Difficulties in Ethical Decision Making

Decision making involves a great degree of value clarity, ethical decision making involves more! Unlike certain financial, inventory and production decisions, ethical decisions cannot be coded into digital machines. They require critical thinking and evaluation.

What makes ethical decision making so difficult ? Why cannot ethical decisions be programmed like other decisions ? What leads to dilemmas in ethical decision making ? In the coming paragraphs we try to answer all these questions. We also try to understand basic difficulties involved in ethical decision making.

An organization is an amalgamation of various individuals and there is a conflict of interest at the personal level between these members, each one is concerned about his benefits and neutral or opposing to the benefits or good of others. This conflict of interest leads to situations that are morally challenging to the manager who wants to be moral and righteous to his own conscience and serve the interests of the organization. Here the dilemma arises on deciding upon the course of action.

In the second case a conflict arises when there is a distinction to be made about facts and values. This implies a situation where a manager confronts ‘what is’ and weighs the same against ‘what ought to be’. For example an organization may spend lots of resources upon developing, researching or upgrading a certain product and service, which gets reflected in the final price of the latter. This increase in price may be looked upon as exploitative by the end users!

Yet another difficulty arises in cases when there is a fine line dividing the good from the bad or the evil and in situations when there is a difference of opinion on what is morally permissible and what is not. Undoubtedly, in our society the good and the evil exist side by side. Example in case, Nestle infant formula lead to many deaths in Kenya because the formula was prepared in contaminated water. The same formula proved life saving in other countries. The challenge lies in minimizing the evil and trying to arrive upon a consensus.

In an era of uncertainty, it is almost impossible to predict the outcomes of decision making. One of the principles of ethical decision making assumes that the outcome of a decision is known and that the decision that results in greatest good for greater number of people is the best. Practically, anticipating the exact outcome of a course of action is impossible. This uncertainty is at the root of all difficulties in ethical decision making.

Lastly we may say that ethical stand points of organization and their critics are opposite and based on an entirely different set of reasons; here the ethical arguments made to justify intentions are by and large incompatible. For example an environment protection foundation may criticize the operations of an organization on grounds of the latter polluting the environment. The organization may justify itself by saying that it is adding more value to the society and to individual lives, making it more comfortable by its products and services.

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