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Ethical Decision Making

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  • 1:03 Identification
  • 1:41 Collection of Information
  • 2:38 Alternatives
  • 3:19 The Decision
  • 4:25 Review & Modify
  • 5:09 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shawn Grimsley
We have to make decisions every day, and many of these decisions have an ethical dimension. In this lesson, you'll learn about ethical decision-making and a process you can use to make ethically sound decisions. A short quiz follows.

Ethical Decision-Making Defined

Managers must make decisions every day, and many of these decisions have an ethical dimension. Ethical decision-making is a cognitive process where people consider ethical rules, principles or guidelines when making decisions. Ethics is a system of values and principles of right or proper conduct. For example, most ethical systems find lying to be a violation of an ethical rule of being truthful.

Let's follow a supervisor, Amanda, through a decision she must make at work. Amanda is a sales manager who supervises a team of five salespeople. Part of her job is to coach and provide training material for members of her team. She recently attended a sales seminar pitching a new sales approach and has to decide whether to use it as part of the training and support for her team.

Identification of Ethical Dimensions

Amanda's first step is to determine whether an ethical analysis is even needed. Not all decisions a supervisor makes require ethical analysis. For example, choosing the doughnuts for doughnut day is really of no ethical importance. However, Amanda's situation requires a more detailed analysis. She needs to determine whether the proposed new sales system violates an important ethical principle, organizational standard or policy of her company - or worse, violates the law.

Collection of Relevant Information

After Amanda has determined that there is an ethical dimension to her decision-making, she'll need to gather all the relevant information to make an informed and ethical decision. Amanda will need to collect all the information on the sales techniques, as well as the relevant company policies, values, principles and the company's code of ethics related to selling. She should also check any relevant laws and regulations.

Evaluation According to Ethical Standards

Once collected, the information needs to be evaluated in terms of the relevant ethical guidelines. Amanda will need to compare each component of the sales system to the company's code of ethics, policies, values and principles. She may also review the company's mission statement and vision to ensure compliance with each. Finally, she should also evaluate the sales system in terms of relevant laws and regulations.

Consideration of Alternatives

After evaluation, the next step in ethical decision-making is consideration of each alternative. Sometimes, the alternatives are as simple as pursuing a course of action or not pursuing it. However, the world is often more complex, and you will find alternatives where answers are not black and white but rather a spectrum consisting of shades of gray. For example, Amanda's alternatives may be to adopt the sales program completely, reject the sales program completely or adopt some components of it and reject other components.

Make a Decision

It's now time to make a decision. The decision-maker should select the choice that does not violate the ethical criteria determined in the previous steps of the process. In other words, a choice that is in harmony with the organization's ethical principles is a proper ethical decision. For example, Amanda may decide to adopt the sales system because she concludes that the proposed sales system does not violate the law, the company's code of ethics and is consistent with its values.

Of course, you should keep in mind that some choices may create an ethical conflict between two ethical principles. For example, a particular course of action may be within a company's ethical standards but contrary to the supervisor's personal code of ethics.

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