiny and External locus which is the belief that what happens to you is due to luck or chance.

Organisational characteristics and mechanisms that guide and influence individual ethics are as of the following: Performance appraisal systems
Reward allocation systems
Behaviours (ethical) of managers
An organisation’s culture
Intensity of the ethical issue
Good structural design minimizes ambiguity and uncertainty and fosters ethical behavior. Managers must provide a good role model or Ethical Leadership by: Being ethical and honest at all times
Telling the truth; don’t hide or manipulate information
Admitting failure and not trying to cover it up

Communicating shared ethical values to employees through symbols, stories and slogans Rewarding employees who behave ethically and punish those who do not Protecting employees (whistleblowers) who bring to light unethical behaviours or raise ethical issues. The Drivers of Unethical Strategies and Business Behaviour are the view that “the business of business is business, not ethics”. It is also the overzealous pursuit of personal gain, wealth and other self-interests. Again, this is heavy pressures on company managers to meet or beat earnings targets. Not to forget, a company culture that places profits and good performance ahead of ethical behavior.

Organizational Ethics
For organizational ethics, management tips include a Checklist for dealing with ethical dilemmas:3
Step 1 recognize the ethical dilemma
Step 2 get the facts
Step 3 identify your options
Step 4 test each option: is it legal? Is it right? Is it beneficial?
Step 5 decide which option to follow
Step 6 ask the “Spotlight Questions”: To double check your decision. “How would I feel if my family found out about my decision?” “How would I feel if the local newspaper printed my decision?”
Step 7 Take action.4

Rationalising Unethical Behaviour
We need to rationalize unethical behavior because of four (4) reasons being:
1. “What I’m doing is not really illegal.”
2. “My behavior is in everyone’s best interests.”
3. “Nobody will ever find out what I’ve done.”
4. “The organization will protect me.”
Ethics Training
Personal and contextual factors influence ethical conduct. Training in ethical decision making may improve ethical conduct. Ethics Training seeks to help people understand the ethical aspects of decision making and to incorporate high ethical standards into their daily behavior. Code of Ethics

Code of Ethics is a formal statement of values and ethical standards. Spotlight Questions
Highlight the risk of public exposure of one’s actions:
“How would I feel if my family found out about my decision?” “How would I feel if the local newspaper printed my decision?” Whistleblowers
Whistleblowers are persons who expose organizational misdeeds in order to preserve ethical standards and protect against wasteful, harmful or illegal acts. Many whistleblowers were or are fired for their actions. Most state and federal laws now offer some protection. Protection of whistleblowers may encourage ethical conduct. Managers acting as positive role models may motivate others toward ethical conduct. Formal codes of ethics set standards for ethical conduct. However, there are barriers to whistleblowing include: strict chain of command, strong work group identities and ambiguous priorities. Organizational methods for overcoming whistleblowing barriers are ethics staff units who serve as ethics advocates and moral quality circles.

4.0 Case Study
Let’s take a look at a case study on the British Medical Association where ethical dilemmas arise in medicine, practical solutions have to be found. Over a number of years the BMA’s ethics department has developed its own methodology to identify and make reasonable decisions in the face of an ethical dilemma is a critical component of medical professionalism. Step one: recognise the situation as one that raises an ethical dilemma Identifying that a problem has an ethical dimension is not always as easy as it sounds. Although in extreme cases, such as a request by an otherwise healthy person for life-sustaining treatment to be removed, ethical issues are clearly engaged, these situations are unusual. Some ethical problems however are more frequent, for example: Is it acceptable for me to respond to a relative’s request for information? Should I request that a teenage girl’s mother permits me to speak with her daughter in confidence? Can I agree to a request from a patient to withhold information from an insurance report?

These more day-to-day questions all have an ethical dimension – none of them, that is, can be reduced entirely to their clinical aspects. Ethical problems emerge where values, principles or moral imperatives come into conflict. All of the examples highlighted above involve conflicting imperatives or obligations and all of them are ethical dilemmas. Step two: break the dilemma into its component parts

Having recognised the existence of an ethical problem, a critical next step involves clearing away irrelevant information and identifying the ethically significant aspects of the problem. This involves: identifying and describing as accurately as possible the question that we are seeking to answer identifying relevant principles.

When various different rights and interests compete, it may still be clear which should take preference. When child protection concerns arise for example, parents’ preferences will often take second place to the interests of the child. Step three: seek additional information, including the patient’s viewpoint Before going on to analyse the dilemma, a vital next step is to identify the relevant facts. In relation to a young person, for example, it will ordinarily be necessary to identify whether he or she is sufficiently mature to make a decision. If not, it will be necessary to identify someone with parental responsibility to make the decision. As part of the information gathering process, the patient’s views should be sought wherever possible, even where he or she may be thought to lack the capacity to make relevant decisions. Step four: identify any relevant law or professional guidance Over the years a great deal of legal and professional guidance has been developed to assist doctors in managing many of the ethical dilemmas they confront. When faced with an ethical dilemma a solution can often be found by referring to guidance from: the GMC

the BMA
other medical bodies
various legal sources such as statute and legal codes of practice In this way practical ways forward can be found in relation to many ethical problems. Step five: subject the dilemma to critical analysis

The majority of ethical dilemmas that you encounter on a day-to-day basis can be addressed using existing guidance. Others can be more complex and may require more careful balancing of relevant factors, including any principles highlighted by guidance, patient views and the opinions of colleagues. If in doubt, always ask for help. Relevant factors will also include the nature and strength of the obligations involved and to whom they are owed as well potential harms and benefits arising from different options. Unless in an emergency, it is at this point that more searching critical analysis of relevant aspects of the dilemma can be required. With an elderly confused patient who has concerned relatives who are involved in her care, doctors may for example be concerned to balance a respect for the patient’s choice with a concern for her welfare, recognising the strong obligation to respect the decisions of a competent patient.

Advice can also be requested from us, the GMC or medical defence bodies. Increasing numbers of hospitals have access to the services of a clinical ethics committee (CEC) and it can be extremely helpful to refer problems to the committee for consideration. Step six: be able to justify the decision with sound arguments Medical students, like doctors, are not expected to be philosophers, and many decisions have to be made under pressure of time and in the face of imperfect information. In these circumstances, you are not expected to be omniscient but to act reasonably and to be able to justify both clinically and ethically the decisions you make.You will not be expected to try and resolve ethical dilemmas single-handed. Nevertheless, it is good practice to get into the habit, where confronted with ethical dilemmas, of recording any discussions with the patient or colleagues in medical notes as well as indicating any guidance notes consulted. Where advice has been sought from professional or medico-legal bodies, this should also be recorded in the notes. In this way the reasoning behind decisions can be given.6 5.0 Conclusion

There are Cultural issues in Ethical Behaviour: Cultural relativism and cultural universalism. Cultural relativism is the ethical behavior that is always determined by cultural context while cultural universalism is the behavior that is unacceptable anywhere else and considered by some to be ethical imperialism. Employees make decisions at all levels of a company, whether at the top, on the front line or anywhere in between. Every employee in an organization is exposed to the risk of facing an ethical dilemma at some point, and some ethical decisions can be more challenging to fully understand than others. Knowing how to resolve ethical dilemmas in the workplace can increase your decision-making effectiveness while keeping you and your company on the right side of the law and public sentiment.7 Therefore, in order to have a positive impact on ethical conduct throughout
an organization, those at the top must walk the talk.

6.0 References





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