Applying Virtue Ethics in the Real World
03 – MAR – 2012
Read the Ethical Dilemma on page 106 of the Nelson & Quick text. Answer the following questions. 1.
Summarize the dilemma.
Using consequential, rule-based, and character theories, evaluate Juanita's options 3.
What should Juanita do? Why?
Whenever a young child is faced with a dilemma or reaches and ethical crossroads so often a parent will simply say “Do the right thing” or “Do unto others as you want done unto you.” The child then proceeds with their actions, right or wrong, and learns from these mistakes and pieces of advice that is trickled in over the path they travel during their lifetime. However, unlike the aforementioned child when adults reach a similar crossroads or ethical dilemma it may not always seem as easy as doing the right thing or applying the golden rule. There are times when right doesn’t always mean right and a choice needs to be made between right and more right or wrong and less wrong. In these situations our virtues and character developed over time are the guides used that need to be used.
In the ethical dilemma presented in the text Organizational Behavior the author Nelson (2011) presents a very unique situation. A department manager, Juanita Maxwell, spends countless hours and effort getting to know her staff. Their likes and dislikes, family lives, and personal codes of conduct are all important to her. She often tailors meetings and special assignments to the strengths she learns about each staff member. However, after hiring a new team member, Sandra, she discovers she is not as easily read as other team members she has worked with for many years. Sandra is often withdrawn at the office and seems very timid when approached at work. Yet in the social setting of a company picnic she livens right up laughing and joking with the rest of the staff. Still upon returning to the office she once again becomes sullen and almost unresponsive until at a staff meeting where she shows an assertive side. Juanita’s concerns continue to grow as her perception of Sandra’s energy output continues to cycle from positive to negative. Sandra’s work performance is rated as “excellent”, yet Juanita continues to struggle with the unique situation and contemplates removing Sandra from the team.
As Juanita weighs Sandra’s performance against the moral dilemma she faces she can take solace in the fact that similar issues have been faced time and again. In fact, ethical theories have been developed and studied for many years to help understand how and why people should make decisions when faced with similar right vs. right choices. Three of these ethical theories are consequential, rule-based and character theories. Each will be discussed in relation to Juanita’s dilemma. Consequential Theories
As the name implies the consequential theory simply looks at the consequences or results of the action performed. This theory evaluates the situation and suggests doing what is good for most of people. The doctrine of ‘eminent domain’ is a good example of the consequential theory. With eminent domain the government can force private citizens to accept certain actions because it is good for most of the citizens. With this viewpoint the outcome determines if the action is right or wrong and the ends always justify the means.
In Juanita’s case this would simply require looking at the effect that Sandra is having on the entire team. It would weigh her performance against her variable energy flow. Once this effect was determined as a positive or a negative Juanita could keep Sandra or dismiss her from the team. While some may view this as a flawed point of view, it simply says the good of the many outweighs the effect on the few. Rule-Based Theories
Unlike the consequential theory, the rule-based theory focuses on the character of the act...
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