Normative ethics is guided by ethical theories like the utilitarian and egoism theories. The theories highlight the need for people to make the right decisions in taking action when they are faced with moral dilemmas. From the provisions of the utilitarian theory, it is vital for people always to take actions that promote positive consequences rather than negative results for the parties affected by the action (Andre & Velasquez 2014). The egoism theory, on the other hand, dictates that people should make decisions based on their self-interests. People are faced with ethical dilemmas on a regular basis, and their actions toward settling the dilemmas should be guided by sets of values that govern moral behaviour. I recently faced an ethical dilemma, whereby I discovered that one of my colleagues at work was having an affair with my friend’s wife.
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I had seen my colleague and my friend’s wife together on several occasions, and I thought they were just acquaintances until I saw them kissing. I was torn between telling my friend the truth about his wife and my workmate and keeping it a secret to protect his feelings. Telling him about his wife’s infidelity would hurt his feelings. Eventually, I told my friend about his wife’s escapes after my colleague refused to take my advice to end the relationship with my friend’s wife. I believed that my action was morally right because that was the most rational thing to do. Looking back at the ethics of duty in business ethics, I can relate the lessons learnt on ethics to the situation I experienced with my colleague.
Through business ethics lessons, I have identified with ethical relativism, which claims that morality in behaviour is subjective. Subjectivity, in this context, means that moral behaviour is assumed by individuals based on the rationality of the choices they have (Crane & Matten 2007, p. 87). In the business world, managers have to make some difficult decisions based on ethical values of their companies. For instance, in the development of corporate social responsibility programs, leaders may be fixed in a dilemma on whether to take responsibility of their carbon footprint by reducing their emission levels or paying the duties levied for their footprint. In such a situation, the society associated with the company may be looking up to the company to reduce its carbon footprint, whereas the alternative would generate higher profits for the company.
If I face such a situation in the future, I will be equipped with ample knowledge to use my rational to make a decision that is good for the company and the society in general. Guided by ethical theories like utilitarianism and ethical egoism, I am aware that the decision made from a dilemma should focus on influencing positive effects on society or on my personal interests. From the knowledge acquired from ethical relativism, my actions, with regard to the ethical dilemma I experienced before, would not change because I used my rationale to make a decision to let my friend learn about his wife’s infidelity. The outcome would also be the same because I would choose to be honest with my friend about his wife’s behaviour. While many would criticize the action I took, business ethics have taught me to embrace honesty in all situations. Applying utilitarian ethics in such a situation dictates that one chooses the action that yields the best results to the main stakeholders, and my friend was the victim in the situation; hence, my action was valid.
List of References
Andre, C, & Velasquez, M 2014, Calculating Consequences: The Utilitarian Approach to Ethics. Web.
Crane, A., & Matten, D. 2007, ‘Evaluating Business Ethics: Normative Ethical Theories’, In A. Crane & D. Matten (Eds.), Business Ethics, Oxford University Press, New York, pp. 86-115. Web.