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COMPARATIVE ETHICAL BEHAVIOUR OF MANAGERS:
Managers, according to Gerald Cavanagh, can use a combination of ways of moral reasoning based on rights, justice, utility, and care when they face a moral conflict and when these different ways of reasoning conflict, as they often do. To decide effectively, managers need to take several factors into consideration as they weigh decisions based on the principles of rights, justice, utility, or care. For example, they can consider whether there are overriding factors in the decision. If a decision might result in the death of a person made one way and the unemployment of a group of persons made another way, then the overriding factor might be the life-death decision. There are, however, no clear rules for making such decisions, and the judgment of the decision maker is needed to determine which of the relevant factors should carry the most weight.
Another consideration is whether one criterion is more important in a particular situation than others. For example, if the rights of a whole group of people are to be overrun by a decision, that factor might override the fact that one or two individuals would not be treated fairly when the decision is made. Similarly, a consideration might be whether there are incapacitating factors (such as force or violence) that would come into play in making the decision—for instance, to stop a strike, which might violate a person's right to strike but forestall the destruction and injury if the strike turned violent. The decision can be considered ethical when there is no intent to make an unethical decision, when a bad effect is simply a by-product, and when the good outcome is sufficiently good that it outweighs the bad.
Other decision- making aids for managers include thinking about whether they would want their decision made public—for example, to appear on the front page of a newspaper or on television. If they are uncomfortable with such transparency, it would be well to apply an ethical analysis to the decision. For managers operating in different countries around the world, it is useful to remember that virtually every nation of the world has at its core some version of the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. By keeping some of these principles in mind, managers can avoid the problem of relativism in their decision making. Relativism suggests that a decision is all right if it is apparently culturally acceptable, irrespective of the consequences or harms.
The ethical decision making framework for managers relies on reasoning using the principles of rights, justice, utility, and care. It presupposes that managerial decision makers have the capacity to reason from principles in making an ethical decision. Unfortunately, not everyone reasons from moral principles in making ethical decisions. A good deal of research on individual development suggests that people develop their cognitive reasoning skills over time and to different levels, generally termed preconvention, conventional, and post conventional.
Research on moral reasoning in men by Lawrence Kohlberg and on women by Carol Gilligan indicates that moral reasoning passes through similar stages, lagging behind cognitive development, which must come first. At the preconvention stage of development, the rationale for ethical decision making is rewards and punishments or self- interest. Most managers have passed beyond the preconvention stage to the conventional stage of development. In the early stages of conventional reasoning, individuals use their peer group as a reference
point for determining what is right and wrong. At the later stages of conventional reasoning, individuals focus on the rules, regulations, and norms of society as bases for their ethical decisions. Only at the post conventional stages of development, which only about 20% of adults reach, does reasoning from principles emerge.
Reasoning from moral principles is a relatively high- level or post conventional skill. The fact that only about 20% of adults reach the post conventional level of development highlights the need for ethical leaders and managers who are able to reason not just from society's or their peer group's norms but also from core principles such as those discussed above so that decisions can be made with multiple stakeholders' needs and interests in mind. Some of the needed principles are laid out in organizational or more generalized codes of conduct, which can also help managers in their decision- making roles.
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