- 1 Review of Common Ethical Issues
- 2 Ethical Frameworks for Ethical Decision Making
- 3 Guiding Principles for Ethical Decision Making
- 4 The Lesser of the Two Evils
- 5 Bible Ethics
- 6 Conclusion
Review of Common Ethical Issues
Normative ethics determines how people ought to act, live, and be (Kagan, 2018). It describes an ethical dilemma, in which there is a justifiable reason for actions and consequences (Kagan, 2018). Normative ethical theories break off into three categories: virtue ethics, consequential ethics, and deontological ethics (Kagan, 2018). Virtue ethics originates from the ages of Aristotle (Sandford, 2015). The contexts of each philosophy molds together to shape the moral compass (Sanford, 2015). Disagreement arose about what defines ethics when morals came into the picture (Rae & Wong, 2012). People confuse ethics with morals, especially when it comes to religion (Rae & Wong, 2012). The difference between ethics and morals is that ethics are the rules for conduct created by man and morals are the personal principles about right and wrong (Rae & Wong, 2012).
Ethics provides a rational foundation for morality and reasons for why doing good is so necessary and important (Rae & Wong, 2012). People operate through different perspectives, most of the time this is what makes business boom-the ability to have different ideas that come together to create the perfect project (Rae & Wong, 2012). But when it comes to business, there is a clash of ethics (Rae & Wong, 2012). It makes it even harder to define right and wrong in the workplace when you have a group of people that practice Christian based ethics working together with a group of people who may not value or practice the same form of ethics (Keller, 2012). When the following topics or issues arise, businesses get stuck trying to handle them because they don’t have a method in place to solve them; or they are not on the same page about how issues should be addressed due to differences of perspectives: productivity, employment, money, profit, and competition (Grudem, 2003).
In Beyond Integrity, the purpose and interests for customers and constituents for businesses are questioned, as well as the decision regarding who to prioritize when it comes to shareholder profits (Rae & Wong, 2012). Should a company prioritize maximizing profits or creating fairground for the other parties who aid in maximizing those profits (Rae & Wong, 2012)? Any Costco employee would brag about the practices of their employing company in the fact that it offers the following benefits (Henry, 2013):
- Sick time
- $0.50 raises every 1050 hours
- Starting wage at $11.50
- Bereavement for immediate family
- Overtime (Time and Half)
Costco is taking care of the people that serve their members, the customers that shop and keep the stocks rising, all the while the profits for shareholders steadily increase (Rae & Wong, 2012). Costco does this to maintain positive relationships with all parties (Dimmock & Fisher, 2017). Rae & Wong questions if companies should seek to serve others when they could possibly reduce financial gain for shareholders (Rae & Wong, 2012). The moral issue here speaks about the integrity of the shareholders to question investing in a company that takes pride in the relationships with those that have invested in the business itself (i.e. employees and members) (Rae & Wong, 2012). Costco is right to put the end goal first through creating fair opportunities for all parties to benefit from the success of the company (Finnis, 1983). The end goal for Costco about helping all parties prosper (Finnis, 1983). The purpose of this paper is to explain the nature of ethical issues, like the one mentioned above, that companies are faced with.
Ethical Frameworks for Ethical Decision Making
Ethics represents a list of standards for what people ought to do and value while including ho they are, what they base their decisions upon (Rae & Wong, 2012). Ethics also provides reasons for why x, y, and z are the better choices to make (Dimmock & Fisher, 2017). The following perspectives are the frameworks for analyzing ethical issues in business with examples of how to implement them within businesses (Rae & Wong, 2012).
Virtue Perspective. Virtue ethics originated from the time frame in which the lessons of Aristotle were priceless, and still are as far as relevance (Simpson, 1992). Aristotle was prevalent during 384 BC to 322 BC (Dimmock & Fisher, 2017). As a teleologist he believed that there was an end goal, or final purpose (Dimmock & Fisher, 2017). He worked to prove that all people and things fulfill their mission through doing good (Simpson, 1992) Virtue ethics came about in the 1950’s from Anglo-American moral philosophies (Sandford, 2015). This perspective highlights positive and negative character traits that impacts one’s decisions and proposes as reason as to why (Rae & Wong, 2012). It makes a person ponder, what would a virtuous individual do if he/she were in the same situation (Trevino, 1986). The answer to that question would be the guidance that individuals needs to make a sound decision (Trevino, 1986). This issue with the virtue in the ethical dilemma concerns what different individuals would consider to be virtuous or right (Trevino, 1986). Due to the extensive range in which individuals think, feel, and hold beliefs this question makes it more difficult to arrive at a common consensus (Trevino, 1986). Despite the concern businesses would use this perspective to choose between a decision that could benefit or hinder the company, and most likely the most beneficial option would be desired (Rae & Wong, 2012).
Deontological Perspective. Deontological ethics are also known as duty ethics (Tännsjö, 2003). This theory was established by Immanuel Kant, the father of the moral code (Tännsjö, 2003). Duty ethics claims that some actions are right, others are wrong, and that there are perfect duties and imperfect duties (Tännsjö, 2003). Individuals can’t stop a perfect duty to fulfill an imperfect one (Tännsjö, 2003). People should not end making good choices just to start making bad ones (Tännsjö, 2003). Businesses would use this perspective in cases that relate to ethical conduct in the workplace (Boardman & Klum, 2017). The duty framework levels the playing field at work, at church, in public, in private as it has set rules and expectations that are relevant for all people (Rae & Wong, 2012). Despite the outcome, this perspective says if the act is completed with well meaning, then it is a good act (Rae & Wong, 2012).
Consequentialist Perspective. Consequentialism says an act is morally right if the consequences are positive (Finnis, 1983). Consequentialism has become less about maximizing and more about optimizing (Finnis, 1983). The concern arose about the significance to maximize goods based on happiness and pleasure compared to the latter (Finnis, 1983). Consequentialism determines what’s right or wrong based on outcomes (Finnis, 1983). With consequentialism people make decisions they believe will regulate their success or satisfaction in life, but later having to face the consequences of those decisions (Finnis, 1983).
To make things right again we have to tap into our relationship with God; the Bible says, “He will make your path straight” (Proverbs 3:6, New International Version). Business would use this perspective to make an ethical decision that produces the most good (Boardman & Klum, 2017). This framework assists in situations in which the outcome is undecided (Boardman & Klum, 2017). In this case whichever choice has the overwhelming positive, happy, spirit-filled outcome is the one that should be chosen (Wallace, 2007). In the instance where the outcome is unable to be foreshadowed, unlike the duty framework where the individual/s that agreed can have contentment based on the positive desire to mean well, there is no set answer for how to go about choosing the “good” choice (Finnis, 1983).
Christian Perspective. Christian virtue ethics were created by Stanley Hauerwas, Gilbert Meilander, and Jean Porter (Sanford, 2015). Christian virtue ethics suggest that the final outcome is something that can only be accomplished when we accept the trinity into our lives (Sandford, 2015). The Christian worldview states that life is the perspective in which we define what reality is to us (Keller, 2012). The comprehensive perspective from which people interpret reality evolves from a story about the following three components of life (Keller, 2012):
- One’s expectation about life
- What failed about the expectation
- Coming to a solution for how to remold the lost expectation
In direct relation to the worldview perspective, the Christian story line consists of the creation of man, the fall of man, and the restoration of man (Keller, 2012, p. 162). To keep man from falling one must align himself/herself with the Bible (Keller, 2012). God gave humans free will, along with the knowledge necessary to face difficult decisions (Keller, 2012). Business would use this perspective to break the tie between what is ethical and what is moral (Rae & Wong, 2012). Aside from what is good, the business would then question what is right by using the term what would Jesus do (Wallace, 2007). This perspective is spirit led and leans on which action makes one feel his/she is performing a purposeful act of Christ (Wallace, 2007). The following scriptures support the truth in following the spirit or as it relates the ethics-one’s conscience (New International Version):
- Proverbs 20:27 – “The spirit of the man is the lamp of the Lord.”
- Philippians 4:7 – “…and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guide your hearts and your minds in Jesus Christ.”
- Proverbs 19:21- “Many are the plans in the mind of man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.”
- Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 – “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.”
- Philippians 4:8 – Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
- Proverbs 3: 5-6 – ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
The list of scriptures pertaining to God’s desires for his children to perform righteous acts goes on and on; all in all, as long as the decision is pleasing to God is leaves a good feeling on the heart of man and the sleeve of the business, then the outcome will be blessed (2 Corinthians 5:9, New International Version) . God takes care of his children and rewards all who perform good deeds (Galatians 6:9, New International Version).
Guiding Principles for Ethical Decision Making
Guiding principles are used to make ethical decisions (Thiel, etc., 2012). The Christian perspective is seen as wisdom literature provided through the many people in the bible that have told stories with meaning, inspiration and moral guidance for thousands of years (Rae & Wong, 2012). It incorporates faith as a way to share the values and actions of others (Rae & Wong, 2012). Listed below are guiding principles for ethical decision making, that align well with the scriptures created as Christian guidelines (Forester-Miller & Davis, 2016).
Autonomy. Autonomy is the freedom of independence; the opportunity to choose one’s own choices and make one’s own decisions and is identified as “self-rule” (Forester-Miller & Davis, 2016). This principle not only values personal liberties but also values having respect for the choices and actions of others; i.e. human dignity (Forester-Miller & Davis, 2016). The Bible says not to judge others, or you will be judged; the measure you judge others by will be the same measures used to judge you (Matthew 7:1-2, New International Version).
Justice. Justice is about treating people equally, as in the same way that others are treated (Forester-Miller & Davis, 2016).This does not mean people get the exact form of treatment but that the action is being done for the same reason (Forester-Miller & Davis, 2016). It is the human obligation to treat people fairly (Forester-Miller & Davis, 2016). The Bible says to treat people like you want to be treated (Luke 6:21, New International Version). In business, this Bible quote is otherwise recognized as the “Golden Rule” (Rae & Wong, 2012). This rule says to do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Rae & Wong, 2012).
Beneficence & Nonmaleficence. Beneficence means to do good and to prevent harm, in all actions (Forester-Miller & Davis, 2016). Nonmaleficence means to not cause harm for others, which includes avoiding inflicting purposeful harm and avoiding participating in acts that could harm other people (Forester-Miller & Davis, 2016).
Fidelity. Fidelity incorporates acts of loyalty, faithfulness, and staying commitment to one’s obligations (Forester-Miller & Davis, 2016).
Relationship Between Guiding Principles and Ethical Decision Making
These principles are relevant to ethical decision making because they value respect, fairness, performing good acts and integrity (Boardman & Klum, 2017). Everyone should use the above guiding principles as they align with Christian perspective when making ethical decisions (Rae & Wong, 2012). For example, without ethics right and wrong wouldn’t exist to theologians (Schwartz, 2016). But without guiding principles and scripture right and wrong would be void to Christians (Rae & Wong, 2012).
Resolving Conflicts According to Ethics Theory
Conflicts are resolved with ethical theories by applying the ethical frameworks (Rae & Wong, 2012):
The ethical decision-making model is a framework that business leaders use to present principles for a company and ensure they are implemented and abided by (Schwartz, 2017). The steps to the ethical decision-making model include (Rae & Wong, 2012):
- Gather the facts
- Identify the ethical issues and values
- Identify affected parties
- Identify consequences
- Identify obligations
- Consider character and integrity
- Contemplate potential actions
- Follow the gut and intuition
The most important aspect of resolving conflicts is to identify the correct framework for the issue being discussed (Rae & Wong, 2012). After the framework has been decided upon, and the steps of ethical decision making have been established, next the business must create a proposed resolution that is legal, in compliance with ethics codes, and agrees with the values of the company (Rae & Wong, 2012).
The Lesser of the Two Evils
The “lesser of two evils” is a phrase used to describe a person faced with the dilemma to choose the least immoral option if confronted with two immoral options. In Genesis, Adam and Eve were specifically told not to eat the fruit from the tree, but they ignored God’s direct orders (New International Version):
“And the Lord God commanded the man, “you are free to eat from any tree in the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die” (Genesis 2:16-17, New International Version).
Jesus tells Adam there is a tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life (Genesis 2:9, New International Version). Men and women would not be toiling today if Adam and Eve had not been corrupted by the tree of good and evil (Genesis 3:14-19, New International Version). This idea is relatively based on the fact that God gave his children free will to choose between right and wrong (Keller, 2012). The tree of life acts as the symbolic source of eternal life and blessings (Genesis 2:9, New International Version). He gifted us this willpower because in the Bible he teaches us the difference between the two trees (Keller, 2012). But where people get caught up is when they take advantage of that free will, grace and mercy, because they know he is the Lord of second chances (Romans 6:23, New International Version). God never requires his people to choose between the lesser of two evils, because he wouldn’t want his people to choose evil (Romans 12:21, New International Version). God would want his children to refrain from evil actions and wait to perform a good act instead; Romans 12:21 states,
“Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good” (New International Translation).
The Bible is considered the map for Christians, telling a story and giving advice to handle every situation that humans face, in agreeance with Psalm 32:8, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you shall go… (New International Version). God knows what we will go through before we know ourselves (Jeremiah 1:5, New International Version). The bible is our framework for he has already lived through what his children are living through and more (John 10:10, New International Version). Jesus died on the cross for our sins so we could live a life without trouble; so, we wouldn’t have to experience what he experienced (Joh 10:10, New International Version). He died so we could know the father and rest in him (Matthew11:28-30, New International Version):
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
The scripture that is a direct implication of the guidance God activates for his children, is displayed in the story of when Moses sent out a final call to obedience (Deuteronomy 30:15-20, New International Version):
“See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.
But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long … Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”
If, as God’s children, we act in a way that is pleasing to him as a direct representation of his being, then we are living according to his calling, which is just and right (Wallace, 2007). People will always have to choose between two or more options, and when doing so shall work in a way in which our organizations, businesses, and corporations are the salt and light (Matthew5:13-16, New International Version).
In the past and the present, it has been necessary to separate church and state. On the flipside, in relation to success of the business Christian ethics are a must. Christian ethics combined with virtue, deontological, and consequentialist ethics call for the creation of a moral and ethical partnership. The guidance implored by the above ethical frameworks aids in amplifying the humility and integrity of a powerful business in terms of ethical decision making. The steps to making ethical decisions should also be used to resolve conflicts in the workplace. On a regular basis, businesses should be incorporating the guiding principles of ethics and the Bible to lead a powerful corporation.