Ethical theories and critical refelction
Reflective writing is the evidence of reflective thinking and reflective thinking is part of the critical thinking process where people analyse, evaluate and make judgements about behaviour, events, experiences and outcomes to make sense of what happened and to learn how to do things differently in future situations. The practice of reflective thinking will be introduced in this assessment task along with critical analysis skills for determining ethical conflicts and how to deal with them in a business context.
Reflective thinking is an intellectual exercise that not only requires people to think about past happenings, but to also identify and acknowledge how their personal bias, beliefs and assumptions impact the process. This course has exposed you to the realisation that different ethical perspectives or models exist and that there is a need to bridge the gap between Normative Ethics and Applied Ethics in everyday business practice. Business people often become so enmeshed in the practice of business that they lose the ability to discern and react to possible ethical dilemmas and they can forget that different ethical perspectives will result in different and justifiable courses of action in the workplace.
This assessment requires you to demonstrate the development of techniques required to evaluate and comment on business scenarios in terms of their surface and deep ethical issues. This assessment task presents you with a case study and asks you to consider the different ethical issues and conflicts presented and to prepare a position paper on the issue to those in more senior roles. In order to do this however you first need to have developed an understanding of your own personal ethical theory and how this influences how you perceive and interpret information.
Step 1 – Identify your own ethical perspective or theory and the principals associated with it
The first step in being able to deeply evaluate and critique a potential ethical dilemma is to have a sound understanding of your own ethical theory or perspective. Whilst the process of developing an ethical theory perspective can take years, in this course you have been exposed to the work of many great thinkers and practioners in this area. The process of choosing and recognising your own personal ethical theory requires introspection and evaluation to determine what you think is best and the most correct theory for most applied situations. This process forms the first stage of this assessment task. You are to write a personal reflection of your thinking, of your reading and of your testing the various moral and ethical maxims presented to you in this course to reach a conclusion about your personal ethical theory. What ethical model you subscribe to and why? How your background, religion, culture and experiences have led you to this conclusion.
This course has presented you with normative theories of ethics as a starting point for your reflective journey. These have been further divided into consequentialist (Egoism and Utilitarianism) and non-consequentialist (Deontological – Kant & Ross) theories as well as the concepts of Virtue Ethics and Duty of Care. Read about each of these perspectives in some detail and think about their overriding principles and the views of these different approaches in relation to ethical thinking and practice. Decide which one you think best reflects your thinking about ethics, right and wrong and professional practice.
For example if you are inclined to view reality as an extension of evolutionary biology or that group advantage immediately entails a moral aught, then you have a tendency to lean toward Utilitarianism. If, on the other hand you think that people should act from pure duty alone without reference to anything except the rightness of the action then a Deontological perspective fits more with your thinking. Finally if you consider yourself a communitarian where you believe that specific virtues such as courage, wisdom, self-control and piety consistently exist across every society then you are likely to choose Virtue Ethics as your model. To assist you in this task the first stage of this assessment requires you to complete the following task:
Consider the following scenario:
You are on the executive committee of the XYZ Corporation of health care professionals. Each year the committee gives and award to one of its members who display high moral character in his or her work. This year you are among the four judges who will determine the recipient of the award. There is some disagreement among the judges. However. About what constitutes a good person? The judges, besides yourself, are Ms Smith, Mrs. Taylor and Mr Jones. The candidates for the award are Mr Little and Mrs Big.
Ms Smith thinks that the award should go to Mrs Big because she saved a man from drowning. However Mr Jones does not agree. He has suggested that Mrs Big’s motives are suspect because the man she saved was in the midst of a very big financial deal with Mrs Big. If he had drowned Mrs Big would have lost a lot of money. Ms Smith has suggested that the motives for the action are not important nor of relevance to this judging as it is the goodness of the act that should count and the man who was saved runs a large business that employs many people. In her mind many people besides Mrs Big would have been harmed if Mrs Big had not saved the man.
Mr Jones wants the award to go to Mr Little because he performed a kind act of charity in chairing the town’s United Way Campaign last year and raised thousands of dollars toward improving the town’s schools for everyone to share. Surely such an act could not be said to have benefits Mr Little in any way – unlike Mrs Big.
Mrs Taylor is unsure about whether Mrs Big or Mr Little should get the award as they have both been recommended on the basis of one single good act. Mrs Taylor believes it would be better to choose a candidate who has shown over time to have performed many good actions and to be of good character. After all, she says, ‘a single swallow does not make a spring!”. Mrs Smith and Mr Jones scratched their heads at this remark and turned to you to make a decision. Who is right and what do you decide?
1. Describe how you might approach this situation using a consequentialist view, a non-consequentialist view and a virtue ethics view showing clearly how the decision would differ using each different perspective and why?
2. State your own assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of each theory or approach; and
3. Make a conclusion from this exercise about which approach would be most consistent with your personal worldview or your own personal ethical theory perspective and why. You are then to use this perspective as the lens to consider the next scenario.
Step 2 – Using your understanding of your own ethical theory, find the conflicts and identify the professional practice issues versus the ethical issues in this business scenario.
You are the operations manager for XYZ Sports Apparel. This company has recently opened a factory in Guadalajara, Mexico to make various casual sports apparel. Your product advantage is that XYZ’s clothes are impregnated with a special chemical that will completely block harmful UV radiation from sunlight. This will protect the wearers from developing melanoma from long-term exposure to sunlight through the pursuit of outdoor activities.
The problem is that this chemical has been anecdotally linked to miscarriages. Your company has met all of Mexico’s published safety standards even though the chemical has not been approved in the Australia or the USA and is banned in Europe. You believe that there is not enough conclusive evidence to suggest that exposure to this chemical will result in increased risk of miscarriage in pregnant women who wear the clothing. There is however, considerable evidence that melanoma is the number one cause of skin cancer deaths in the USA and in Australia. The potential “health” benefit appeal will be tremendously profitable for the company and there are no laws being broken in any country by manufacturing this product.
In spite of this your management team is still concerned. You have been asked to write a memo to your vice president of marketing in the US home office with your recommendations about what the company should do. In your memo you will need to justify your view with your own ethical theory, your view on the rights and responsibilities of an organisation (does it have the same rights and responsibilities as an individual?) and any other practical and ethical considerations particularly the likely costs involved to make changes to this practice now.
Your total essay and critical reflection should be no more than 3,000 words in length and take the format as described below.
Section 1 – Your own personal reflection and identification of your personal ethical theory using the scenario provided. This should be approximately 1,000 words and should include appropriate ethical theory to support your thinking.
Section 2 – Write a memo as outlined in the second scenario (approximately 2,000 words), addressed to the Marketing Manager of XYZ Sports Apparel with your recommendation about this scenario. In your memo you need to ensure you:
1) Identify and justify the ethical issues presented in the case supported by your own ethical theory (from section 1) and appropriate theory;
2) Identify and differentiate professional practice issues from the ethical issues in the case, using appropriate theory to support your claims;
3) Ensure you have clearly outlined your view on what is a corporation and what its ethical rights and responsibilities should be using appropriate theory; and
4) Your final recommendations for what the company should do.
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