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Practical Application: Ethical Decision Making in Business

Instructor: Yuanxin (Amy) Yang Alcocer

Amy has a master's degree in secondary education and has been teaching math for over 9 years. Amy has worked with students at all levels from those with special needs to those that are gifted.

Some business decisions are simple, but some involve ethical consideration. Read and analyze some scenarios to practice identifying, evaluating, and making ethical decisions at work.

Ethical Decisions

People generally prefer to work with a business that is known for being ethical. Employees and consumers alike avoid unethical companies, and the business can radically suffer as a result. As a business owner or manager, it's important to make ethical decisions in business to keep up morale and maintain the organization's ethical reputation.

The lesson Ethical Decision Making outlines these steps in ethical decision making:

  • Identify ethical issues
  • Collect relevant information
  • Evaluate according to ethical standards
  • Consider alternatives
  • Make a decision
  • Implement the decision
  • Review and modify if necessary

Questions to Consider

Let's look at three different scenarios. Practice making an ethical decision in each of these situations by following the outlined steps.

Use these questions as an aid:

  • Is the potential decision ethical in all ways?
  • What ethical standards does my company have?
  • Are all my alternatives ethical and not breaking any ethical standards?
  • Is the final decision working and proving to be an ethical one?

Designing a Business Tactic

Sue is the manager of a sock shop. She specializes in all kinds of fun, specialty, environmentally friendly socks. Sue wants to grow the company so she can open up another store. To accomplish this, she and her team are trying to decide on a new business tactic to increase sales. Some of the possibilities she and her team have introduced include:

  • Creating a marketing campaign that makes fun of other sock companies.
  • Creating a fun campaign that showcases all the fun socks at the shop.
  • Creating a public service announcement announcing that their shop only works with suppliers that use sustainable and green resources.

Which of these possibilities are ethical decisions?

Answering the questions to consider, the first possibility is not ethical as it defames other sock companies, which is unethical. Sue's company's ethical standards include not resorting to mean or underhanded sales tactics, which includes making fun of the competition.

The other two possibilities are good. Her company only carry those socks make with green and sustainable resources. Of the possibilities, the fun showcase campaign and the public service announcement ideas are ethical alternatives.

Sue picks the second one with the showcase campaign. Her team creates it and then shows it as a commercial on prime time TV. About a week later, Sue sees the beginnings of the results as her store gets a 25% increase in foot traffic. Sue doesn't see any ethical violations, so this is a good decision.

Finding a Vendor

Sue is always looking out for the next greatest sock. Today, one new vendor showed her a new line of super fancy boot socks. Sue likes them, but learns that the vendor buys supplies from a country known for child labor in the clothing industry.

Should Sue work with this vendor?

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