1.Review each item on Brenda’s list and assess the conduct in question. Do you find it morally acceptable, morally unacceptable or somewhere in between? Explain and justify using the ethical theories described in the text (in terms of the ‘greatest good for the greatest number’, ‘the duty and maxims owed’, ‘ethical rights at play’, and so on).
2.Examine Brenda’s list from both the utilitarian and the Kantian perspectives. What arguments can be given for and against the conduct on her list? Is the rightness or wrongness of some items a matter of degree? Can an action (such as taking a pad of paper) be both trivial and wrong?
3.Someone might argue that some of the things listed as ethically dubious are really employee entitlements. Assess this contention.
4.How would you respond to the argument that if the company doesn’t do anything to stop the conduct on Brenda’s list, then it has only itself to blame? What about the argument that none of the things on the list is wrong unless the company has an explicit rule against it?
5.What obligations do employees have to their employers? Do companies have moral rights that employees can violate? What moral difference, if any, is there between taking something that belongs to an individual and taking something that belongs to a company?
Assessing Brenda's List using Ethical Theories
Business ethics can be described as the business practices and the business policy with respect to a potentially controversial issue like the fiduciary responsibility, corporate social responsibility, discrimination, bribery, insider trading, corporate governance. Law has often used a guiding principle for the business ethics, while in other circumstances the basic framework that the business entities use to gain the acceptance of the general public. Business ethics can also be described as a form of the professional ethics or applied ethics that investigates and the examines the ethical problems, moral problems and the ethical principles that arise in a business environment (Crane and Matten 2016). Business ethics is applicable to the overall business conduct and it is relevant to the conduct of the entire organization as well as the employees of that organization. It is important to note that the ethics originate from the legal systems or from the organizational, individual statements. The unethical practices, ethical, values and the norms are what is used for the properly guiding the business. Business ethics help in maintaining a better connection with the stakeholders (Trevino and Nelson 2016).
Business ethics also depicts the organizational principles, standards, the behaviour of the individuals, norms that govern the organization and the set of values that the organizations follow. Business ethics can be considered to be exhibiting the two dimensions of the descriptive business ethics and the normative business ethics. Business ethics also depicts the business philosophy and it aims to determine the most basic purposes of the company. Ethics are the standards or the rules that govern the decisions on an everyday basis (Rutherford et al., 2016). Many people consider the ethics as a simple sense of the wrong and right. Whereas, others consider that the ethics are an internal code that controls the conduct of an individual in a family or in an organization. Ethical issues include the duties and thee right between the company and the shareholders, neighbours, customers, suppliers and its employees. There are issues that concern the employees are the industrial espionage and the hospital takeovers. The other issues that can be related are the corporate social entrepreneurship, corporate governance and the political contributions (Hartman, DesJardins and MacDonald 2014).
The case study is based on ethically dubious conduct and the case study focuses on the Brenda Franklin and who used to work at an Allied Tech company for about 8 years. The company is a large one and she enjoys the working environment. However, when she tacked a list of all the ethically dubious conduct outside the door of her office bulletin board. Brenda did not think that that the list will attract so much attraction.
Examining Brenda's List from a Utilitarian and Kantian Perspective
The main areas of contention started when Brenda joined a group of co-workers for a weekly lunch get together. In this lunch get together the co-worker talked about all sorts of things of things, however, Brenda was quite in the discussion. The co-workers talked about the different things like the shady dealings between the politicians and the corporate leaders. The co-workers also talked about the conflicts of interest between the corporate leaders and the politicians and it also included the issues of dishonesty. Harry Benton is one of the co-workers and he said that if the country is going to get on the right tracks then the country needs people whose integrity is beyond reproach. The short of Harry Benton was followed by the approval around the table and was also followed by the complaints about the corner cutting and complaints by the powerful. At that moment Brenda did not have much to say but found hypocrisy within the talk of the co-workers. The very next day Brenda typed a list ‘ethically dubious employee conduct’ on the bulletin board.
The ethically dubious employee conduct list are as follows:
- Taking home, the office supplies for the purpose of personal use.
- Usage of the telephone for the purpose of conducting a long distance phone call.
- Using the office machine for the purpose of making personal copies.
- Charging the postage for the purpose of the sending the personal mail to the company.
- Using the company car for the purpose of making the non-business trips.
- On a company business trip, using the company money for the purpose of staying in an expensive hotel, taking taxis when a person can walk, taking the spouse along, spending the company money on eating expensive food.
- Using the computer for the purpose of conducting online shopping, emailing friends, viewing pornography and trade stocks on the company time.
- calling oneself sick when an employee needs personal time.
- Taking half of the afternoon off when an employee is outside the office for the official purposes.
- Directing the company business to the vendors that are run by the friends and the families.
- Providing the preferential service to the corporate customers who have taken you out for the lunch.
Taking the office supplies to home for the purpose of personal usage is a morally acceptable act. Because it is important to note employees are allowed to use the office supplies when they themselves do not possess the same. However, taking the office supplies frequently and doing it deliberately is not a morally acceptable. Using the office phone for the purpose of conducting a long distance phone call is a not at all morally acceptable. The major argument is that company phones must be explicitly used for the purpose of conducting the office calls and must not be used for making personal long distance calls. However, sometimes urgency may arise and at least for that moment a person can make a call can be considered as a morally acceptable. Using the office machine for making personal copies is also not morally acceptable if a person does this deliberately and frequently. This act however, somewhere in between the morally acceptable and morally unacceptable position. Charging the postage on the on the personal mail to the company is morally unacceptable. Making the non-business trips in a company car is one of the morally unacceptable due to the fact that company car be solely used for the making the business trips and it must not be used for the personal purposes or for ferrying passengers. The most morally unacceptable behaviour among all the items in the list mentioned by Brenda is staying in the most expensive hotel, taking a taxi when a person can walk and eating expensive out of the company’s money, taking the spouse at the expense of company. If an employee conducts all such acts at the expense of the company’s money, then such a behaviour is not ethically correct. However, it is important to note that sometimes company bear the money of taking the spouse along on a trip and this is morally acceptable if the company is interested to bear the cost of the trip. Using the office computer for the purpose of shopping online, emailing the friends, viewing pornography and trading stocks as a whole are all morally unacceptable behaviour. While it is important to note that emailing a friend for an urgent purpose can be allowed but during the work hours, sending emails via the computer is not morally acceptable. Calling in sick when an employee is sick for the need of the personal time is not between the morally acceptable and morally unacceptable behaviour. The rationale is that companies sometimes do not allow their employees to drop a casual leave. Thus employee sometimes consider calling in sick for the purpose of taking out personal time. Taking half of the afternoon off when an employee is supposedly outside the office for the performing some official duties is a somewhere between the morally acceptable and morally unacceptable behaviour. The rationale behind such a saying is that if a completes his assigned duty well within the stipulated time, then he can obviously take half off his afternoon. Directing company business to the vendors that are possessed by the relatives and the friends is morally acceptable if the performance of such vendors are good. There is no wrong in giving the business to vendors the relatives and the friends, however if the performance of such is below the acceptability then such business loses its viability. It might also lead to the loss of the company. Providing the preferential service to the customers that have taken you out for a lunch is often seen as a way of getting favours from the managers and the boss of the company. Such acts are not morally acceptable but they still serve the needs of the both the employee and the manager that are engaged in providing the preferential services. The main ethical issue providing preferential service to the person that has taken his manager or a boss for a lunch is that, such a manager of the boss will act in a biased manner which is not good for the overall good of the employees.
Employee Entitlements or Ethically Dubious Conduct?
There are four major ethical theories like the deontological theory, utilitarian theory, ethical theory based on rights and the ethical theory based on the virtue.
The Deontological theory states that this is an approach in which the ethics are focussed on the wrongness and the rightness of the action themselves as opposed to the wrongness and the rightness of the consequences with respect to the actions or the habit and the character of the actor. Considering the deontological theory, the actions are itself are more important rather than the consequences (Baumane-Vitolina, Cals and Sumilo 2016). Thus the whole list of Brenda’s ethically dubious employee conduct pertains to the deontological theory.
Utilitarian theory is a theory in the normative ethics or the type of ethics that define the morality of the actions and it is proposed by the John Stuart Mill and the Jeremy Bentham. This is a sort of ethical theory that is based on the happiness principle and that the moral action is one that maximizes the happiness, utility for the greatest number of the people. Considering the utilitarian theory, it is important to note that the theory speaks of the actions that lead to the maximum happiness and utility for the majority of the people (Kahane et al. 2015). Thus, from Brenda's list of the ethically dubious employee conduct has the four items which pertain to the utilitarianism and they are as follows:
- On a company business trip, staying in the most expensive hotel, eating the most expensive food and wine, taking the taxi when the concerned person can walk and take the spouse along on a company exercise at the expense of the company are the actions that will lead to the happiness of the employee and his/her spouse. Thus, will lead to the maximum happiness for all the employees concerned.
- Using the office computer for the purpose of online shopping, trading stocks, emailing friends and the viewing the pornography during the company hours are the actions that will lead to the maximum happiness of the employees and their friends.
- Directing the company business to the vendors of the relatives and the friends is a perfect example of the utilitarian theory and this will lead maximum happiness of the concerned employee, his friends and the families that are associated with the vendor.
- Providing the preferential service to the corporate customers that have taken the manager of the boss out for a lunch. This act also takes into account the happiness of the employees, manager and the boss.
John Locke has developed the rights-based ethical theory. The theory is based on the belief of the natural goodness of the humanity. Rights-based ethics are the rights of the group of people and the rights of the individual. The rights are again divided into the negative and the positive rights (Ife 2012). Considering Brenda's ethically dubious employee and the rights-based ethical theory can be considered in the following items:
- Calling in sick when an employee requires a personal time is solely dependent on the rights of the employee.
- Taking the afternoon off when is employee is outside the office and is conducting some work of the company is also a right of the employee.
- Directing the company vendors to the relatives and the friends also within the rights of the employees.
- Providing preferential service to the corporate customer that has taken you out for lunch is also dependent on the rights of the person and his choice of providing the preferential service.
The virtue ethical theory is based on the individual character as a major element in the ethical thinking instead of the rules about the acts. Thus, when the considering Brenda's list of ethical dubious employee conduct will involve the all the items mentioned in the list. The reason is that all the items that are mentioned on the list consider the character of the person that is actually executing the work (Shafer-Landau 2012).
Kantian ethics is propounded by the Immanuel Kant and his theory is also called the deontological ethical theory. The theory highlights the that morality of an action is based on the morality of an action and whether the action is in itself right or wrong while it does not depend on the consequences (O'Neill 2013). In order to review Brenda's list from the Kantian perspective, it is important to note that the list contains 11 items and each of the items speaks clearly of the conducts of the employees that are unethical from the Kantian perspectives. Each of the items mentioned in the list is based on the morality of the action and the consequences are not taken into account. The actions mentioned in the in the list are morally not acceptable.
Addressing Company Responsibility and Explicit Rules
The Utilitarian theory is proposed by the John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham and the theory is based on the fact that the wrongness and the rightness of the actions must be judged by its consequences. Utilitarian ethics promotes the greatest happiness for the greater number of people (Sheng 2012). Thus, when Brenda's list is considered form the utilitarian perspective, it will be seen that the taking the home supplies for the purpose of the personal use is an unethical conduct. This is similar to the wastage of the office resources. Using the telephone for the purpose of the making personal calls is again an unethical conduct considering the wastage of the company money. Making the personal copies on the office machine is a similar kind of action that leads to the wastage of the office resources. while there are certain acts like the directing the company business to the vendors that belong to the friends and the families leads to the more number of happiness of the concerned family, friend and the employee itself. The next important item in the list that leads to the larger amount of happiness for the employees is the act of shopping online, trading stocks and emailing the friends on the company time are unethical but they lead to greater number of happiness for the people.
The major argument that can be given for her list is that the not all the actions are unethical or morally unacceptable. Especially the item that says that calling in sick when the employee needs personal time is not an unethical act because there are situations where the companies do not provide enough holidays and leaves and for that purpose, employees often take the help of dropping sick leaves. The items in the list have some items that actually have the degree of the wrongness like the taking office supplies for the purpose of personal use (Singh and Twalo 2015).
Actions like taking a pad of paper are both trivial and wrong depending on the degree of conduct. If an employee deliberately takes the office supplies for personal usage, then such an act be termed as wrong.
Brenda’s list of the Ethically dubious employee conduct has some of the items that have items which can be directly related to the employee entitlements. Thus it is important to note that the employees in a company are often entitled to special provisions which they can use at their discretion and whenever they visit outside the country they are often provided with the facilities that are not provided to the other employees (Anderson 2014). Similarly, it has been found that in Brenda's list there are certain items like as follows that is entitled to the employees:
- Using the telephone for making the long distance phone calls.
- Making use of the company car for the purpose of the non-business trips.
- Directing the company business to the vendors to the relatives and the friends.
- On the company business trips: using the taxis where a person can walk, staying in the hotels that are most expensive, eating food and wine that are expensive and taking the spouse along with at company expense.
- Using the office computer for the purpose of shopping online, trading stocks and emailing the friends.
Employee Obligations and Moral Rights
It is important to note that what Brenda, considered as an ethically dubious conduct of the employees is not what unethical due to the fact the certain employees that hold the higher post are entitled with several facilities by the company itself and this must not be confused with the unethical act. Although, there are instances where the employees do not follow the rules of the company and lead to the unethical conduct. Whereas, it is seen that the employees even if they are entitled to certain facilities, often misuse such provisions for their own benefits. Such misuses fall into the category of the unethical conduct (Masic 2014).
The Brenda’s list that Brenda herself has made after the observation s that she has made when she went to the lunch with her co-workers goes to show that she is concerned about the acts of the employees of the company and level of hypocrisy that is being exhibited by the employees of the company. It is important to note that the employees are needed to be disciplined and for that purpose, each and every company frames the laws and the policies that guide the conduct of the employees.
According to Brenda's observation, it is important to note that the employees seldom violate the policies of the company and they are considered to be unethical. She has observed the same amount of the unethical conduct of the co-workers and thus in order to enlighten the employees, she had taken the responsibility of sharing the same with all other employees. Brenda's list contains the exhaustive list of items that are seldom seen to be violated by the employees and thus the company must have an ethical code of conduct in order control and guide the conduct of the employees. Thus, if the company does not take the necessary steps to curb the actions of the unethical employees, then there is a big chance that the company will be alone to blame itself (Wang and Snell 2013).
It is important to note that Brenda's list has certain items in the list as ethical dubious conduct that is sometimes provided to the employees as employee entitlements. However, unless and until the company mentions the same in their policy document then there is a chance of confusion among the employees. While it is important to mention that none of the items mentioned in the list is wrong because most of the items mentioned can be considered as ethical violations (Andrade et al. 2017).
Defining Business Ethics
The obligation that the employees have to their employers are: fostering a healthy environment in the workplace; avoiding the any chances of conflict with the fellow workers; working with the honesty and integrity; following the guidelines and the policies that are set by the company; prevention of the spread of the rumours in the workplace (Hidalgo 2013).
It is important to note that no company has the has the moral rights that their employees can violate because it is immoral when employees violate the rules and regulations.
There is no moral difference between the taking something that belongs to the individual and taking something that belongs to a company. The rationale is that taking something from an individual and taking something from a company without properly informing the employees is still an ethical violation and is morally incorrect at the same time (Thomson and Siegel 2013).
Thus, from the above study, it can be concluded that there are business ethics deals with the various policies and the ethical conduct documents that are framed and designed for controlling the conduct the employees. Ethics play a major role in maintaining a proper environment within the workplace and it includes the rulebooks that guide the employees. There are large number companies that have stringent employee code of conduct as well as the employee code of conduct. The case study also deals with the similar kinds of unethical conducts and that are generally found to be conducted by the employees.
Anderson, H., 2014. Pressing the right buttons: Australian case studies in the protection of employee entitlements against corporate insolvency. International Labour Review, 153(1), pp.117-142.
Andrade, J., Hamza, K.M. and Xara-Brasil, D.M., 2017. Business Ethics&58; International Analysis of Codes of Ethics and Conduct. REMark: Revista Brasileira de Marketing, 16(1), pp.01-15.
Baumane-Vitolina, I., Cals, I. and Sumilo, E., 2016. Is Ethics Rational? Teleological, Deontological and Virtue Ethics Theories Reconciled in the Context of Traditional Economic Decision Making. Procedia Economics and Finance, 39, pp.108-114.
Crane, A. and Matten, D., 2016. Business ethics: Managing corporate citizenship and sustainability in the age of globalization. Oxford University Press.
Hartman, L.P., DesJardins, J.R. and MacDonald, C., 2014. Business ethics: Decision making for personal integrity and social responsibility. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Hidalgo, J., 2013. Do Employers Have Obligations to Pay Their Workers a Living Wage?. Business Ethics Journal Review, 1(11), pp.69-75.
Ife, J., 2012. Human rights and social work: Towards rights-based practice. Cambridge University Press.
Kahane, G., Everett, J.A., Earp, B.D., Farias, M. and Savulescu, J., 2015. ‘Utilitarian’judgments in sacrificial moral dilemmas do not reflect impartial concern for the greater good. Cognition, 134, pp.193-209.
Masic, I., 2014. A New Example of Unethical Behaviour in the Academic Journal “Medical Archives”. Medical Archives, 68(4), p.228.
O'Neill, O., 2013. Acting on principle: An essay on Kantian ethics. Cambridge University Press.
Rutherford, M.A., Parks, L., Cavazos, D.E. and White, C.D., 2012. Business ethics as a required course: Investigating the factors impacting the decision to require ethics in the undergraduate business core curriculum. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 11(2), pp.174-186.
Shafer-Landau, R. ed., 2012. Ethical theory: an anthology (Vol. 13). John Wiley & Sons.
Sheng, C.L., 2012. A new approach to utilitarianism: A unified utilitarian theory and its application to distributive justice (Vol. 5). Springer Science & Business Media.
Singh, P. and Twalo, T., 2015. Mismanaging unethical behaviour in the workplace. Journal of Applied Business Research, 31(2), p.515.
Thomson, A.L. and Siegel, J.T., 2013. A moral act, elevation, and prosocial behavior: Moderators of morality. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 8(1), pp.50-64.
Trevino, L.K. and Nelson, K.A., 2016. Managing business ethics: Straight talk about how to do it right. John Wiley & Sons.
Wang, L. and Snell, R.S., 2013. A case study of ethical issue at Gucci in Shenzhen, China. Asian Journal of Business Ethics, 2(2), pp.173-183.