Module 1 – Background
FOR A SUCCESSFUL START—BUSINESS ETHICS
The goal for most who attend graduate school is to complete a degree.
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A great way to start is having abundant motivation, great time management skills (no habit of procrastination), and your eye on the goal.
View the following highlights from the Trident 2018 Commencement. Picture yourself in the video.
Trident University International (2018). Trident Commencement Highlights 2018. Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/280475824
Introduction to Business Ethics
View the video on universal ethical standards expected whenever people work together. Unlike many of the other videos in this course, this video is housed in the Trident Online Library. If you have any difficulties locating it, please see How to Access the Video Workplace Ethics Made Simple.
TrainingABC (Producer). (2017). Workplace ethics made simple [Video file]. Available in the Trident Online Library, Academic Video Online: Premium database.
Is it always that easy? Telling people what to do and what not to do? Of course not. This is why studying ethics is important. Why care about ethics in our lives, our business practices, and our professions?
Let’s continue by reading:
Byars, S. and Stanberry, K. (2018). Why ethics matter, chapter 1. Business Ethics. Rice
University, OpenStax. Retrieved from http://cnx.org/content/col25722/1.3 pgs. 7-22. CC BY 4.0 license
As you read this book, be sure to click on the links in the “Link to Learning” sections. This will help add
depth to the subject you are reading about.
We learn from Byars and Stanberry (2018) that ethics matter because being a professional of integrity matters. It also matters that organizations remain profitable and have ethical standards to follow.
“Ethical business conduct permits us to sleep well at night.” (Byers & Stanberry, 2018).
As we have mentioned, ethics has philosophical underpinnings. Let’s take a look in more detail at four different normative perspectives that Byars and Stanberry mention—utilitarianism, deontology (duty), virtue, and justice ethics. (Normative simply means establishing a norm or standard.)
First, read the following, which is the textbook we will utilize throughout this course. We will only read parts of the text, but you may also find the rest of the book of interest.
Byars, S. and Stanberry, Kurt (2018). Business Ethics. Rice University, OpenStax. Retrieved from http://cnx.org/content/col25722/1.3 pg. 40-58. CC BY 4.0 license
Utilitarian ethics is also referred to as utility ethics or consequentialist ethics. Utility ethics is the theory that “an action is morally right if and only if it produces at least as much good (utility) for all people affected by the action as any alternative action the person could do instead” (Audi, 1999, p. 824).
Source: Audi, R. (Ed.). (1995). The Cambridge dictionary of philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Think of utilitarianism in terms of the benefit of the outcomes derived from a given action. This theory is largely concerned with the end result–doing the “greatest good” for the largest number of persons.
Utilitarianism ethics is often criticized as being “the ends justify the means.” This is because it is concerned with the outcome of a decision or action rather than whether or not the action is ethical in itself. For example, would you lie to avoid hurting your friend’s feelings, or is lying always wrong? Is it wrong to needlessly harm one person to save two other lives? Under this philosophy you examine these dilemmas strictly by looking at the consequences of these types of actions and not whether it is wrong to lie or wrong to needlessly harm.
View the following video to learn more about utilitarianism:
CrashCourse (2016). Utlitarianism: Crash Course Philosophy #36. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-a739VjqdSI. Standard YouTube license.
Deontology (Duty) Ethics
The next video is about deontology or often called duty ethics:
Duty ethics are rooted in the maxim that a person must act in a certain way for no reason other than because it is the right way to act – in essence, I should act this way because it is my duty to do so.
The following short video does a very good job categorizing the ethical theories.
Carneades.org (2017). What is Deontology? (Normative Ethics). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qMCeaXyrl7k. Standard YouTube license.
Immanuel Kant, well-known deontologist, provided a new way of looking at the nature of the human mind. The mind has an inherent and unconditional duty to act ethically. There are no contradictions—character and being a good person counts.
Kant’s Categorical Imperative, requires that an act is ethical only if we can consider that act as being acceptable by everyone everywhere (a universal law). In this context, murder is wrong because we would not will the act of murder to become a universally acceptable behavior. Therefore, Kant would say that it is my duty not to murder another person. To do otherwise (i.e., to actively harm other people knowing that it is my duty not to harm them), according to Kant, is irrational – and it is unethical.
To learn more about Kant’s deontological thinking, view the following video:
Leonard, O. (2016). Beginner’s guide to Kant’s moral philosophy. Philosophy Tube. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQ2fvTvtzBM&t=127s
Duty-based ethics. (2014). BBC. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/introduction/duty_1.shtml
And the next-to-the-last normative theory we will look at is virtue ethics, a moral theory. This line of thought goes back to the great ancient Greek philosophers Aristotle and Plato but is still widely applied in the study of business ethics. Viewing this video will help you understand virtue ethics and how to apply it to real-world business situations:
CrashCourse (2016). Aristotle & Virtue Theory: Crash Course Philosophy #38. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PrvtOWEXDIQ&list=PL2OiwZrUmE548Pf_BqpxIcqJnxr8crXK_ Standard YouTube license.
In this video we will learn about John Rawls and his universal system of fairness—taking care of the most disadvantaged. For example, should you have to pay into a system that provides medical coverage to other people less health conscious than you?
CrashCourse (2016): What is Justice? Crash Course Philosophy #40. Retrieved from https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=Justice+Theory+YouTube&view=detail&mid=2133D4F327CDFB2B737F2133D4F327CDFB2B737F&FORM=VIRE
Your exposure to the different philosophical perspectives should come in handy in the rest of this course. Since ethics is all about “behaviors,” that is what we focus on. Ethics philosophy is just the tip of the “business ethics” iceberg, so keep up your momentum and look at ethics dilemmas and how the theories might help guide (or at least categorize) our thinking.
Francis and Murfey (2016) provides these examples of ethical problems business encounters today:
- If I don’t have to pay tax in the countries where I do business, should I? And if so, how much?
- What are the impacts on the consumers of the product?
- What are my responsibilities to suppliers? Do I drive a hard bargain without regard for their profitability?
- Do I need to be concerned about the employees of a subcontractor in a developing economy?
- What are the environmental impacts of this decision?
- How do I balance my values with the very different values of a business partner from another culture?
- How much do I sacrifice profit for something that is perceived as a social good? What is the balance between profit and responsibility to the wider community?
- How do I create a culture of integrity and set standards for employees?
- How do I deal with informers (whistleblowers) who are ethically right but an embarrassment to the company?
- How do I deal with a problem of ethnicity in the workplace without seeming to be racist?
- Under what conditions is it all right to accept gifts?
- How should I deal with sexual impropriety by employees?
- If national espionage is acceptable does that make it all right to indulge in industrial and commercial espionage?
Source for the information above: Francis, R. and Murfey, G. (2016). Global business ethics: Responsible Decision-Making in an international context. Available from the Trident Online Library, Skillsoft Books, 24×7.
General References Useful for Preparing Graduate-Level Papers:
For a list of general reference sources related to locating library sources, using APA formatting, applying critical-thinking skills, and so forth, see General References Useful for Preparing Graduate-Level Papers. It is not required that you read these sources page-by-page, but rather you refer to them for guidance.
What do ‘First Person’ and ‘Third Person’ Mean?
Personal Writing, such as for a reflective essay, “personal response,” opinion piece, and discussion posting, can be written in the first person (using “I” and “me”), and may use personal opinions and anecdotes as evidence for the points you are making.
Example of writing in first person:
I am sure that his philosophy was correct for his time, however, this is the technology era and I feel…….
The SLP assignments and the Discussion Forums in ETH501 allow first-person voice since they are less structured and more personalized than an academic paper.
Academic essay papers at Trident should be written in the third person, and should use valid academic sources as evidence to support your writing.
Example of writing in third person:
The speaker concludes that the Stone Age was the beginning of our current technology era. Other speakers reject the idea. In Basics of Thought and Action, Dr. Stan Sanbola identifies four reasons for supporting the Stone Age idea and four reasons why the thinking is faulty. Sanbola has provided the needed perspective on the argument (2018, pg. 132).
The Case assignments in ETH501 should be written in third person.
Discussion: Ethics at Work
In this first discussion, our class will take a look at how rare or rampant unethical behaviors are related to some aspect of work.
Google images, bizjournals.com
Early in the first week of Module 1, share one or more work experience that you have been exposed to or have read about that might be viewed as unethical. Describe the situation(s) in as much detail as you feel comfortable with (keeping names and locations anonymous).
Which ethical philosophy (or philosophies) relate to the situations you describe?
How did the situations turn out?
Remember in this discussion forum you should respond with substantial detail to this topic early in the module’s first week. This will be your “initial post.” For your initial discussion also bring in information from at least one background source or your own research to help inform your classmates. Cite the source.
Then by week 2 of the module, you are to respond to the posts of at least two of your classmates. Your responses should have depth of critical thought and not simply agree or disagree. For each response also bring in information from at least one background source or your own research to help inform your classmates. Cite the source.
Each post should be about 250-300 words.
Discussion posts will be assessed according to the following criteria on the discussion rubric:
Quality of initial posting (first discussion only): Initial posting reveals a clear understanding of all aspects of the discussion question; uses factual and relevant information; and demonstrates full development of concepts.
Quality of Responses to Classmates: Responds to the required number of students and to the professor, if appropriate. Demonstrates analysis of others’ posts; extends meaningful discussions by building on previous peer posts, and offers alternative perspectives.
Reference to supporting readings/information literacy: Refers to and properly cites either course and/or outside readings in posts, as required.
Critical thinking: Demonstrates mastery conceptualizing the problem; viewpoints and assumptions of experts are analyzed, synthesized, and evaluated; and conclusions are logically presented with appropriate rationale.
Timeliness: Initial post occurs in a timely manner (1-3 days into module) allowing ample time for classmates to respond and engage.