As described by Harless (2004), human behavior is often thought of as erratic, unpredictable and as a result prone to sudden inexplicable changes that at times defy conventional thought (Harless, 143-147). Despite such behavioral nuances people still continue to conform to societal rules and conventions in what can be described as “norms of behavior” dictated by an individual’s inherent ethical and moral standards which ascribe to a behavioral standpoint of harmonious interaction with other members of a community.
As noted by Leach and Oakland (2010), these ethical and moral standards dictate how individual members of society perceive what can be considered adverse or positive aspects of certain behaviors and methods of decision making and as such are utilized as a means of determining how they should proceed with a particular action (Leach and Oakland, 197 – 201).
The culmination of such methods of decision making are what are known as ethical theories which help individuals come to terms with all aspects of a problem and how best to proceed with what can be considered an ethical compromise to resolving them. It is based on this that this paper will explore the concepts of “The Golden Rule” and virtue ethics in order to resolve the ethical case study that was given for consideration.
The ethical issue in this particular case is whether or not Alice should report the apparent mistake in Mark’s nutritional report to the company or whether she should tell Mark that she looked through the report despite it being marked confidential and explain to him the mistake she saw.
As noted by Jing-Ping (2011) ethical decisions are often made based on either conformity to a generally preconceived societal notion (i.e. crimes are bad hence the fact you should report a crime in progress) or based on inherent ethical or moral code (i.e. treat people as you want to be treated) (Jing-Ping, 21 – 31). In this particular case it can be seen that Alice has to decide whether to report the case or admit to Mark that she looked through the files, in either instance such as decision will definitely impact her friendship with Mark in some way.
Case Study Facts
The following is a brief outline of the various facts in the case presented which should shed some light in what ethical course action should be followed. First and foremost it must be noted that Mark and Alice have been best friends for quite some time and they even graduated from the same university.
This establishes the fact that they have a close personal relationship which should be taken into account when Alice will make a decision regarding whether to inform the company or not. It was also noted that in the case study Mark has a family to take care of and was barely making enough to support them as is, a fact well known by Alice.
Furthermore, the scenario in the case example clearly states that Mark is a good worker and has actually performed exceptionally well during his 3 years at the company. If Mark were to be fired from his job due to the error in the report not only would this have marred his 3 exceptional years working for the company but NC would lose a great worker.
What must be understood is that NC actually little tolerance for mistakes and as such should the mistake be discovered it would more than likely result in Mark being fired. Underpinning all of this is the fact that Alice violated Mark’s trust by looking at the sealed files, yet if she didn’t the mistake wouldn’t have been found out until it was too late.
Analysis Utilizing the Golden Rule
As stated by James Want (1999), the Golden Rule can be summarized into two distinct principles: that a person should treat others in the way that they themselves would like to be treated and a person should not treat others in a way that they themselves would not like to be treated (James Wang, 415). Basically the Golden rule is a concept with reciprocal action as its basis wherein people treat others in a positive manner due to the assumption that they themselves will also be treated similarly.
When utilizing this particular theory as means of analyzing the ethicality of a particular set of actions it is always the case that an individual takes into account how they would like to be treated should they be placed in a similar situation where they will feel the ramifications of a particular decision. In this particular there are two viewpoints to take into consideration: the viewpoint of Alice putting herself in Mark’s situation or in her placing herself in the situation of the company.
Viewpoint where Alice Places Herself in the Situation of Mark
From this viewpoint if Alice were to report the mistake to the company it would most likely result in Mark getting fired. It must be pointed out though that the Golden Rule only leads an individual towards making the best decision only if they fulfill the requirement of being highly ethical. Furthermore, it also makes the assumption that those who are affected by decisions are also highly ethical individuals.
While it must also be taken into consideration that Mark has a family to support, has performed admirably over the past several years and that he is Alice’s best friend the fact remains that under the Gold Rule of decision a highly ethical person wouldn’t ask nor expect a friend to lie for them thus if Mark and Alice are highly ethical individuals Alice would report Mark and Mark would accept the consequences of his actions if he was a loyal employee of the company.
Viewpoint where Alice Places Herself in the Situation of the Company
It must be noted though that from the perspective of the company Alice has a responsibility in ensuring the best interests of the company are followed through. If through inaction Alice allowed the actions of Mark to continue then this would result in possibly adverse consequences for the company in the future.
Taking the Golden Rule into consideration, if the roles were reversed Alice herself would want her employees to ensure the continued survival of the company by making sure that problems are prevented from occurring rather than knowingly allowing them to happen. As such if Alice didn’t report Mark to the company she would be complicit in allowing the company to experience a moment of failure.
It is based on these two perspectives that is likely that under the “Golden Rule” Alice would report Mark to the company.
Analysis using Virtue Ethics
Under the concept of virtue ethics decisions are made based on an individual’s inherent character or virtues wherein personal integrity and moral character are taken into consideration before making a decision. What must be understood is that from the perspective of a virtue ethicist the decision to tell a lie or not actually depends on how that decision reflects upon an individual’s moral behavior or inherent character.
When looking at the situation of Alice and Mark what must be taken into consideration is how would telling the company reflect on Alice’s moral character when she could still tell Mark about the mistake and have him fix it? In the case provided it was not stated that the mistake could not be corrected, the only thing standing in between the mistake being corrected is Alice admitting to Mark that she looked through the report marked “confidential”.
In this situation there are two possible outcomes: Alice would tell Mark that she looked through the documents, which would call her moral integrity into question since she should not have looked at them, or Alice would not tell Mark and report him to the company despite there being the opportunity to still correct the mistake.
Based on the fact that the virtue ethics perspective considers primarily the actor’s character, motivations, and intentions it can be seen that the best course of action would be to tell Mark about the mistake and have him correct it.
When Alice looked through the documents she was not driven by any malicious intentions or self-serving motivations, she was just curious, if she were to report Mark to the company despite there being an alternative means of resolving the problem this would call into questions her own moral character. Thus, taking the virtue ethics perspective into consideration, Alice would tell Mark about the problem and have him fix it.
Based on my analysis of the “Golden Rule” Alice should report Mark to the company however based on virtue ethics Alice should give Mark a chance to correct the mistake in the report. If Alice were to merely report Mark without giving him a chance to fix the mistake this would violate the principles of virtue ethics since she would knowingly cause an action (Mark getting fired) despite there being an alternative (having Mark fix the mistake).
On the other hand, if Alice were to inform Mark about the mistake yet he still doesn’t fix it under the “Golden Rule” Alice has the ethical responsibility to the company to report Mark for his mistake.
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James Wang, Qingjie. “The Golden Rule and Interpersonal Care–From A Confucian Perspective.” Philosophy East & West 49.4 (1999): 415.
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