Ethical Standards

Ethical standards are not codified, disagreements and dilemmas about proper behavior often occur. Ethics is always about making decisions, and some issues are difficult to resolve. An ethical dilemma arises in situation concerning right or wrong when values are in conflict . Right and wrong cannot be clearly identified.

The individual who must make an ethical choice in an organization is the moral agent. Consider the dilemmas facing a moral agent in the following situations:

A top employee at your small company tells you he needs some time off because he has AIDS. You know the employee needs the job as well as health insurance benefits. Providing health insurance has already stretched the company’s budget, and this sends premium through the roof. You know the federal courts have upheld the right of an employer to modify health plans by putting a cap on AIDS benefits. Should you investigate whether this is a legal possibility for your company?

As a sales manager for major pharmaceuticals company, you’ve been asked to promote a new drug that costs $2,500 per dose. You’ve read the reports saying the drug is only 1 percent more effective than an alternate drug that costs less than one fourth as much. Can you in good conscience aggressively promote the $2,500 per dose drug? If you don’t could lives be lost that might have been saved with that 1 percent increase in effectiveness?

Your company is hoping to build a new overseas manufacturing plant. You could save about $5 million by not installing standard pollution control equipment that is required in the United States. The plant will employ many local workers in a poor country where jobs are scarce. Your research shows that pollutants from the factory could potentially damage the local fishing industry. Yet building the factory with the pollution control equipment will in all likely hood make the plant too expensive.

You are accounting managers of a division that is $15,000 below profit targets. Approximately $20,000 of office supplies were delivered on December 21. The accounting rule is to pay expenses when incurred. The division general manager asks you not to record the invoice until February.

You have been collaborating with a fellow manager on an important project. One afternoon, you walk in to office a bit earlier than scheduled and see sexually explicit images on his computer monitor. The company has a zero tolerance sexual harassment policy; as well as strict guidelines regarding personal use of the Internet. However your colleague was in his own office and not bothering anyone else.

These are the kinds of dilemmas and issues with which managers must deal that are all squarely in the domain of ethics. Now let’s turn to approaches to ethical decision making that provide criteria for understanding and resolving these difficult issues.

Concept Connection

Discovered in 1998, human embryonic stems cells have the potential to revolutionize medical practice and improve the quality and length of life, but they present an ethical dilemma for many people. Embryonic stems cells come from in vitro fertilization clinics and human fetal stem cells are drawn from aborted fetuses, putting researchers in the middle of America’s reproductive rights debate. Federal funding for human fetal cell research was banned from 1987 to 1993, and a five year ban on federal funding of human embryonic cell research was lifted only recently. Because he was diagnosed with brain tumor, Richard Garr CEO, of Neural Stem Biopharmaceuticals is diligent with his company’s research. He hopes that stem cells will be able to replace neurons lost to otherwise incurable brain disorders.

Source: New Era management