Decision-makers use a broad range of theories and ethical criteria in design an ethical framework for handling ethical dilemmas. Decision-making is usually the order of the day in any workplace. While junior employees continue to face simple and less complicated ethical issues, middle-level and senior managers have to deal with complex ethical dilemmas on a daily basis since their positions have everything to do with decision-making (Payne, Corey, & Fok, 2016). With an ethical framework, it is possible to make an informed decision whose principles or outcome will be justifiable. Payne et al. (2016) emphasized the need for an ethical framework that provides a step-wise decision-making process that incorporates an ethical theory. According to Payne et al. (2016), utilitarianism is one of the standard ethical approaches in the corporate world that middle and senior managers use to justify their actions. This paper examines an ethical framework based on consequentialism theory. The study also provides a personal experience that reflects the utilitarianism approach of dealing with ethical dilemmas at work.
According to Hackett and Wang (2012), ethical leadership is the ability of leaders to comply with a set of principles or cord of conduct. Therefore, leaders have the option of choosing the ethical theories that fit their leadership approaches and the cord of conduct that dictate the organizational culture and structure of their firm. On that note, consequentialism is a normative ethical approach whose theories focus on either examining the outcome or whether the action is morally right or wrong (Payne et al., 2016). Utilitarianism is a good example of a consequentialist moral approach that focuses using the outcome to justify the action. According to utilitarianism, a decision maker is supposed to choose a path that leads to more benefits (Payne et al., 2016). On the same note, the most appropriate decision should have the least adverse effects. Designing an ethical framework is a step-by-step undertaking that requires careful analysis of the ethical issue at hand, getting the facts, and evaluating the alternative actions. After choosing an ethical approach, it is necessary to test it and reflect on the outcome.
Steps in Making Decision
Step 1: Recognizing ethical issues
According to May and Pauli (2002), understanding the nature of the ethical issue is the most important step that decision makers should consider conducting first. The idea is to examine the complexity of the issue and the moral dilemma facing the decision maker. Utilitarianism tends to focus on the ability of the decision maker to evaluate the situation and predict the possible outcome in case a particular decision is taken (May & Pauli, 2002). In this case, utilitarianism approach will dictate the line of thought required to weigh the given options. In doing so, the decision maker becomes ready to proceed with the next step of getting the facts right before considering the options.
Step 2: Get the facts
The second phase is to investigate the events associated with the ethical dilemma. This step is important in facilitating informed decision-making at a later stage of the decision-making process. As mentioned earlier, utilitarianism requires a thorough analysis of the possible alternatives before choosing the most suitable option (Payne et al. 2016). Therefore, getting all the facts about the ethical issue will provide a broad range of justifications to support either option. In a workplace, decision makers are supposed to consult with their colleagues or juniors just to get the facts right. This step of decision making is crucial since it defines whether the plan chosen will succeed or not (Payne et al. 2016). Therefore, utilitarianism offers an excellent opportunity for managers to consider evaluating all the facts to ensure that their decision represents all the defining factors surrounding the ethical dilemma.
Step 3: Evaluate alternative actions
Once the decision maker gathers all the relevant facts, the next step is to evaluate the options as per the facts on the table. At this stage, utilitarianism theory takes center stage since the evaluation of the alternative options focuses on weighing the options at hand (Payne et al., 2016). Firstly, according to utilitarianism, it is necessary to evaluate the benefits of all the possible options (Payne et al., 2016). The thought is to rank the alternatives depending on the advantages associated with the outcome. The most beneficial option becomes the best option so far. Secondly, the decision maker will need to evaluate the adverse impact of all the possible options (Payne et al., 2016). Ranking the options according to their negative effects provides yet another platform for justifying whether a particular decision will cause the least damage or pain. In this case, the alternative with the least damage qualifies for consideration. Finally, the benefits and the cost of each alternative are analyzed together to identify the best option (Payne et al. 2016). In particular, an option with the most benefits and the least damages will become the best decision worth taking as per the utilitarianism approach.
Step 4: Taking action and reflecting on the outcome
Taking the necessary action as per the decision is yet another crucial part of an ethical framework. According to Payne et al. (2016), decision makers should always accompany their decision with the necessary action required to make the decision worthwhile. In most cases, the decision makers usually have the opportunity to make an adjustment. The adjustment provides room for preventing the adverse effects associated with the chosen alternative. Therefore, reflecting the outcome is critical in ensuring that indeed the selection option brings the most benefits while at the same time cause the least harm.
Ethical Dilemma Case
Previously, I had a chance to experience the difficulties associated with ethical dilemmas in a workplace. Since the firms organizational culture was based on teamwork, the workers had to work together in teams of seven individuals. I was lucky to secure a leadership role in my team. I was eager to learn and practice my leadership skills in a real workplace, as I prepared to take a senior position in future. I enjoyed considerable support from other team members since they appreciated my commitment to bring the best out of each one of us. Since the management was providing a reward for the best team, I encouraged my team members to aim for the price. All was well until I noticed that two members were dragging us behind. The rest of the team kept on complaining since the performance of the team deteriorating.
As the team leader, I had to approach the two members who seemed to ignore our concerns. One of the non-cooperative members was a female employee, who was a proud mother of two young children. She hardly attended our after-hours meeting since she had to rush and pick her children from school. Understandably, she was not in a position to put up with the rest of us due to her family issues. The other member happened to be a man who had to work for two jobs making it difficult to concentrate on our teamwork. As a leader, I was convinced that it was my obligation to protect the interest of the two members. On the other hand, I had the duty of ensuring fairness and an equal contribution from all members.
The complexity of the ethical dilemma worsened when our team became the winner. We receive a considerable amount of money as compensation for our excellent performance. As a team, we were allowed to decide how to share depending on our contributions. All the team members were aware of the fact that two members contributed nothing since they made no effort to bring the success. Since they trusted my leadership, they gave me the power to choose the formula for sharing the reward. As their leader, I faced yet another ethical challenge of convincing them to share the prize equally. It was ethically wrong to suggest equitable allocation of the reward since two team members did not deserve the reward. From an ethical viewpoint, giving them as much money as the rest was unfair to those who made all the efforts to bring the prize to the team. On the other hand, the two a share of the reward could kill the spirit and essence of teamwork. Although the move was fair to other members, it jeopardized the future of the team since the two members could feel excluded.
Application of Utilitarian Approach in Case
The utilitarian ethical theory provides an excellent platform for solving the ethical problem in my case. As May and Pauli (2002) suggested, the first step is to analyze the ethical issue in a bid to understand the ethical dilemmas that require solutions. In this case, the main moral issue is that some group members were taking credit from others work. Getting facts, as illustrated in the second step, will focus on understanding the underlying problems that bring the ethical issue. Apparently, the two employees were probably facing difficult situations that made it difficult to attend our meetings. These meetings were important since we shared a lot on the best strategies to use to become the best performing team. Since the two members were always absent, they could not perform as per our expectations. In particular, they brought in individual efforts instead of teamwork. However, the most important fact is that both members were committed elsewhere and their inability to cooperate with the rest of us was purely unintentional.
As a leader, the members gave me several options to decide how we could share the price. The first choice was to distribute the reward to five members since the remaining two members. This selection was fair since every member could receive a reward as per his or her efforts and contributions. This option could also potentially encourage members to put more efforts and ignore those who make little or no contribution since their extra efforts will be rewarded at the end of the day. From a utilitarian viewpoint, these benefits seem sufficient to render the option viable. However, the choice has several damaging effects on the team. For instance, the decision disregarded the fact that the excluded members were held the same position just like the rest of the group members. It is also evident that the end does not justify the means since leaving out two members will affect the unity of the team leading to per performance in future.
The second option was to ignore the fact that two members had not made any contribution and share the reward equally. In this case, the benefit of sharing the prize equally will restore the spirit of teamwork and ensure that members are ready to excuse any other member who faces a similar situation. However, the damaging effect associated with this option is the possibility of demoralization among hardworking group members. If those who contributed next to nothing are receiving the same amount of reward, then there is no need of putting extra efforts.
From these two options, weighing the benefits and adverse effects provides for the selection of the best choice. Firstly, the utilitarianism emphasizes the need for considering the option that is right for the majority. Therefore, the best approach is to allow them to choose the option they prefer. Secondly, equally sharing the reward was better for the future of the team since it will dictate the willingness of the members to cover each other and work as a team. Instead of making a choice, the best approach as a leader is to talk to the members and remind them about the spirit of teamwork and the need to support each other.
Application of a Complex Decision-making Process
After relating the case to the ethical framework, I now understand the e...
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