Understanding Ethics
Definition of Ethics
    “Ethics is the science of judging specifically human ends and the relationship of means to those ends…it studies the impact of acts on the good of the individual, the firm, the business community, and society as a whole.”
The Composition of Ethics
  • An ethic is composed of two elements:
    • the ideological  (what we believe - our values and convictions)
    • the operational  (what we do - our actions and practices)
  • we are in ethical consonance (harmony) when our beliefs are consistent with our actions
Three Principles of Ethics
  1. The Utilitarian Principle
    • what action provides the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people
  2. The Principle of Rights
    • human beings have certain moral entitlements that must be respected at all times
    • 2 criteria for judging action:  1. universality  and  2. reversibility
  3. The Principle of Justice
    • benefits and burdens are equitably distributed
    • equal treatment; consistent administration of rules; restitution
    • 3 categories of justice:  distributive, retributive, and compensatory
Ethical Frameworks
There are 2 major traditions for evaluating ethics:
  • Deontology
    • focuses on the welfare of the individual
    • emphasizes means and intentions for justifying an act
    • thinking focuses on the rights principle and the justice principle
    • also called the rights or entitlement model
  • Teleology
    • focuses on the welfare of society
    • evaluates the consequences of the act rather than the intent
    • uses the utilitarian principle
    • social benefit must be greater than the social cost
Five Step Test for Ethics
  1. Is the decision legal?
  2. Is the decision fair?
    • the justice principle
  3. Does the decision hurt anyone?
    • the utilitarian principle
  4. Have I been honest with those affected?
    • the principle of rights
    • honesty is the cornerstone of ethics
  5. Can I live with my decision?
12 Questions for Examining the Ethics of a Business Decision
  1. Have you defined the problem accurately?
  2. How would you define the problem if you were on the other side of the fence?
  3. How did this situation occur in the first place?
  4. Where is your loyalty?
  5. What is your intention?
  6. How does this intention compare with the probable results?
  7. Whom could be injured?
  8. Can you discuss the situation with the affected parties before you make the decision?
  9. Are you confident your position will be valid over the long-term?
  10. Could you discuss your decision with society as a whole without qualm?
  11. What is the symbolic potential of your action?
  12. Under what conditions would you allow exceptions?
taken from “Ethics Without the Sermon” by Laura Nash
The Obstacles to Ethics
  • Time
  • Ego
  • Money
  • Unreliable Information
  • Ignorance
Hospitality Industry Naturally Presents Ethical Situations
  • business's odd hours
  • unpredictable events  (interaction with customers)
  • tempting opportunities
  • mixture of cultures
  • high turn-over rate
  • high use of part-time employees

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this page is maintained by Reed Fisher
last updated January 15, 2011