MGT 6010 The Ethical & Legal Environment of Business



Utilitarianism (results based)

Act in order to produce the greatest happiness as a consequence:  "The ends justify the means."  A morally correct decision is one that tends to maximize overall happiness and minimize overall pain.  Practically speaking, one acts ethically if one's decision tends to benefit the greatest possible number of people or harm the fewest possible number.  Think:  risk management; cost/benefit analysis.    Ask yourself:

What results do I want to achieve?

What are the consequences (good and bad) of my actions?

Who are the stakeholders impacted by my actions?

What are the long-term effects of my actions?

Does my action promote the greatest amount of good or happiness for the greatest number of stakeholders?


Kantianism (responsibility based)

Ethical actions are not measured by their consequences.  Nor can they be known by an emotional, gut feeling.  One can't ethically justify and action by saying, "It just feels like the right thing to do."

To the contrary, doing the "right thing" is reasonably and rationally acting in accordance with universal and fundamental duties.  Which are?  You can figure that out by considering that timeless adage:  "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."  Want people to be honest with you?  Then, you should be honest with others.  Want to be respected?  Respect others.

Moreover, all people possess a unique dignity.  No decision that treats people as commodities – that exploits people - can be considered just. Ask yourself:

  Can my decision be applied consistently in this case and in all similar cases?

Can my decision be accepted as a universal principle of behavior - a moral law that is binding on all rational beings?

Which course of action best exemplifies the ideal of treating all people with respect and dignity and as an end in and of themselves?

  Am I acting like a reasonable person and not one who is simply responding to my emotions?