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In the modern world of business, numerous issues and dilemmas might arise due to conflicts of interest. Therefore, it is important to use ethics in order to effectively deal with such situations, avoid possible scandals, and make sure that the company is doing well and its employees and clients are satisfied (Ferrell, Fraedrich, & Ferrell, 2013, p. 5). In this paper, we will consider a situation in business where there is an ethical dilemma, and discuss the possible ways to make a decision according to deontological and consequentialist approaches.
The Scenario and the Ethical Dilemma
In the provided scenario, Jill Jones, the vice-president of sales of a corporation, has to review Henry Potter, who is the oldest son of the business’ head, as a candidate for the post of the company’s CEO. In the past, Henry made her a proposal, which was unsuccessful, and because of him, her life was miserable (though we do not know what exactly he did). At the same time, Jill knows that Henry performed exceptionally well as the head of Miami’s branch of the business.
The dilemma that Jill is facing is as follows: she has to decide whether to approve Henry for the position; in doing so, she has to choose between giving credit to his professional qualities and being careful about his personal qualities which might harm her and, most likely, the company.
It is also noteworthy that we do not know if Jill’s decision will be crucial for whether Henry is chosen as the CEO, so we will consider both options where it is reasonable.
Considerations According to Deontological Ethics
In accordance with deontological ethics, consequences are not of great importance; one must act according to their duty. In the case of Jill, the duty appears rather obvious: she works for the company, so she is obliged to make a decision that would be best for the enterprise. She knows about Henry’s outstanding performance in Miami’s branch of the business. Also, she needs to use the Kantian principle of “respect for persons” (Frederick, 2002, p. 7). So, according to deontological considerations, Jill has to approve Henry for the position of the company’s CEO (and hope that he will be as deontological in his actions as she has been in hers).
Considerations According to Consequentialist Ethics
According to consequentialist ethical theories, the moral value of actions is shaped by their consequences. Therefore, if Jill is to make a decision based on consequentialist ethics, she needs to try to calculate the possible consequences of different choices she can make, and choose the best option.
Her decision will mainly influence two entities: the company and herself. It is important to stress that because she occupies a high position in the company, the consequences for her will also influence the company. It is also crucial that she must not neglect herself in making the decision, because the company also has its obligations to her; the enterprise must provide her not only with a salary but also with satisfactory working conditions, free of sexual harassment and any other degrading experiences.
So, Jill may choose to give Henry a negative review. If he still gets the post of CEO, Jill will apparently obtain nothing, but she risks falling into disgrace with her future boss and his father; there are no particular consequences of her decision for the company because the decision is not crucial. On the contrary, if Henry does not get the position, Jill will avoid the possible misery (we do not know whether it will take place, and if yes, how bad it can be) and the numerous conflicts that may arise because of it (and possibly even lead her to quitting her job); but in this case, she risks to fall in disgrace with her current boss, and she might deprive the company of a (potentially) good CEO.
On the other hand, Jill may choose to approve Henry as the CEO. If he does not get the job, she loses nothing, and she does not obtain much except for not losing her current boss’s good attitude towards her; there are no particular consequences for the company. However, if Henry gets the job, there are two main variants. Henry can “behave well,” not mention their unsuccessful relationships to her, and be objective towards her, in which case she does not lose, and the company obtains a (potentially) good CEO. Henry can also “behave badly” (but it is hard to predict how “badly” he will behave).
If he molests Jill, she will have a number of options: she will either have to raise an issue, sue him and have him removed from the post, in which case her relationships with the company will probably worsen significantly (in this case, the business also suffers much); or she will stay silent and suffer (it is hard to say what this would mean for the company because two high-ranked officers of the enterprise will be busy elsewhere); or she will quit her job (in this case, the company suffers because Jill is a good vice-president of sales).
Comparison of the Results and Choosing the Best One
The consequentialist considerations provided above do not allow for an unequivocal answer. However, despite that, we would prefer them to deontological considerations; the latter appear to have something in common with a refusal to take responsibility for one’s actions and simply do what the duty dictates, even though deontological ethics is about the responsibility of doing one’s duty.
We would advise Jill to “probe” Henry before making her final decision in order to see how likely he is to persist in his activities towards her. The decision should be based on such an estimate.
Before this data is collected, let us suppose that the likelihood of Henry’s “good” and “bad” behavior is 50% each. In this case, we would go for the “cautious” option and advise Jill not to give him approval, because the risks appear to outweigh the potential benefit. Yes, if Henry “behaves well,” the company benefits – but it is also possible to find another good CEO. But if he “behaves badly,” there is a high probability of a disastrous scandal; the workplace becomes unbearable for Jill (so the company neglects its obligations to her), and she might have to look for a new job; the company risks to lose both the new CEO and a good vice-president of sales, and Henry risks being legally penalized.
Perhaps this decision does not appear to be moral from a deontological perspective, but an action that is moral from a certain viewpoint is not always the best choice (Malachowski, 2001, p. 91). In addition, it is not completely unfair towards Henry, for he did make Jill’s life miserable in the past, possibly even harassing her.
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To sum up, Jill faces a moral dilemma over approving a person who can potentially make her life miserable as her company’s CEO. From a deontological perspective, it is her duty to approve him; on the other hand, a consequentialist approach shows the possible results of her decision. We recommend Jill to make the “cautious” decision and not approve Henry as a CEO because of the high potential risks to all the parties involved.
Ferrell, O. C., Fraedrich, J., & Ferrell, L. (2013). Business ethics: Ethical decision making & cases (9th ed.). Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning. Web.
Frederick, R. E. (Ed.). (2002). A companion to business ethics. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers. Web.
Malachowski, A. (Ed.). (2001). Business ethics: Critical perspectives on business and management. Volume 1: Methodological issues. New York, NY: Routledge. Web.