Ethics can be defined as an individual belief system that consists of knowing what is right and wrong. It can also be said that ethics involves the beliefs of a person, the decisions the person makes and the actions undertaken. The beliefs determine the meaning of our principles and where they are originated from. This is metaethics and it involves the things that exist in the world like the God, physical creations. Decisions involve arriving at moral standards that regulate right and wrong. This is normative ethics and it mainly involves the golden rule, which states that we should do to others what we would want done to us. Using this kind of reasoning, an individual can decide what is right and what is wrong. For example, since I don’t want my shirt stolen, then it is wrong to steal my neighbor’s shirt so the decision made is that it is wrong to steal or since I would like people to give me food, when I am hungry then I should help feed starving people. so the decision here is that it is right to help the needy. The actions now come after the decision on what to do.
In a business context, ethics are the principles that examine moral or ethical problems that are present in a business environment. These ethics comprises of all the businesses aspects including the conducts of individual employees and the entire organizations. All businesses are expected to have good ethical values since they describe the whole business. The major problem is that a business comprises of many different people, thus making business ethics a mixture of individual’s sets of ethics. Business ethics is very important in determining the fundamental purpose of a business. If a business’s purpose is production of goods, then offering services would be violation of its ethics. Many scholars believe that ethics can be a vital source of success in any business. This means that it is through doing what is expected that one succeeds in everything though this is not a guarantee that, every good deed has a reward accompanying it.
Principles of ethical decision-making
Often we are faced with situations that need very vital decision making. Failure to make the right decisions may lead to very bad consequences that may even cause harm to human life. These vital decisions are called ethical decisions and they require one to have certain ethical principles in life that help make these decisions. Ethical decision making provides an outline to consider ethical principles, observe the legal social policies and make proper decisions to the issues at hand. In order to make a proper decision, the individual has to be able to follow a number of steps. First of all, you have to identify the problem that needs to be solved. Then look for guidelines that can be used in the decision making. Then you have to identify and apply the principles of ethical decision making on the problem, and finally look at the rights and duties of other people while responding to spontaneous cues.
There is a model known as the SPIRAL model that is used in the ethical decision making process. This model has the steps that are used to assist in systematically addressing a problem at hand and finally come up with a decision to make. The first step is specifying the factors of the ethical problem to be solved. These are usually the major determinants or causes of the problem. The second step is determination of the ethical principles that can be helpful in the ethical decision making. This step acts as the ‘torch’ on the process of decision making.
The third step is the identification of the options that are available at hand and that can be used to solve the problem. These options act as the path towards the attainment of a solution to the problem. However, this step is very crucial since many decisions avail themselves as a dilemma. One has to be very careful while choosing the option that best suits the problem, because choice of one means foregoing the other. This process is also non-reversible.
The fourth step is the review of the options chosen earlier in the process of decision making. In the review, one has to make sure that the option chosen is legal and it is in accordance with the people`s demands and the government policy. Also, one should be able to explain a justifying reason for the choice of the option and give review to the impact of the decision. The fifth step is the acting on the problem in accordance with the options and plan made. This step now gives the results and solution to the problem, and finally we have the learning step. From the results gained after taking an action, there are certain lessons that an individual learns.
There are six principles of ethical decision making. They are: Autonomy: this refers to a person’s ability to make self-determining choices while considering the other people. The second principle is beneficence. This principle demands to do good to others without any expected pay or favor in return, for example, a doctor`s extra work on a patient to heal him. The third principle is non-malfeasance. This is a principle that demands that we don’t harm and, therefore, we should not injure others and it is under the obligation of the duty of care.
The fourth principle is the justice, which defines the equal distribution of benefits to people. It focuses mainly on fairness to all people, for example, all patients deserve the same standards and quality of care regardless of health and care setting. The fifth principle is the veracity principle, which is concerned with truthful and honesty. This builds up trust in an individual. Finally, we have the confidentiality principle that involves confidentiality of another person’s information and not disclosing it without their consent thus respecting their privacy and wishes.
A business organization will be used in the discussion of some ethical principles. Using an example of a company with many workers, whose work details are stored by the company in files and in computers, the company has to make sure that the worker’s details, especially the social security numbers are well secured and high confidentiality of all workers if required for a proper running of the business.
This action clearly puts the confidentiality principle of ethical decision making in to action. This principle involves confidentiality of another person’s information and not disclosing it without their consent, thus respecting their privacy and wishes. This ensures that every worker is comfortable working for the company. There are also some bills and acts that do not allow employers from posting or displaying social security numbers of employees over the internet since it is not secure and it can be easily hacked into and the employer’s information accessed to. These acts also prohibit employers and employees from sending anything on the internet on which the social security number is visible.
The ethical issue here is all about confidentiality. It is the task of the company to make sure that the employees personal files are out in secure locked cabinets and that only the authorized people have access to these files. The company should also use electronic monitoring systems, which allow the employers to observe who is attempting to access the electronically stored confidential information .It is also the responsibility of the company to publish an identity theft policy describing the handling of personal files and encourage employees report any cases of theft of personal information. However, it is also the duty of the company to protect its employee’s information by not sending social security numbers through the mail and not using them as reference numbers of any kind. The company should also not allow its employees access the company’s website without password protection or an authentication of any kind.
Business ethical issues mainly include the rights and duties between the company and the employees, customers, shareholders, suppliers and the other companies. The most important ethical issues are the rights of the employees, which include the confidentiality of their personal documents.
The above example expresses the confidentiality principle of ethical decision making. This is a very important principle, especially when it comes to a company’s situation since it fights against identity theft in same company. To comply with the principle of confidentiality there are some good or right things that should be done and other bad or wrong things that should not be done.
Using the above company as an example, the things that should be done to practice ethics are keeping the employee’s files and all personal data secure in locked cabinets and making sure that the appropriate personnel gain access to the information. The second thing is using electronic monitoring systems, which allow the employers to observe who is attempting to access the electronically stored information.
Careful screening of all employees, who have access to personal data and conduct background checks in the case of hiring new staff and providing information to employees about protecting personal items, while in the work place are also very efficient ways of ensuring that confidentiality of personal information and protection of personal belongings are exercised in the company. The employers should make sure that they don’t leave original documents of employees in all accessible photocopiers, because anyone can access them and this will not ensure confidentiality. It should also neither include the social security numbers of its employees on their paychecks nor use them as reference numbers of any kind. This will make them vulnerable to access by the inappropriate people.
Today, the internet has become very insecure due to its high vulnerabilities to hacking and modification as a result of increased technology. The company should, therefore, avoid transmitting the employee’s social security numbers over the internet without an encrypted or secure technology. The employee’s serial numbers should also not be sent by mail and if they are to be send, physical envelopes are appropriate for doing so. The company’s website should be very secure such that the employees cannot access it without password protection or other authentication technologies.
Ethics is something that you feel, not what you think. It helps people to decide either to do good or bad, according to the way the society sees it. The use of the ethical model of looking at problems helps in making ethical decisions that lead to attainment of efficient solutions to problems. However, an individual needs to have the six principles of ethical decision making. These principles help very much in the attainment of an ethical solution, because they assist an individual in the process of identifying and problem, reviewing the options available, acting on the problem and the learning process that one gets from the results by evaluating the decision or action taken.