“Business ethics,” quite a simple term and direct to the point. But there is more than just the term ethics. The topic runs wide and deep. It is all about how individuals in the business world are supposed to behave. Or the principals to apply to solve the moral dilemmas that come up every day at workplace. All these go hand in hand with individual virtue and ethical decision making, which are wrapped with issues involving the institutions or the organizations. Hence business ethics are formed and designed by the firms, regulations in the market, politics in a democratic country and the global economy at large.
Several principles are supposed to be followed in the business world, which are characteristics and values that most people associate with ethical behavior. These principles are;
Below is an example that shows and explains how different ethical theories work, especially in a real-life situation.
(the question was derived from the American University of Iraq)
Jeremy, a sales representative, is preparing a sales presentation for his company, Champion Hardware, which manufactures nuts and bolts. Jeremy hopes to obtain a large sale from a construction firm that is building a bridge across the Mississippi River near St. Louis, Missouri. The bolts manufactured by Champion have a 4 percent defect rate, which, although acceptable in the industry, makes them unsuitable for use in certain types of projects, such as those that may be subject to sudden, severe stress. The new bridge will be located near the New Madrid Fault line, the source of the United States’ greatest earthquake in 1811. The epicenter of that earthquake, which caused extensive damage and altered the flow of the Mississippi, is less than 200 miles from the new bridge site. Earthquake experts believe there is a 50 percent chance that an earthquake with a magnitude greater than seven will occur somewhere along the New Madrid Fault by the year 2030. Bridge construction in the area is not regulated by earthquake codes, however. If Jeremy gets the sale, he will earn a commission of $35,000 on top of his regular salary. But if he tells the contractor about the defect rate, Champion may lose the sale to a competitor that markets bolts with a lower defect rate. Jeremy’s ethical issue is whether to point out to the bridge contractor that, in the event of an earthquake, some Champion bolts could fail, possibly resulting in the collapse of the bridge( ).
Jeremy is in a situation that raises ethical concerns, which can be addressed in a variety of ways based on various ethical theories.
As an ethical deontologist, Jeremy has the moral duty to ensure his actions in regards to the contract are morally right. This means that whether Jeremy was to make any profit or not, he has a moral duty of ensuring the safety of the residents around the bridge and those who would be using it (Moreland, 2009).
As a utilitarian, Jeremy can undertake the act of changing the bolts to be used by offering the ones with the lower defect rate (Moreland, 2009). This action by Jeremy will ensure the bridge will be strong enough to withstand the impacts of the anticipated earthquake.
According to ethical egoism, people ought to act with an aim of promoting their self-interest and the theory makes claims regarding how individuals should behave rather than how they essentially or actually behave (Westacott, 2017).
As an egoist, Jeremy should focus on his interests, which include earning more by ensuring the company becomes the supplier of the bolts irrespective of the fact that the bolts cannot sustain the anticipated earthquake by 2030.
Ethical relativism illustrates whether the actions of an individual are either right or wrong; they are dependent on the societal moral norms where they are being practiced (Latiff, 2017). Therefore, the actions of Jeremy towards the ethical dilemma will be dependent on the moral norms of the people of St. Louis, Missouri.
In summary, the ethical dilemma facing Jeremy in the case study can be approached by use of different theories. This discussion has presented how Jeremy can apply ethical deontologist utilitarianism, egoism, relativism to deal with the issue. Each model has been explained differently based on its principles, and how Jeremy can use them to resolve the ethical issue he is facing
Ethics motivate and reinforce positive behavior and create an environment free from unethical behavior. This allows both the managers and employees to work respecting each other, hence financial and business success. Organizational ethics is how an organization responds to both internal and external issues. The following are the elements that make organizational ethic behavior conducive;
Ethical Issues in Finance
Ethical issues in finance include earnings management, misleading financial analysis, bribery, etc. For a long time, the ethical issues in finance have always been ignored, as finance has always been handled through law, e.g. internal audits.
Ethics of Human Resource Management
These are the issues that arise between the employee and the employer. Which include discrimination based on gender, race, religion, etc. Representation of employees where unions and strikes are covered. Privacy, surveillance and drug testing of the employees as well as how fair is the employment contract.
Ethics of Sales and Marketing
The ethical issues in sales and marketing include pricing, anticompetitive practices, marketing strategies, advertisements, and marketing. All these factors cover unfair pricing, unfair competition, bait and switch, pyramid schemes, sex in advertising, etc.
Ethics in Production
Business ethics in production ensure that the products or the production process do not cause any harm to both the employee and consumers. Environmental ethics covering how the company affects the environment, new technologies, e.g. GMO, addictive and dangerous products.
Ethics of Intellectual Property, Knowledge and Skills
Sometimes it is difficult to determine who owns knowledge and skills. E.g., between a company that trained an employee and the employee who was trained by the company, who owns that skill, the employee or the student? Hence ethical issues over the ownership came up; patent infringement, misuse of property systems, raiding of employees, engaging all talented employees in one field or department, etc.
International Business Ethics
The issue in international business ethics include global commercial behavior, ethical traditions in different nations, ethical issues arising internationally, globalization, child labor and multinationals sins such as outsourcing production.
Theoretical issues in business ethics include; conflicting interests, and ethical issues and approaches. Conflicting interest is where an individual or a party that is trusted has a personal interest. If it is discovered the interest can be voluntarily diffused. There are five types of conflict of interest;
Code of Ethics
Code of ethics helps to solve and minimize problems involving conflicts of interest. They spell the extent to which conflict of interest can start, what the involved parties should do. Hence there are no excuses of not being aware of their unethical behavior. In some countries, considering the codes of ethics cannot cover up every situation. They have introduced the ethics commissioner office, who is appointed and reports to the legislature.
Latiff, F. (2017). What is ethical relativism? What are some examples? Quora.com. Retrieved 20 March 2018, from https://www.quora.com/What-is-ethical-relativism-What-are-some-examples
Moreland, J. (2009). Ethics Theories: Utilitarianism vs. Deontological Ethics. Christian Research Institute. Retrieved 20 March 2018, from http://www.equip.org/article/ethicstheories-utilitarianism-vs-deontological-ethics/.
Westacott, E. (2017). What Is Ethical Egoism? ThoughtCo. Retrieved 20 March 2018, from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-ethical-egoism-3573630