Influences on Ethical Decision Making

Ethical decision making influences include people’s personalities and experiences as well as their maturity. Also, their opinions and interpretations of the events and situations involved as well as their outlook on the possible short-term and long-term effects. It may also involve current political climate as well as corporate policy. Ethics training (or lack thereof) may also play a part.

Ethical intensity is the degree of concern people have about an ethical decision. When addressing any issue of high ethical intensity, managers must be aware of the effect that their decisions will have on others.

At least six factors must be taken into account when determining the ethical intensity of an action:

  • Consequential magnitude – the total harm or benefit derived from an ethical decision
  • Social consensus – regarding the behavior being bad or good
  • Probability of effect – considering the chances that something will happen and then result in harm to others
  • Temporal immediacy – the amount of time that generally passes between an act and the consequences the act produces
  • Proximity of effect – cultural, social, physical, psychological, or cultural distance of a decision maker from those effected by the decisions
  • Concentration of effect – how much the act affects the average person

Studies indicate that managers tend to view decisions as ethical when the magnitude of consequence is high and there is a social consensus that a behavior or action is bad.

Seven principles of ethical decision making can be considered as follows:

  • Long-term self-interest
  • Personal virtue
  • Religious injunctions
  • Government requirements
  • Utilitarian benefits
  • Individual rights
  • Distributive justice

One of the results of any ethical decision making situation that must be kept in mind is that in all likelihood no matter what decision you make (or how you rationalize that you made it), someone (or some group) will be unhappy with your decision.

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