What comes to your mind when someone mentions the word ethics? Perhaps your answer is correct. Let us do not waste our time. Let us see what we are going to learn in this topic.
In this topic, you will be exposed to the fundamental concepts and theories of morals; the history and development of ethical theories; and also the systematic study of right and wrong, good and evil. These concepts and theories will then be applied to contemporary managerial dilemmas. Topic
1. Moral Reasoning and Ethical Theory
By the end of this topic, you should be able to:
1. Explain the five factors involved in the formation of individual ethics; 2. Explain normative philosophy and ethical relativism;
3. Compare all the major ethical systems; and
4. Apply the relevant ethical theories to ethical issues raised by business and professional practice.
MORAL REASONING AND ETHICAL
Do you know that ethical problems are truly complex when it comes to the management of an organisation? These problems are complex because of the following attributing characteristics (which will be elaborated further in Topic 3):
. Extended consequences
. Multiple alternatives
. Mixed outcomes
. Uncertain occurrences
. Personal implications
Ethical problems are also pervasive because managers make decisions and take actions that affect other people. Managerial decisions and actions need to be addressed and require some degree of moral analysis when:
. It affects other people negatively, or
. It harms or hurts other people in ways beyond their individual control
In the following sections, you will be given the definition of ethics, business ethics and professional ethics. You will also find out why business should be ethical and the formation of individual ethics.
1.1.1 The Meaning of Ethics
What is ethics?
Ethics can generally be defined as the principles of morally acceptable conduct of individuals. Ethics also means an individualÊs personal beliefs about right and wrong behaviours. Although this simple definition communicates the essence of ethics, three implications warrant additional consideration: (a) Ethics is individually defined. People have ethics, whereas organisations do not have it; (b) What constitutes ethical behaviour can vary from one person to another; and (c) Ethics is relative; it is not absolute. This means that although what constitutes ethical behaviour is in the eye of the beholder, it usually conforms to generally acceptable social norms.
1.1.2 The Meaning of Business Ethics
While ethics generally refers to the conception of right and wrong (Lawrence & Weber, 2011), business ethics refers to the application of ethical values and ideas on issues that arise in the business context. It is not different from ethics in general. For example, if we consider lying to be unethical, then anyone in business who lies about his products or financial performance of his company to his stakeholders is acting unethically as well
1.1.3 The Meaning of Professional Ethics
Do you know what professional ethics is? Let us refer below to know its meaning. Professional ethics indicates the moral values that a group of similarly trained people develop to control their task performance or their use of resources. People internalise the rules and values of their professional culture just as they do those of their society. They reflexively adhere to professional rules and values when deciding on how to behave. Some organisations have many groups of professional employees such as nurses, lawyers, researchers, doctors and accountants, whose behaviour is governed by professional ethics. Professional ethics help to shape the organisations culture and determine the values of its members in their dealings with other stakeholders. Most professional groups are allowed to enforce the ethical standards of their profession. Professional groups, such as...