Ethics refers to principles that define behavior as right, good and proper. Such principles do not always dictate a single “moral” course of action, but provide a means of evaluating and deciding among competing options. Ethics does not provide simple answers, except on the most patently obvious issues. That does not mean ethics are of no value. The terms “ethics” and “values” are not interchangeable. Ethics is concerned with how a moral person should behave, whereas values are the inner judgments that determine how a person actually behaves. Values concern ethics when they pertain to beliefs about what is right and wrong. Most values, however, have nothing to do with ethics. For instance, the desire for health and wealth are values, but not ethical values.
Ethics is about right and wrong in human conduct. Ethics is about choices, dilemmas and grey areas. It explores the question of what we ought to do, rather then simply discuss what people could do or actually do. As free persons we are constantly faced with making choices. Some of these will be trivial such as what outfit to wear today; some will be much more serious issues, even involving life and death.
Ethical decisions generate and sustain trust, demonstrate respect, responsibility, fairness and caring, and are consistent with good citizenship. If we lie to get something we want and we get it, the decision might well be called effective, but it is also unethical. Ethical problem in management can be categories in five characteristics:
Most Ethical Decisions Have Mixed Outcomes - “It is commonly thought that ethical issues in management are largely antithetical, with directly opposed financial returns and social costs. The antithetical model for outcome evaluation presents ethical issues in sharp focus but it does not accurately portray the managerial dilemma. Social benefits and cost as well as financial revenues and expenses are associated with almost all of the alternatives in ethical choices.”
Most Ethical Decisions Have Personal Implications - “Most ethical decisions have personal implications. It is commonly thought that ethical issues in management are largely impersonal, divorced from the lives and careers of the managers. Many people believe that prima facie ethical decisions in a given operation may reduce the profits of the company but not the executives’ salaries or their opportunities for promotion.”
Most Ethical Decisions Have Multiple Alternatives - “It is commonly thought that ethical issue in management are primarily dichotomous, a “yes” or a “no” choice, with no other alternatives”
Most Ethical Decisions Have Extended Consequences - “The results of managerial decisions and actions do not stop with first-level consequences. Rather, they extend throughout society, and extension constitutes the essence of the ethical argument: the decisions of managers have an impact upon others, both within the organization and within the society. The impact is beyond their control; hence, they should be seriously considered when decisions are made by managers.”
Most Ethical Decisions Have Uncertain Consequences - “It is commonly thought that ethical issues in management are free of risk and doubt, with a known outcome for each alternative. A deterministic model-that is, one without probabilities-simplifies the process of analysis, but it does accurately describe the managerial dilemma. It is not clear what consequences would follow…”
is some consistent analytical method of classifying our action as “right” or “wrong”. The universal recognition that we owe something to other people within our society, and that we are bound by a concept of right & wrong in our behavior to those people, has to be made operational. There is no any ethical system and moral standard that can work perfectly but there are at least five major systems that do have a direst relevance to managerial decisions. There is Eternal Law (Thomistic Natural Law), Personal Liberty Theory, Distributive Justice Theory, Classical Teleological Ethical Theory: Utilitarianism and Classical Deontological Ethical Theory: Universalism.
Ethical theories and principles bring significant characteristics to the decision-making process. Although all of the ethical theories attempt to follow the ethical principles in order to be applicable and valid by themselves, each theory falls short with complex flaws and failings. However, these ethical theories can be used in combination in order to obtain the most ethically correct answer possible for each scenario.