An ethical dilemma faced by an organization
This paper attempts to review Fox News and the ethical dilemma it faced and is still facing about the Roger Ailes's Sexual-Harassment Scandal. The essay will critically examine this dilemma using two theoretical concepts from managerial ethics and evaluate how these theoretical concepts influence managerial practices at Fox News. Rossouw shares that the discipline of decent or corrupt, upright or unscrupulous, just or unjust performance is ethics. The right and good are associated with the moral ethics which are in turn considered to be the science of studying morality (Rossouw, 2005). Nadica on the other hand shares that an ethical dilemma is when a negotiator gets to select between options which may be positive or negative (Figar, 2016).
One of the biggest scandals in the corporate world in 2016 was the Roger Ailes's sexual-harassment scandal. This scandal came to life when Gretchen Carlson, a former Fox employee, sued the chairman, and CEO of Fox News Roger Ailes for sexual harassment. This paved way for more women to open up about how Roger allegedly sexually harassed them over the years (Matthews, 2016).
Fox News is a television channel in America. It broadcasts in New York and is owned by the Fox Entertainment Group and it broadcasts in New York. This television channel was created by Rupert Murdoch and it launched in October 1996. The channel is a 24-hour news service delivering both political and business news. A high percent of American citizens trust this television channel (News, n.d.).
Gretchen Carlson worked at Fox News as a Fox & Friends anchor. She recorded Roger for a year on his sexual unsuitable comments and used it as evidence in the court. Gabriel shares that in 2005, Roger suggested to her to cloth in body fitting attires. Gretchen later accused Steve Doocy of patronizing her at work but Roger's response was that she hated men and it was necessary for her to have a harmonious relationship with the men. This led to her demotion to a lesser ranked show. Gretchen realized that circumstances had changed which made her carry her phone to all meetings for a year and recorded all of Roger’s offensive comments towards women. An example included that she and Roger should have a sexual relationship to aid both of them to be better as problems are easier to solve that way. These records aided her case against Roger as she was able to prove her allegations that brought him down (Sherman, 2016).
This scandal resulted in James Murdoch and his brother Lachlan, the new owners of the company to commission an in-house investigation who discovered various sexual harassment claims. This report got Roger lose his job but not before getting a $40 million severance package. Gretchen settled with Roger on the case for $20 million but he still has several other allegations of sexual harassment such as from former Fox News host Andrea Tantaros and from on-air contributor Julie Roginsky. Roger passed away on May 2017 and leaves behind a tarnished legacy.
The ethical dilemma erupting is at Fox News which manifests an organization that is slow to take action on serious matters such as sexual harassment proving inequality and patriarchy. This lawsuit proves the loss of reputation of Fox News in terms of making business decisions as it has clearly neglected to harmonize between the common good among human beings and self-centeredness for letting this allegation go on for decades, even after various reports were filed to management since Roger’s job was bringing in millions annually.
Two theoretical concepts from managerial ethics to examine this dilemma critically
The Utilitarian Ethical Theory and the Justice-Based Ethical Theory will aid in examining this dilemma. According to James Gray, Utilitarianism is an interpretation that matches common sense, in terms of what is right or wrong and it can be determined by a cost-benefit analysis (Gray, 2011). This approach was introduced by Jeremy Bentham and revised by John Stuart Mill. The idea does not focus on self-interests rather it takes all individuals into consideration and is keen on the effects of an action to the stakeholders. This enables an authoritative figure to be keen on the outcome and its effect which enables them to make the best choice (Mill, 1863).
The Utilitarian Ethical Theory has various strengths and weaknesses in that the theory gives happiness essential value but happiness is not the only thing of essential worth. The theory also shares that weighing the positive and the negative of our engagements is straight forward hence it is an easy theory to use but the negative of this is that the theory allows individuals to sacrifice some people for the greater good yet humanity believes in justice for all. Another positive of this theory is that utilitarianism is in line with our intuition that harming people is wrong but the negative side to this is that it reduces morality to simple math’s hence losing the sense of what is valuable in life (Utilitarianism, n.d.).
In regards to the Roger Ailes's Sexual-Harassment Scandal, the utilitarian ethical theory explains to some extent the predicament that Fox News was facing as the company owners were forced to fire their CEO so as to protect the company’s image. This humiliation made Fox News appear in a very negative light as it cost them a lot of money. According to the New York Times, major advertisers pulled out from Bill O’Reilly’s show as a result of the scandal. Mercedes-Benz, a prime advertiser pulled their adverts as they shared that women are very vital in their business operation (Steel, 2017).
The theory is keen to warn against discrimination and arrogance from individuals who want to benefit only themselves. According to John Mill, individuals always accept the truth although it should always be the first result instead of the last and it is also backed by science. Fox News failed its employees by allowing sexual harassment tendencies to go on for over two decades and not taking the appropriate action at the beginning which resulted in being the last result taken instead of the first (Mill, 1863).
According to the New York magazine, the culture at Fox was one of fear which prevented anyone from reporting any misconduct. Roger Ailes was known to be very distrustful, mysterious as he kept a gun at his office and demanded total allegiance from his personnel. It was public knowledge that he reviewed employee phone calls and emails and hired private investigators to be in the know. A utilitarian is required to make the right moral decision which will result in excellent outcomes (Gray, 2011). Fox News chose to allow sexual harassment to continue over the years which led to more women being victimized and assaulted by Ailes. These women included; Laurie Luhn, Laurie Dhue, Andrea Tantaros, Juliet Huddy and Megyn Kelly among others (Disis, 2017).
According to Gaffikin, a moral action is done from a sense of duty and ethics is all about what these duties are. How right an action entirely depends on the consequences, this means that the consequence is more important than what is right or wrong hence mitigating that the ends justify the means (Gaffikin, 2007). At Fox News according to New York magazine, it took persuasion from James and Lachlan, who viewed the lawsuit as a problem and an opportunity for their careers, to convince their father to take action and put out a statement saying they took the matter seriously. By the brothers having to convince their father that sexual assault was serious and persuade him to hire lawyers to investigate, clearly portrays that the company only cared about the consequences on their end and not the victims or their need to do right by humanity (Gabriel, 2016).
The Justice-Based Ethical Theory supports and promotes fair establishments. This is required for all individuals to ensure justice is adhered to in all institutions and where it is lacking, to assist in creating them. This follows the basic structure of society whereby every individual has to do their part (Rawls, 1971).
According to Gaffikin, rules in society are vital to enable an objective and fair culture. These guidelines aid to protect the marginalized from an uncertain future as a result of ignorance. Two principles emerge from these rules which are justice and fairness. Under Justice, every individual requires equal rights in a system that provides equal basic liberties. Under fairness, it is vital for the needs of the marginalized to be in place and all organizations need to come up with fair surroundings. At Fox news, the management failed its female employees by failing to be just or fair (Gaffikin, 2007).
At least 25 women indicted Roger of sexual provocation at Fox News. Laurie Luhn, a victim, shares that for years she was psychologically tortured and harassed by Roger. She was instructed to recruit young women and that Roger demanded she engages in inappropriate sex with another female as he observed. This brought about a pattern of allegations and in turn, she signed a disclosure agreement and got a $3.15 million settlement. Justice is clearly on her side and Fox News has failed her by protecting themselves from the law. Fox News lacks equal treatment laws when it comes to all employees regardless of their gender (Boehlert, 2016).
According to John Rawls, society assumes that a discussion undertaken among many people will more likely to get the best outcome than a one person deliberation. This is because as people exchange ideas and opinions, our perspective widens and decisions don’t get to be made from limited knowledge (Rawls, 1971). According to the justice department, all employees should work in an environment free from harassment based on gender, age or any sexual orientation. The law requires that company leaders ensure that their places of work are free from any sort of harassment. If there exist, the leaders are required to take the required steps in eliminating it while protecting the victims (Justice, 1998).
When Gretchen filed the lawsuit against Roger, she was met with a lot of resistance from her co-workers, both men, and women. Greta Van Susteren, for instance, declared publicly that her reasons for accusing Roger were because she did not like her contract terms. Bill O’Reilly called it a frivolous lawsuit, Jeanine Pirro called the allegation absurd and Kimberly Guilfoyle claimed to have spoken with women at the office and that nobody believed the allegations calling Roger a man who champions women. Two months after the lawsuit, Fox issued an apology and this put a stop to the victim-blaming game that was going on at the office on behalf of Roger. When Roger passed away, the company flushed the scandal under the carpet and failed to make any top management changes but instead promoted Bill Shine who played a major role in the sexual harassment cover-up of Roger (Boehlert, 2016).
According to Honneth, we no longer live in a society keen on the elimination of inequality but we are in one that is keen on avoiding humiliation or disrespect. It is important for an individual to be assured over time of the detailed needs that establish his or her personality through approving patterns. This build on one’s identity in society and lack of mutual recognition or principles brings about experiences of disrespect or humiliation that tampers with this identity formation. By the coworkers attacking the sexual assault victims publicly shows feelings of unworthiness, humiliation, and disrespect. This resulted in tampering with the victims' identities in a society that is supposed to have legitimate laws in place to protect them and be keen on humanity (Honneth, 2004).
A critical examination and evaluation of the influence of the theoretical concepts on managerial practices in the chosen organization
An organization's managerial practices that are influenced by the values of the utilitarian and justice based theories is one that is fair, just, capable, has a good working environment and one that cares about how its decisions affect the employees and the long-term effect it has on the company. Managerial practices at Fox News are unlawful, impractical and unfair and have led to psychological, physical and emotional torture to its female employees.
Sustainability is being able to tolerate and endure in a surrounding in the upcoming years. For businesses, it is important to cater to social, environmental and economic issues when making industry verdicts. A business is required to be keen on emphasis in future long-term goals rather than short-term profits (Nicoleta, 2016). At Fox News, the two brothers against their father compromised on the positives and negatives of keeping Roger at the company. They reviewed all possibilities and reached the best decision of letting him go to save the profits and the future of the company which portrays the use of the utilitarian theory.
According to NBC News, Julie Roginsky faced vulgar sexual advances at Fox and was forced to endure working in an environment that was unwilling to investigate her claims on the matter. Andrea Tantaros also came forward with her sexual harassment lawsuit against Roger and claimed that Fox News retaliated against her and she described the workplace as a sex-fueled playboy mansion (Siemaszko, 2017). This shows that the utilitarian theory is not applying to the senior management of the company in that harming people is wrong as the victims faced psychological, physical and emotional torture and less or no actions were taken.
According to Harvard business review, businesses are required to be analytical so as to be successful. Good leaders should be keen on each employee’s strong points integrate them to bring about success. Great leaders on the other hand rally people towards a better future. Capitalizing on each employee’s unique skill creates teamwork and interdependency (Buckingham, 2005).
Fox News management team lacks good leaders and managers as a result of how the sexual assault allegations were handled. Fox News is a channel that brings in millions of dollars annually and these sexual harassment claims have tarnished the company’s image forever. Laurie Luhn openly shares how she underwent psychological torture from Roger and the company to protect itself, made her sign a couple of disclosure agreements. The largest number in senior management chose not to react according to the law. This portrays a senior management that is not in line with the justice-based ethical theory of promoting just institutions as it is keener in justifying and hiding the true nature of Roger as a way of protecting his legacy and hiding the truth (Gabriel, 2016).
Employee welfare is a broiling subject in organizational life. A lot of authors have shared on the importance of wellbeing, the improvement of healthcare and performance of employees at the workplace (Bakke, 2006). To promote the quality of employee's lives in the workplace, the American Psychological Association is rewarding emotionally fit offices (APA, 2017). As much as such efforts are being encouraged to protect the welfare of employees, negative wellbeing synergies erupt once management comes up with practices that have huge impacts on the wellbeing of the employees.
Fox News did not deliver on the application of utilitarianism and justice. On the Utilitarian theory, it provided an uneasy environment with unhappy employees. The company also failed on having the intuition that harming people is wrong. A large number of women were traumatized while working under Roger as they were afraid of unemployment and his authority. On the Justice based theory, the upper management failed its employees by not providing an environment that is free of all forms of harassment and one that had legitimate laws that protected all employees regardless of their gender.
Laverty shares that managers tend to stress on the short term effects and not give much care to the long term (Laverty, 1996). It is possible for companies to select the appropriate managers who are driven, smart, and fair and just as they will ensure all employees are satisfied, their wellbeing is catered to and they will correct all flaws at the workplace (Tetlock, 1993). The women who exposed Roger shared that the culture at Fox News is one of misogyny, corruption, surveillance, hush money and smear campaigns. Roger was a man with temper, ruthlessness, and paranoia and had been fired from CNBC under the same circumstances. He had never kept a job for more than a few years and yet Murdoch, the owner of the company hired him regardless for his professional capabilities. This, in turn, was at the expense of morality and was ethically wrong (Gabriel, 2016).
Santosa shares that some companies under the financial and economic attitude are more focused on short-term earnings and tend to ignore humanity and social vision of the business and society. This brings forth the lack of ethics and corporate responsibilities towards stakeholders and lack of compliance towards the law (Santos, 2015). There are various forms of indicators by managers that affect the organization which is; envy, laziness, arrogance, pride, paranoia, aggression, anger, lust, ambition and manipulation. Some of these characteristics have been used by Fox News employees to describe Roger Ailes and his reign.
Organizational leaders are viewed as role models to their employees. They are to be respected, admired and guide the company to achieve development. They are in charge of ensuring the organization has a flawless reputation and that all employees feel appreciated and have equal opportunities to prosper and build their careers. At Fox News, top managers failed to have mutual principals, maintain order, and provide justice, contentment, fairness and equality all of which enable development.
In conclusion, the courage taken by Gretchen Carlson is admirable and it proves that there are justice and humanity in the world. Roger Ailes may have been a powerful man and feared by many but Gretchen’s strength enabled her to get closure and paved the way for more women to come forward and share their stories. The Roger Ailes sexual assault scandal brings forth the challenges women especially go through in the corporate world where patriarchy is dominant. Even after Roger’s death, the world is still watching and waiting to see if all victims will get justice and if Fox News will change its management style and apologize for its mistakes.
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