Ethical Decision Making
Before entering to evaluate the different existing models to make decisions from an ethical point of view:
The conflict between two ethical principles or two actions with favourable reasons
Sometimes it is possible that the ethics are contradictory because the decisions to be made are exclusive and all have a valid ethical principle. In these situations, it is best to stick to what the ethical framework dictates and if it is impossible to resolve it in this way, make an internal choice system to make the decision.
The conflict between the two negative actions
The decisions to be taken by the company have both negative and positive consequences from an ethical point of view. However, the company is obliged to make a decision, so it must assess again what ethical point of view has greater relevance and act accordingly.
The conflict between personal ethics and the function of the worker
This type of conflict only occurs in some companies, generally those that work in front of the public. Sometimes, the worker may be forced by the company to have to perform an action that threatens his will. Again, to avoid this type of situation, it is ideal to inform the worker of the existence of the ethical code, so that, if you do not agree with it or prefer not to have to apply it, you can leave the job without harming the company or propose a reform of it.
The conflict between law and ethics
Although in most cases law and ethics go in the same direction, there are situations in which both concepts go in opposite directions. In the case of companies, almost always, the law takes precedence over ethics, although there may be specific situations in which this order of preferences is interchangeable for the benefit of the company itself and the rest of society.
The models for making ethical decisions
For much of the twentieth century and what we have of the current century, many economists and other experts in professions where ethics is closely linked to the role as a professional, have dedicated themselves to writing about the relationship between morality and work, reaching write models on how to make ethical decisions. In the company, you can implement some of them, although initially they were not written with the current business model in mind.
Thompson’s model of ethical decision making
It is a very simple model that is based on the fact that decision-making does not fall on a single person but on a group of individuals. It follows the premise that collective thinking is more effective than the individual, so that, if the decision is consensual, normally, a decision will be made that complies with moral standards.
This model follows a linear system of several phases that begins with an analysis of the problem and the identification of ethical conflicts, continues with the application and interpretation of the ethical framework of the organization, if it had one, and ends with a proposal by part of the group leader that should be supported by the majority of members. Another advantage of this model is that it also includes a stage in which the results of the decision taken are reviewed, so that, if it has failed, the existing ethical framework can be improved in the future.
Utilitarian ethical model
It is a model that follows the same principles as the deontological model of medicine, but with some small variations, so that it adapts better to the business world. It consists of only 4 steps.
The first one is to assess the company's ethical standards and principles with the available action alternatives. In case one of the alternatives complies with all the ethical standards, it is considered to be the most appropriate decision. If the alternative complies with some ethical principle but not with another, then we must enter the second assessment phase.
This second phase aims to order the ethical principles from highest to lowest category according to their importance so that the chosen alternative is one that complies with the ethical principle of higher category and fails one of the low categories.
In case it is impossible to determine an order between the ethical principles, a third phase may be requested in which the collaboration of other persons external to the decision group is requested so that they contribute their criteria to determine which ethical principle has priority.
Finally, the fourth and final phase is an assessment and analysis of the consequences produced by the action taken. In case, finally, the decision taken is erroneous, a change in the company's code of ethics should be considered to prevent the error from being repeated.