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Our lives in society are guided by rules and standards which stipulate how we are supposed to act in different situations. This often well established norms are known as ethics and they enable us to exist harmoniously in the community. Ethics are defined by Chryssides and Kaler as “a system of moral principles by which social conduct is judged as either ‘right’ or ‘wrong’”(3).
Since ethical issues are sometimes difficult to resolve, the application of ethical theories can help a person to make the best judgment. These theories enable ethical decisions to be arrived at by taking into consideration all aspects of a problem. This paper shall apply Utilitarianism and Kant’s categorical imperative theory ethical theories to help resolve the ethical issue under consideration.
The ethical issue in question is in regard to whether Alice should report the huge error she has discovered in Mark’s nutritional reporting to the company’s upper management. Reporting Mark will mostly result in his being fired by Nutritional Company (NC).
Whisenant declares that an ethical dilemma exists when “a decision must be made and the decision-maker’s values conflict with an affected party’s values” (75). This is the case for Alice since she has to decide whether to report the error caused by her best friend. Her decision will affect her friendship with Mark and also Mark’s entire life.
Case Study Facts
There are a number of facts in the scenario which are outlined as follows. Mark and Alice have a very close relationship and they are best friends who graduated from the University of Houston with degrees in business. Mark is an efficient employee and he has performed exceptionally well during his 3years of employment with NC.
He however made a huge error in his nutritional reporting and this mistake is unacceptable to the NC. If Mark’s error is discovered by upper management, there is a high likelihood that he will lose his job. Alice breached Marks confidentiality by taking a look at the box of marketing material in Mark’s kitchen that was marked “Confidential, NC”.
Analyze using Utilitarianism
Utilitarianism dictates that the collective welfare of the society takes precedence over the individual’s good or rights. This theory advocates for the maximization of happiness for the largest number of people (Thiroux and Krasemann 23). When using this theory, the net benefits are weighted against net consequences and the decision which has the most “productive” results is chosen. There are a number of consequences to Alice reporting Mark’s mistake.
- Positive Consequences
Nutritional Company has a zero tolerance policy on mistakes. This means that NC is able to produce the best products for its clients. If Alice reports the mistake, NC will be able to continue providing quality products to its customers and demonstrate to other employers that mistakes are not allowed. Another thing is that from Alice’s revelation, steps can be taken up to rectify the mistake. As it has been stated, the amount of vitamin B6 reported is 150% higher than it should have been.
- Negative Consequences
If Alice reports the mistake, Mark will end up getting fired and hence lose his means of making a living. This will negatively impact on Mark’s family since he is the sole bread winner. It has also been noted that Mark is an exemplary employee to the company. In the short time that he has served there, he has proved to be a valuable asset and has been awarded raises and promotion. If he is fired, the company will loss a valuable asset and his vast contribution will no longer be felt by NC.
Application of Universal Ethics
The theory of categorical imperative as proposed by Kant places emphasis on the assumed duty. According to Thiroux and Krasemann, the duty is the basis of all moral actions regardless of the consequences (54). Greater weight is given to the rules rather than the outcomes of one’s actions.
Burch states that according to Kent, the morality of an action depends on “”whether it accords with a rule irrespective of its consequences” (50). Kent’s theory was based on the premise that while people may not be expected to reason rationally all the times, rules can be expected to remain constant and hence guide the society into harmony.
The issue under consideration is whether Alice should report Mark for the mistake she discovered. By applying the theory of Categorical Imperative, we can come up with a maxim that “we should report wrong doings to the relevant authorities”. This maxim can be applied universally since if would lead to a world where people are more accountable for their actions. Another issue is whether it would be right to allow the company to lose an otherwise diligent worker because of one mistake.
Dismissing Mark would serve as a warning to other workers who would ensure that they made no errors. However, Kent’s theory does not consider the ends but only the means. By firing Mark, the company will lose a valuable asset. From this, the maxim “companies should fire workers who make a mistake” can be derived. This maxim can become a universal law since companies would achieve better results if they did not tolerate workers who made mistakes.
Based on my analysis above, Alice should report Mark to upper management. Both the Utilitarianism and Kant’s Categorical Imperative support the decision to apprise upper management of the error made by Mark. Even so, both theories concede that it will be wrong for the company to lose such a promising worker as Mark because of one mistake. However, Utilitarianism reveals that more harm can arise to the relevant stakeholders by keeping Mark’s error.
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Applying ethical theories can assist in solving ethical problems since the theories act as the guidelines from which sound decisions are made. I agree with the conclusion reached that Alice should report Mark’s error. Both ethical suggest that this would be the best course of action. This decision will also be the most beneficial for the stakeholders involved.
Burch, Hobart. What’s Right? : Social ethics choices and applications. Indiana: AuthorHouse, 2009.
Chryssides, George and Kaler John. An introduction to business ethics. Boston: Cengage Learning EMEA, 1993.
Thiroux, Jacques and Krasemann Keith. Ethics: Theory and Practice (10th Edition). New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2008.
Whisenant, Lori. Legal Analysis and Writing for Business Majors. 2nd ed. United States: The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., 2006.