Ethics: Definition, Principles, Importance, Ethical Issues, Ethical Dilemma, Code of Ethics (2024)


Ethics is very significant in the world of business. It is the study of morally appropriate behaviour and decisions, and examining what should be done. Ethics helps to mould and shape human behaviour. It aids employees to perform their roles.

However, ethics cannot be instilled unless we ‘practice what we preach’. Otherwise, the effect of preaching will last only as long as a house of cards.

Learn about: 1. Introduction to Ethics 2. Definition and Characteristics of Ethics 3. Principles 4. Importance 5. Approaches 6. Factors 7. Code 8. Religion and Ethical Behaviour 9. Ethical Dilemma (With Examples) 10. Ethical Issues (With Classifications) 11. Thoughts 12. Development 13. Methods Used for Instilling Ethics 14. Guidelines for Ethical Behaviour.

Ethics: Introduction, Definition, Principles, Importance, Ethical Issues, Ethical Dilemma, Code of Ethics, Approaches and Guidelines

Ethics – Introduction

Ethics is very significant in the world of business. It is the study of morally appropriate behaviour and decisions, and examining what should be done. Ethics helps to mould and shape human behaviour. It aids employees to perform their roles. However, ethics cannot be instilled unless we ‘practice what we preach’. Otherwise, the effect of preaching will last only as long as a house of cards.


Corporate social responsibility (CSR), on the other hand, is the process by which businesses negotiate their role in the society. The two terms—ethics and CSR—are intertwined. In fact, in many firms, ethics and CSR are interlinked. In some cases, CSR is also considered to be a guarantee of ethical behaviour.

CSR has now become a global issue and has gained prominence in the language and strategy of every business. Today, the image of an organization is judged by the CSR activities that it performs. Governments and many international organizations are increasingly encouraging CSR and forming CSR partnerships.

Ethics – Definition and Characteristics

“Ethics is the science of judging specifically human ends and the relationship of means to those ends. In some way it is also the art of controlling means so that they will serve human ends.” — Thomas Garret


“‘Ethics’ is the discipline that examines one’s moral standard or moral standards of society. It asks how those standards apply to our life and whether these standards are reasonable or unreasonable — that is, whether these are supported by good reason or poor one.” — Manuel G. Velasquez

“Ethics refer to a set of moral principles which should play a very significant role in guiding the conduct of managers and employees in the operation of any enterprise.” — Dale S. Beach

“Ethics is that discipline which deals with what is good and bad and also deal with moral duty and obligation. Ethics are set of moral principles or values.” — Carol Buchholtz

“Ethics is a conception of right and wrong conduct. Ethics tell us when our behaviour is moral and when it is moral. Ethics deal with fundamental human relationship how we think and behave towards others and how we want them to think and behave towards us.” — Post, Frederick, and Lawlrence


“Ethics are formalised principles derived from social value. These are moral principle which originate from social value and represent rules for moral behaviour and conduct of individuals or groups thereof carrying on business.” — Webster’s Directory

These definitions reveal the following characteristics of ethics:

(i) Ethics is a set of moral standards and values acceptable in a society. It is relevant in the context of a society only.

(ii) Ethics guides human conduct or behaviour. If any member of the society behaves contrary to the norms and customs, society disapproves it. Moral principles serve as a guide for personal and professional conduct. Ethics checks people from taking decisions and actions which are harmful to society.


There are three main theories of ethics. First, the utilitarian theory suggests that actions become right or wrong on the basis of their consequence. Second, the theory of rights holds that all people have certain basic rights. Third, the theory of justice demands that actions must be fair and equitable.

(iii) Ethical principles are universal in nature. These prescribe obligations and virtues for everybody in a society. Ethics is important not only in business and politics but in every human endeavour.

(iv) Ethical standards differ from society to society. What is considered ethical behaviour in one society might be considered unethical in another. For example, abortion and artificial birth control is a taboo in most of the Islamic countries and catholic Christian communities. But these practices are fully ethical in China, Russia, Japan and many other countries. Similarly, euthanasia (mercy killing) is permitted in some countries but is strictly unethical in most countries.

(v) Ethics is normative or prescriptive in nature. It deals not with what is but what ought to be. It does not rest on feelings of approval or disapproval but on principles. For example, it may be unpleasant to fire an employee but morality may require it.


(vi) Ethical norms might not be legally binding. But these are more powerful than law because these have the sanction of society. When a person’s behaviour is inconsistent with the prevailing values and norms, it is called unethical. Ethics serves as a guide to law by highlighting its short comings.

(vii) Ethics relates to the behaviour of individuals and groups. The ethical norms do not apply to the behaviour of animals, birds, and insects. Only human beings have the capacity to guide and regulate their behaviour.

(viii) Ethics are not hard and fast rules. They are an expression of a society’s attitudes and beliefs. There is an element of discretion as a person has the option to adopt ethical norms. Ethics may differ from place-to-place and time-to-time.

(ix) There exist no sharp boundaries between ethical and non-ethical. Therefore, people often face ethical dilemmas wherein a clear cut choice is very difficult.


(x) Ethics aims at perfection in human conduct. It guides law makers in framing proper laws to regulate the behaviour of all citizens. Existing norms may contain valuable insights but ethics sets out to critics and test them in terms of ultimate norms.

(xi) The concepts of equity and justice are implicit in ethics. Fair and equitable treatment to all is its primary aim.

(xii) Ethics and morality are interrelated but not synonymous. In the words of Rogene A. Buchollz “Ethics deals with the formalisations of ethical principles in the abstract or the resolution of concrete ethical problems facing individuals in their daily life. Morality on the other hand generally refers to the tradition of belief that have involved over years. concerning right and wrong conduct, so that morality has its roots in belief of a society while ethics aim at formulating the principles to justify human behaviour.” According to Clearance C. Walton, “morality is the standards than an individual or group has about what is right and wrong good and evil.”

The British Philosopher W.D. Gross has listed six basic duties of a person:


(i) Fidelity – doing no harm to others

(ii) Reparation – making amends to those we have hurt

(iii) Gratitude – repaying those who have helped us

(iv) Justice – treating people as well as they deserve

(v) Beneficence – helping others when we can

(vi) Self-improvement – bettering ourselves but not at the cost of others


Any decision or action that fulfils any of these duties may be treated as ethical.

Ethics – 6 Basic Ethical Principles: Beneficence, Least Harm, Autonomy, Non-Violence or Peace, Justice and Truthfulness

Some schools of thought believe that the basic ethical principles, on whose basis different ethical theories have been evolved, can be considered to be the following:

Principle # 1. Beneficence:

The beneficence principle enunciates a fundamental principle of ethical conduct. This essentially means doing good to others. According to this principle, all our thoughts and actions must be directed to ensure that others benefit from these thoughts and actions. This can be done without much difficulty. People generally tend to care more about themselves than others. Even small actions performed by us can be based on this principle.

As an example, consider a person parking his/her motor vehicle, a car or a motor cycle. He/She must park the vehicle in such a way that it does not block pedestrians walking on the road, prevent smooth flow of traffic, or obstruct another person‘s parked vehicle. Many times, people park their vehicle oil the road without caring about the inconvenience caused to others.

As another example, consider an unfortunate accident where a person has been hit by a vehicle and the driver of that vehicle has fled. The person has been badly injured and requires urgent help. What would you do? Here, doing good to others would mean mitigating the injured person’s suffering by ensuring that he/she gets immediate medical help.

Principle # 2. Least Harm:

The second ethical principle to keep in mind is that our actions must result in the least harm to others. There can be situations where, even if we intend to do good to others, our actions may cause some harm to them. In such a situation, it is necessary to ensure that our actions are such that we cause the least harm to others.


Let us consider the case of a train accident. One’s duty in such an event is to help the injured passengers. He/She must get them out of the compartment; help the authorities take the injured to the hospital, and so on. On the other hand, sometimes it is seen that people use such incidents as an opportunity to steal the belongings of the injured, hapless people.

This is what doing harm is. The least good one can do in such situations is to prevent people from acting in such an unethical manner. Consider another example of a day-to-day occurrence. Young people travelling in a city bus are often seen grabbing a seat as soon as it is vacant, while a senior citizen or a woman accompanying a small child has to travel standing. It is your duty to offer your seat to such people if you are sitting.

If you are standing and a seat falls vacant, do not jump to catch that seat, taking advantage of their frailty or inability to move fast. Allow them to occupy that seat. This is the least that you can do.

Principle # 3. Autonomy:

This principle essentially states that we need to respect the autonomy of others for performing actions. We should not impose our views on others. This principle assumes that every person knows what is good for himself/herself. One can also look at it from the point of view of the person performing the action, who decides that what he/she is going to do is good for himself/herself.

As an example, consider your own case. As a student you may have opted for a course based on your love for the subject. On the other hand, some of you may have taken up the course because your parents took the decision for you. They have invaded your autonomy to take decisions about yourself. This is a very common occurrence and many students end up pursuing a course for which they have no aptitude or do not like.

As another example, consider the case of arranged marriages in India. It is not uncommon to find parents deciding a partner for their sons/daughters based on factors such as family status or wealth, without caring for their children’s feelings or wishes. This is a clear invasion of the person’s autonomy. Taking the concurrence of the children before getting them married is a very important factor in the success of marriages.

Principle # 4. Non-Violence or Peace:


This principle has become very relevant today. Violence has now pervaded all sections of society and has become its greatest bane. One of the basic ethical principles is to shun violence and to not support those who resort to it. Unless we adhere to this principle, no substantial progress can be made in ethical behaviour.

Our greatest concern is that there is a tendency to resort to violence in cases where many other options are available. There is also a nonchalant attitude to violence among people. This is a major cause for concern.

In an incident, a person was killed by a group. The police could not even investigate the case because in the violence that spread in the aftermath of this murder, many people were killed, a large number of houses were burnt, and hundreds were injured. In this case, there was violence for no particular reason.

In a case that was reported by the press, a group was collecting donations for a festival. The group approached a small shopkeeper and demanded Rs. 1000. The shopkeeper refused to pay more than Rs. 250. The group resorted to violence, beat him up, and ransacked his shop. It is to be remembered that donations, by their very nature, are voluntary.

However, extortion of money in the name of religious festivals and, in case someone refuses to pay, resorting to violence and causing bodily harm have become common nowadays. As a society, we have become violence- prone and there is an urgent need to curb this to prevent further damage.

Thus, commitment to peace and non-violence is a fundamental principle of ethics. There should be a commitment to not resort to violence and explore other better options to solve a problem.

Principle # 5. Justice:


The principle of justice states that our actions must be such that they are fair to everyone concerned. All ethical decisions must be based on the principle of fairness. There can be situations where a deviation from past practice is required. All such cases must be analysed and justified before a decision different from earlier decisions is made.

For example, consider the many development-induced displacements that make headlines in the newspapers these days. The building of a dam, the requirement of a weapon-testing ground, the need for a nuclear power plant, or the need for an expressway might necessitate displacement of a community to clear land for such a purpose.

If you take the specific case of a dam, it is a necessary part of infrastructure development as it provides water for irrigation and electric power generation. The construction of a dam is, thus, for the common good of a large section of the society. However, thousands of people are displaced from their land and their means of livelihood threatened because of such a project.

It is generally found that the rehabilitation of people affected by such projects is shoddy. They are left in the lurch at the end of the project with, in some cases, inadequate compensation and in others, no compensation, land, or means to earn a living. Here, injustice is done to the thousands affected. Similar examples can be seen in many developmental projects.

Principle # 6. Truthfulness:

Truthfulness is the quality of telling, adhering to, or upholding the truth. This appears to be a universal principle. Truthfulness also leads to other values such as trustworthiness and honesty. Mahatma Gandhi highlighted this principle when he undertook the freedom struggle and named it Satyagraha, desire for truth.

We will seldom find an example where not telling the truth gets us any real benefit. In the Upanishads, it is said asato ma sat gamaya, meaning ‘lead me from falsehood to truth’. Truthfulness is thus a universal principle propounded by all religious texts. In engineering measurements, it is mentioned that the true value of a quantity is not known.


By making repeated measurements, we can come close to a true value called the most probable value. In real life too, there may be many instances where the truth is not known. We then accept the best possible conclusion derived from the available/perceived facts and circ*mstances as the truth. This is the only way to keep one’s conscience clear and remain happy.

Ethics – Importance of Ethics in Various Management Functions

Business ethics comprises various traits, such as – trustworthiness and transparency in customer services. Ethical business practices strengthen customer relationship that is of prime importance for long-term organizational success. It deals with retaining and creating a long-lasting impression in the minds of customers.

Such impressions help the enterprise to win the trust of customers and get more business. Business ethics plays a very crucial role in various management functions.

Let us now discuss the importance of ethics in various management functions:

1. Ethics in Finance:

It deals with various ethical dilemmas and violations in day to-day financial transactions. An example of ethical violations is data fudging in which enterprises present a fabricated statement of accounts and other records, which are open to investigation. Ethics in financial transactions gained importance when due to their insufficiency nations suffered massive economic meltdowns.

The following are the ethics in finance:

i. Following truthfulness and authenticity in business transactions

ii. Seeking the fulfillment of mutual interests

iii. Getting the economies and financial units freed from greed-based methodologies.

2. Ethics in Human Resource Management:

It deals with the enforcement of the rights of employees in an enterprise.

Such rights are as follows:

i. Having a right to work and be compensated for the same

ii. Possessing a right for free association and participation

iii. Enjoying a right for fair treatment in an enterprise

iv. Holding a right to work in a hazard-free environment.

v. Blowing whistle (an activity where an employee can raise voice against any wrong practice of anyone in an enterprise).

3. Ethics in Marketing:

It deals with a number of issues, which are as follows:

i. Misinforming the customers about the products or services

ii. Deciding high prices for the products and services

iii. Creating false impression on the customers/consumers about the features of products

iv. Promoting sexual attitudes through advertising; thus, affecting the young generation and children.

4. Ethics in Production:

It deals with the responsibility of an organization to make sure that products and processes of production is not causing harm to the environment.

It throws light on the following issues:

i. Avoiding rendering services or producing products that are hazardous to health. For example, tobacco and alcohol

ii. Maintaining ethical relations with the environment and avoiding environmental pollution.

Ethics – 3 Basic Approaches to Ethical Behaviour

Three basic approaches to ethical behaviour are suggested:

i. Utilitarian Approach:

This approach proposes that actions and plans should be judged by their consequences. People should therefore behave in such a way that will produce the greatest benefit to society with the least harm or the lowest cost. This approach suffers from the difficulty in recognizing all the benefits and the costs of any particular decision.

Research reveals that only the stakeholders having the most power (ability to affect the company), legitimacy (legal or moral claim on company resources), and urgency (demand for immediate attention) are given priority by CEOs. It is therefore likely that only the most obvious stakeholders will be considered while others are ignored.

ii. Individual Rights Approach:

This approach proposes that human beings have certain fundamental rights that should be respects in all decisions. A particular decision or behavior should be avoided if it interferes with the rights of others.

The U.S. Constitution includes a Bill of Rights that may or may not be accepted throughout the world. This approach can also encourage selfish behavior when a person defines a personal need or want as a “right”

iii. Justice Approach:

The justice approach proposes that decision makers be equitable, fair and impartial in the distribution of costs and benefits to individuals and groups. It follows the principles of distributive justice and fairness. This approach can also include redistributive justice and compensatory justice.

Cavanagh proposes that we can solve ethical problems by asking the following 3 questions regarding an act or decision:

1. Utility- Does it optimize the satisfaction of all stakeholders?

2. Rights- Does it respect the rights of the individuals involved?

3. Justice- Is it consistent with the canons of justice?

Another approach to resolving ethical dilemmas is by applying Kant’s categorical imperatives to guide our actions:

(1) A person’s action is ethical only if that person is will for the same action to be taken by everyone who is in a similar situation. This is same as the Golden Rule. You should treat others, as you would like them to treat you.

(2) A person should never treat another human being simply as a means but always as an end. This means that an action is morally wrong for a person if that person uses others merely as a means for advancing his or her own interests. To be moral, the act should not restrict another people’s actions so that they are left disadvantaged in some way.

Ethics – Factors Affecting Individual Ethics

Individual ethics are determined by the following factors:

1. Family Influences – Individuals, as children, develop ethical standards if other family members engage in ethical behavior.

2. Peer Group Influences – The children, when they grow up, are influenced by the behavior of their friends and peer group. High or low standard of ethical behavior is likely to be followed in the same manner by the members of the peer group.

3. Life Experience – The way an individual’s behavior is dealt with in real life situations also affects his ethics. If his behavior (right or wrong) is reprimanded by his elders, he tends to avoid repeating it in future thinking that it is unethical and vice-versa.

A person who speaks harshly, if, never objected to by his parents or elders, will form a habit of speaking in that manner and will feel nothing unethical about it.

4. Personal Values – Ethical standards change according to the priority accorded to different behaviours being pursued by an individual. A person who believes in the material world will have different ethical standards than the one who prioritizes religious or social norms.

5. Situational Factors – Sometimes, people are made to behave in a particular manner because of the situational factors. An honest man may resort to stealing if he is left with no other choice for meeting his financial requirements in crisis. Though wrong in content, the unethical behaviour has been adopted as warranted by situational factors.

Ethics – Code of Ethics

A code is a statement of policies, principles, or rules that guide behavior. Certainly, codes of ethics do not apply only to business enterprises; they should guide the behavior of persons in all organizations and in everyday life. Code of ethics specifies how an organization expects its employees to behave while on the job.

Developing code of ethics can be a useful way to promote ethical behavior and clarify company expectations of employee conduct in various situations and makes clear that the company expects its people to recognize the ethical dimensions in decisions and actions.

An increasing number of companies are developing codes of ethics and implementing ethics training workshops and seminars. However, when faced with a question of ethics, managers tend to ignore codes of ethics and try to solve their dilemma on their own.

Simply stating a code of ethics in not enough, and the appointment of an ethics committee, consisting of internal and external directors, is essential for institutionalizing ethical behavior.

Such a committee may perform functions as holding regular meetings to discuss ethical issues, dealing with grey areas, communicating the code to all members of the organization, checking for possible violations of the code, enforcing the code, rewarding compliance and punishing violations, reviewing and updating the code, and reporting activities of the committee to the board of directors.

The management of a company that wants to improve its employees’ ethical behavior should not only develop a comprehensive code of ethics, but also communicate the code in its training programs, performance appraisal system, in policies and procedures, and through its own action.

It may also want to do the same for those companies with which it does business. For example, Reebok International has developed a set of human rights production standards for the manufacturers that supply the company with its athletic shoes on a contract basis.

Ethics – Religion and Ethical Behaviour

Religion is very difficult to define. The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines it as – the belief in the existence of a god or gods, and the activities that are connected with the worship of them. Religion is important to ethics because our actions are, in many cases, governed by religious doctrines or ‘divine commands’ as they may sometimes be called.

The underlying and most important aspect of religious beliefs is, or should be, that all religions fundamentally and inherently speak or proclaim ethical conduct in the same way. There is probably no religion that has doctrines conflicting with the fundamental ethical principles that we have outlined.

Once we have understood this aspect of religion, it will be simple to follow our faith and still be ethical in all our actions. One should avoid giving too much weightage or credence to external symbolisms or rituals associated with a religion or faith. For an individual, these rituals may have personal value and he/she should practise them as he/she deems fit.

From an ethical point of view, such symbolism and practices can have their place, but it is more important to understand the unifying and exalted principles associated with religious beliefs. Only such an understanding will help us appreciate other religions and the associated practices. Understanding our religion in its true perspective is important in formulating our ethical standards and resolving ethical conflicts.

Influence of Religion:

Religion has great influence, to a large extent positive, in shaping our ethical behaviour. Almost all religions have influenced the ethical thinking and standards followed by individuals and societies for the past many centuries.

Most religions support the five cardinal ethical principles. Many social codes of conduct have a religious sanction given by the preachers of the faith. Following a religion helps us in forming moral standards and benchmarks.

Another aspect of religious faith is the psychological impact it has on our moral conduct. Religious beliefs in most cases should guide us towards morally right actions. One aspect may be the reprisal or punishment that may be meted out in case one’s actions are not according to religious doctrines. Another aspect is the self-realization of an individual about the right moral stand to be taken in accordance with his/her religious beliefs.

It must also be understood that most religions set high moral or ethical standards of life. Thus, if one follows his/her religion and lives according to the dictates of that faith, he/she will be considered highly moral in his/her actions. It is, however, necessary to understand the basic tenets of the religion and not be governed by the trivialities of rituals and external symbolisms.

There were times in human history when religion, through its doctrines and dictates, played the most important role in guiding people’s lives. For instance, in medieval times, the church had a great influence on the governance of countries as well as the personal lives of people. Religious heads were more powerful in shaping people’s behaviour than political or social heads.

Political heads or rulers looked up to the religious heads for guidance in taking decisions. Today, religious heads do not have that kind of influence, but still do have considerable influence on our lives.

Having said that religion has a positive influence on our morality, we should also recognize that many religious practices do not always set high moral or acceptable standards. Some religious practices accord lower status to women and are biased against their rights. For example, in India, sati is a practice of a woman ending her life on the same pyre when her husband dies and is cremated.

The practice has been going on for years, but has now stopped. Why the husband was not asked to commit sati when the wife died is beyond comprehension or present social thinking. Thus, not all religious practices are acceptable in today’s context. In conclusion, one can say that the influence of religion in shaping our moral lives has predominantly been positive.

Following one’s faith is a good practice, but understanding its cardinal principles and tenets is very crucial. That alone can give balance to our social and religious lives and guide us towards morally correct behaviour.

Conflict with Ethics:

There is no apparent conflict between religion and ethics. Sati was also cited as an example of a religious practice. However, even in this case, there is no conflict because all religions generally support basic ethical principles and our moral beliefs are shaped to a large extent by our religious beliefs. Conflicts arise only because we have not understood our religion correctly and follow practices that are not acceptable in today’s civilized society.

Consider the case of child marriages in India. Is it a social practice or a practice sanctioned by the concerned religion? As the marriages are conducted by priests who follow a religion, it appears to have religious sanction. However, it is not socially acceptable and is against the constitutional provisions. Conflict arises because of such a practice.

Again consider the case of a religious procession wherein thousands of people march through the streets of a city. Traffic has to be diverted, educational institutions have to be closed, and the life of the general public is thrown into chaos. Is such a religious practice necessary or warranted? Conflicts arise not because of what a religion professes but because of the way we practise it.

There are many instances of religious practices that cause chaos in the life of people. Such chaotic situations arise not because of what the faith preaches, but because of our misunderstanding of the religion. Conflicts can be easily avoided if the followers of such practices understand the basic tenets of the religion and follow ethical principles that are in tune with all religious preachings.

Ethics – Ethical Dilemma

We are faced with ethical dilemmas almost every day, both at the individual level and at the societal level. Ethical Dilemmas arise due to conflict of interest or due to ignorance of what is the correct thing to do in a given situation. Both, the individual and the community face dilemmas.

In many situations, the right action may be evident. However, there may be many tricky situations where it may not be possible to decide the right actions. Ethical theories help us win over such situations.

A major reason for ethical dilemmas is the conflict of moral principles. As we decide to take action based on one or more moral principles that apply in a given situation, we come to know that it conflicts with other moral principles that need to be followed. For example, telling a lie or hiding the truth is against moral principles.

However, there can be situations where telling a lie or hiding the truth may be the correct thing to do according to some ethical theory. Dilemmas generally occur because of such conflicts among moral principles. We face a dilemma when our moral beliefs, such as – duty, rights, principle, and values, come into conflict in a given situation.

Another reason for ethical dilemma is the lack of clarity in a given situation. It may not be clear whether a particular act is immoral or not. In addition, the professional may not be able to decide whether it is ethical or not. Such situations frequently arise due to vagueness of the particular act.

Yet another reason for dilemmas can be situations where there is no agreement on what is the right course of action. There is no vagueness about the situation but many people feel differently about the right thing to be done.

All options have takers and each of them have good reasons to believe that morally what they think is what is right. How one analyses and interprets the situation and how one formulates the solution come into question. There is then a need to discuss and arrive at the best option in the given situation.

Examples of Ethical Dilemmas:

Let us illustrate ethical dilemmas with the following two examples:

i. As the purchase officer in an organization, an engineer has to choose between many options in purchasing a particular item. Quite often it is not the lowest price that matters but many other conditions, such as purchase agreement and long term benefits. On a festive occasion, one of the suppliers comes with sweets and gifts for the engineer.

The supplier directly does not tell the engineer to select his item for purchase but gives the gift to him. Is it morally right to accept the gift? The engineer feels that it is just a normal gesture during the festive season as he knows him well and has had long discussions with him about products.

The engineer feels that his decision to purchase any product is not going to be decided by this gift given by the supplier. However, he is concerned about the situation he is in. The supplier does not give him these gifts for nothing; he expects that he will consider his product favourably and find reasons to bypass lower tenders. Now, there is a ethical dilemma.

ii. A young lawyer working for a law firm is asked to take up the case of a client who has come with the case details. The lawyer listens to what the client has to say. He studies the case in detail and finds that the client has no case at all as per existing laws. He reports the matter to his superior and says that they should not take up the case as they would not win it.

His superior is not satisfied and tells him that their duty is to fight the case for their clients to the best extent possible. The superior orders him to take up the case, find any loopholes in the law that can help, and fight the case as best as they can. The client has promised a considerable sum if the case is won, in addition to the normal fee.

The young lawyer feels the dilemma that duty calls for taking up the case, while his conscience pricks him as the chances of winning the lawsuit are extremely dim. What should he do?

Resolving Ethical Dilemmas:

When one faces a ethical dilemma, depending on the complexity of the problem, one has to make an attempt to find a solution based on accepted ethical principles. Lack of clarity, conflicting principles, and many other factors make it difficult to decide upon the appropriate action.

Solutions have to be case specific, but may generally involve the following steps:

i. Formulate some cardinal ethical principles that you would like to follow, if you have not done so already.

ii. Collect all relevant facts of the case.

iii. Perform an ethical analysis of the given situation wherein you analyse the ethical factors that predominate the problem and the ones that tend to conflict.

iv. While it may be difficult, prioritize the ethical factors in the order that you think should take precedence.

v. Having formulated your ideas, it may be desirable to discuss with some people close to you about the case and the implications you think any decision or action would have.

vi. Having received inputs from them, you can now formulate your plan of action, noting down all the moral implications of the solution.

Ethics – Ethical Issues: Classification and Examples

It must be clearly understood that we are discussing ethical issues that come up in the course of a professional performing his/her job. To some extent, we also need to consider his/her personal life from a moral perspective, as personal and professional lives are interlinked.

A person who thinks rationally and wants a clear conscience will face many situations in his/her professional life that would make him/her think about the ethicality of his/her actions.

Such issues can be classified into two major classes as described here.

Variety of Ethical Issues:

We can classify the ethical issues faced by a professional into two major classes:

1. Micro-Ethical Issues:

These are problems frequently faced by a person in his/her day-to-day functioning. The issues may be small but can nag a rational person’s mind and give him/her sleepless nights. These are issues where he/she has to decide what actions he/she should take and if he/she is prevented from taking actions that he/she thinks are right, then what is to be done. Plenty of such issues appear in a professional’s life now and then.

2. Macro-Ethical Issues:

These issues deal with societal problems that are not often addressed or are neglected until they acquire gigantic proportions. Many national disasters fall under this category, where the engineer may only be a cog in the wheel. The Bhopal gas leak is one such example.

Both these types of issues deserve our attention. While the day-to-day small issues need to be resolved, one should also look at the macro issues, which have great ethical implications and will benefit the society in the long term.

Since macro issues are likely to be in the realm of senior managements, the professional may not be directly involved but as a professional he/she needs to understand the systemic problems that cause such instances of difficulty. A professional needs to concern himself/herself with such issues as these help one to look at systemic issues that are of great significance.

Examples of Ethical Issues (With Skills):

Let us illustrate this with a few examples:

i. A junior engineer working at a construction site feels that the concreting of the roof is being done incorrectly. Too much water is being added arbitrarily and due to paucity of labour, the concrete being mixed at the site is not placed in position in time. He talks to his executive engineer about this problem. The executive engineer tells him to ignore this because he has a soft corner for the contractor.

He says that he has done supervision at many sites and knows when to take action. He advises the junior engineer to ignore it and proceed with the construction supervision. The junior engineer feels that this will result in a weakened structure and will cause leakages in the long run. What should he do?

ii. As an engineer, you pass by a construction site every day. You think that the safety of workers is not being taken care of by the construction firm. The rickety scaffolding is very dangerous and is not properly made and supported. The workers working at great heights are in the danger of falling to the ground and there are no safety nets provided. You feel it is a hazardous situation that could potentially lead to a tragedy.

You are not concerned with the work but something is bothering your mind. Should you report your apprehensions or should you keep quiet? What if after a few days, you get to read in the newspaper that at that very construction site, a labourer fell from the scaffolding and died. Would you be filled with remorse because you have not done your duty as an engineer and a professional or even as a citizen? What do you think?

iii. Let us take a case of a societal problem. As an engineer working in the electricity distribution company in Delhi, you felt that your company was not doing enough to acquire power or report to the government that the power situation would aggravate in a few days’ time. When the matter was discussed with your superior, he told you to keep quiet as you were concerned only with the distribution of power and not with the generation of power.

After some time, there were frequent power cuts and supply failures took place. Low voltages created many problems with electrical appliances. Nobody seemed to have bothered about this for many days. The public were up in arms and there were incessant protests about the power situation.

It was only then that the administration woke up and lamented the performance of the distribution companies. Whose fault was this? The power shortage situation was swept under the carpet for long and it was only when it became very serious that some action was being taken.

Moral Autonomy:

Moral autonomy refers, in general, to the freedom and self-reliance of an individual to take moral decisions or hold moral points of view. Moral autonomy comes from an inherent strength for rational thinking based on moral values imbibed over a period of time. Professionals need to develop moral autonomy over a period of time by acquiring the knowledge and skills needed to develop such rational thinking.

Moral autonomy is just not any independent decision taken by a professional. In fact, the basis and rationale behind such decisions reflect moral autonomy. Moral values and ethical conduct imbibed from childhood form the background for a professional to have moral autonomy.

As a professional progresses in his/her professional life, he/she will come across many situations that call for his/her decisions on moral issues. A professional’s perception on such issues, the rational analysis of the situation to understand the implications and impact of the various options before him/her, and finally taking a decision and acting on it are normal occurrences in a professional’s life.

The basic training and guidance we receive as children on moral or ethical matters will be reflected in the decisions we take. Moral concerns based on the cardinal principles will be the hallmark of our moral autonomy.

Various moral concerns may arise during one’s professional life. These would call for pondering over moral issues. An engineer in the quality control department may face a situation where he/she is asked to give manipulated results and may also be rewarded for it.

The persuasion can come from an outside party or from his/her own superior who may ask him/her to tamper the results. This will go against the individual’s own perception of what is right. Self-interest may come into conflict with the correct actions he/she is supposed to take or what his/her conscience says is the correct action. Standing up to such challenges calls for moral autonomy coming from inherent moral strength.

A young doctor working in a private hospital may come across a situation where the patient may not really benefit from a surgery. His superiors may ask him to go ahead with the surgery as this will give them an opportunity to extract money from the patient.

The doctor’s personal judgement may go against what his employer wishes and this will create a moral dilemma. The doctor needs to meet the challenge by taking a correct moral stand that may be against his personal interest.

How does one face such situations and take actions that are morally correct? A course on professional ethics may give you some guidance to act in the right manner. All professionals need to imbibe such qualities through training and by developing skill sets needed for this purpose.

The following are the skills required to face such situations, and take actions that ensure peace of mind and a clear conscience:

i. Develop skills to identify problems of a moral nature in professional work. A problem may have many dimensions but recognizing the moral aspects of the problem and relating these to other dimensions of the problem is important. The moral values one has imbibed during childhood, and in school and college has a bearing on this.

ii. Develop the ability to critically analyse a moral issue or situation. Where the action to be taken is clear and one does not face any conflict, the situation is simple. However in moral issues, very often, we face conflicts and it may be necessary to look at the pros and cons of the action options to decide correctly what is to be done.

iii. Develop sensitivity to genuine difficulties. Some moral issues may call for taking actions, which at first sight may go against some moral principles held by the individual as sacrosanct. In such cases, some flexibility in thinking and taking decisions for the overall good of the people concerned may be called for.

iv. Develop ingenuity, creativity, and imagination to find alternative solutions to complex problems. Many problems do create situations that call for out-of-the-ordinary solutions. A true professional will develop creative solutions to such complex problems by a critical analysis of all factors and by imaginative understanding of the alternatives possible.

v. Develop consistency in thinking on moral issues. Consistency comes from knowledge and understanding of similar situations and comparison of facts in a given situation with those of others.

vi. Develop the ability to express your perception on moral issues clearly to others. This will enable others to appreciate the rationale behind any actions proposed in a given moral issue. An understanding of ethical principles and theories will enable one to make a comprehensive expression of one’s views.

vii. Develop moral integrity and credibility. This can be strengthened in your actions in all spheres of life, whether it is professional or personal. Consistency in moral standpoint of the individual in all spheres gives credence to his/her views on moral issues.

viii. Develop tolerance and try to understand other people’s views on moral conflicts. Moral issues, very often, are not simple enough to generate an algorithmic solution. People who think rationally may come out with differing perspectives of the problem. One must develop the ability to appreciate differing but rational points of view.

ix. Develop the ability to assimilate moral issues and solutions even in cases where you are not directly concerned. A general interest in moral concerns and issues, even in other professions, may be of help in one’s own profession. Keep track of moral issues and solutions and try to form your own opinions in such cases.

x. Develop your own moral standards or benchmarks for applying to situations that you may face. Over a period of time, this will help you in creating a yardstick for judging many situations.

Ethics – Thoughts on Ethics (Indian and Global Thoughts)

Ethical canons have been in existence for a very long time. In India, they can be found in ancient texts such as – the Vedas, Upanishads, and scriptures. In the western world, starting from Socrates, there have been many philosophers who have given prominence to ethical thoughts in their sayings and writings.

1. Indian Thoughtson Ethics:

Many humanistic ideals and virtues or ethical principles are extolled in the Vedas and Upanishads. These include truthfulness, honesty, integrity, philanthropy, gratitude, forgiveness, non-violence, fidelity, and so on.

The early periods witnessed the evolution of the four castes (chatur vamas). Though there was a noble idea behind it, it did not work out as a social justice measure. Each vama had duties appropriate to their functions.

The life cycle concept of childhood, student, householder, renunciation, and sanyas was also practised. Each life stage has its own moral code for people in that group. The Gita expounded the concept of right of action without any right for the fruits of that action.

Subsequent periods also had writings by Manu (Manushastras) and Kautilya (on politics and business) that talk about the way various human activities had to be performed and the ethical aspects of these activities.

Buddhist Thoughts:

Buddha, who attained enlightenment and preached the basic tenets of Buddhism, had given five basic canons for people to follow. These refer to abstinence from –

i. Hurting/killing any living creature;

ii. Stealing others’ property;

iii. Wrong and excessive indulgence in sensual pleasures;

iv. Telling lies; and

v. Taking intoxicants;

Buddhism is essentially ethical principles based on virtues as Buddha extolled people to acquire traits such as – truthfulness, righteousness, benevolence, compassion, sympathy, abstinence, patience, and purity. Buddha also rejected the concept of caste and race based on birth.

There are many saints and sadhus who have discussed the right way of life.

The views of some of the recent thinkers on the subject are discussed below:

a. Swami Vivekananda:

Swami Vivekananda was a great philosopher who influenced ethical thinking by preaching all over the world. Swami Vivekananda, whose actual name was Narendra Nath, was born in an affluent family in Kolkata on 12 January 1863 to Vishwanath Datta, a successful lawyer, and Bhuvaneshwari Devi.

He was endowed with profound faith and a strong character. He graduated from Calcutta University and had acquired considerable knowledge of western philosophy and history. He was associated with the Brahmo movement for some time. His spiritual inclination was evident since childhood, as he used to practise meditation even as a child.

His meeting with his guru Sri Ramakrishna occurred when he visited the latter to ask about the existence of God. Ramakrishna was able to convince him about the existence of God and had a great influence on the future life of young Narendra. He was so greatly influenced by his guru that later, he made it his mission in life to spread his guru’s thoughts across the world.

His address at the World Parliament of Religions in 1893 brought him into prominence as a great orator and thinker.

A few salient aspects of his ethical thoughts can be summarized as follows:

i. He advocated monism, meaning that the whole world is one. It is in this concept that lies the explanation for ethics, morality, and spirituality.

ii. Ethics is only the means to an end. One should be clear about the end and that alone clarifies the meaning of ethics.

iii. The basic principle of ethics is the Vedantic idea that you are the infinite.

iv. The feeling of oneness represented by ‘I am the universe’ is at the centre of all ethical thinking and results in doing good to others.

v. While your senses say ‘myself first’, ethics says ‘I am last’.

vi. When the means are right, the results must come; attention to means, therefore, is the secret of success in life.

vii. Utilitarianism and ethical codes based on it are for a particular time only. Ethical codes based on spirituality relate us to the infinite and embrace the society as well.

viii. Work for lessening misery as that is the only way you can attain happiness.

b. Mahatma Gandhi:

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, popularly known as Mahatma Gandhi was one of the greatest leaders the world has seen in recent times. M.K. Gandhi was born on 2 October 1869 in Porbandar, Gujarat. He studied law from the University of London. After unsuccessful attempts at practising law, he joined a firm in South Africa. The apartheid system in South Africa gave him his first taste of white domination and colonialism.

Gandhiji, popularly called the Mahatma and fondly called Bapu, was the most prominent leader in India’s struggle for freedom. Also recognized as the Father of the Nation, he was instrumental in a non-violent movement that finally won India its freedom.

Mahatma Gandhi was one of the leaders who believed in some fundamental ethical tenets. He staunchly believed that satyagraha, literally meaning desire for truth (and the originator of the civil disobedience movement), and ahimsa, meaning non-violence, will be very powerful tools to make the British colonial rulers accept India’s quest for freedom.

The movement that he spearheaded was unique in the history of the world for the mass base it was able to generate and the non-violent means that it adopted.

In addition to being a political leader, Mahatma was also a leader of the people by identifying himself with them. He was able to generate their support by setting an example with the way he lived. He propounded many theories of a self-reliant rural economy and worked incessantly towards the abolition of untouchability and empowerment of women.

A few salient thoughts of the Mahatma on ethics are listed as follows:

i. Sympathize with every human being as that will help you practise the highest form of ethics.

ii. A moral act should come from within, from your own free will.

iii. The means must be good; impure means result in impure end.

iv. External actions must be performed with mental purity and in selfless spirit.

v. The highest form of morality is altruism.

vi. True economics never militates against the highest ethical standards.

vii. Economics that hurts an individual or a society cannot be ethical.

viii. Life should become progressively simpler and we should become more self-restrained.

c. Rabindranath Tagore:

Rabindranath Tagore was born in 1861 in Bengal. He had his early education at home and later went to England for formal schooling. He did not complete his studies there and returned home. He started his experimental school at Santiniketan where he tried the Upanishadic ideals of education.

Rabindranath Tagore was an erudite scholar, poet, philosopher, and writer. His early writings in Bengali included poems that were translated for the readers of the West and became very popular. Rabindra Sangeet is a living tradition of his music and still very popular. He wrote many poems, plays, essays, dramas, travel diaries, and autobiographies. He won the Nobel prize for literature for Gitanjali.

Some salient thoughts of Rabindranath Tagore on ethics are as follows:

i. The spiritual aspect of man represents sympathy and love while the moral side represents unselfishness and control over desires. They should be taken together and not separated ever.

ii. A moral life is one where a man goes from a life of desire to a life of purpose by building his character.

iii. We achieve perfection in life by perpetually giving up.

iv. A moral rhythm must be maintained in all creations to save them from destruction.

v. Man’s greed exaggerates the lust for sensual pleasures. This breaks the harmony in fife and we lose true values.

d. Sri Aurobindo:

Sri Aurobindo was born in Calcutta (now Kolkata) on 15 August 1872. He completed his school and college education in London. After returning to India, he worked in Baroda for a number of years in the service of the Maharaj, while teaching in a college. His first stint in the freedom struggle was during this period, when he joined in the planning of an uprising against the British rule.

He then returned to Kolkata and was the first revolutionary to put forth the idea of complete independence to India. He went to jail a number of times for his revolutionary writings. He renounced politics in 1910 and began spiritual pursuits. He spent the next 40 years in Pondicherry where he founded the Aurobindo Ashram. He propounded the concept of integral yoga, which not only liberates man’s consciousness, but also transforms his nature.

His salient thoughts on ethics are as follows:

i. Our actual enemy is not any force exterior to ourselves, but our own crying weaknesses, our cowardice, our selfishness, our hypocrisy, our purblind sentimentalism.

ii. Goodness and not utility must be the yardstick for the attainment of virtue.

iii. Utilitarianism means reducing ethical action to moral mathematics but is alien to the instinct and intuition of the ethical being.

iv. Human perfection is attained through will, character, self-discipline, and self-mastery.

v. Ethics does not lie in the calculation of good and evil but in the attempt to grow into divine nature.

vi. Virtue evolves out of our struggle to overcome our pleasure-seeking nature.

2. Global Thoughts on Ethics:

Western thoughts on ethics have a long history. Great thinkers such as – Socrates have propounded many ethical canons. For some time, ethics was governed by the church during the peak of the Christian era. More recent thinkers include Gagne, Kohlberg, Gilligan, and Kant who dwelt on moral development theories.

The principles laid down by a few stalwarts of western philosophy are given below:

a. Socrates:

Socrates (469-399 BC) was born in Athens. Though a great philosopher and thinker, he wrote nothing. The Socratean method was one of question-answer and much of what is known about Socrates comes from the writings of his disciples Plato and Aristotle. The dialectic method is credited to Socrates.

By questioning people on their assertions, this method finally proves the right position on the subject. Socrates himself never took any stand. Socrates was imprisoned for corrupting the youth and working against the religion of the country. He was sentenced to death. He drank poison in the company of his friends and died.

Socrates defined virtue as knowledge and believed that if one knows good, one will always do good. Those who practise evil do not know what goodness means.

These thoughts, popularly known as Socratic paradoxes, have been listed as follows:

i. No one desires evil.

ii. No one errs or does wrong willingly or knowingly.

iii. Virtue—all virtue—is knowledge.

iv. Virtue is sufficient for happiness.

Whatever is known about Socrates is from the writings of his disciples. Plato has described Socrates’ thoughts very elaborately. Many scholars believe that it is impossible to distinguish Socrates’ thinking from that of Plato.

A few of the major ideas and observations made by Socrates have been listed as follows:

i. The only good is knowledge and the only evil is ignorance.

ii. Having the fewest wants I am nearest to the Gods.

iii. There is nothing stable in human affairs; avoid undue elation in prosperity and undue depression in adversity.

iv. The only true wisdom is in knowing that you know nothing.

v. To find yourself, think for yourself.

vi. I cannot teach anybody anything; I can only make them think.

vii. Education is the kindling of a flame and not the filling of a vessel.

viii. If you don’t get what you want, you suffer; if you get what you don’t want, you suffer; even when you get exactly what you want, you still suffer because you can’t hold on to it forever. Your mind is your predicament. It wants to be free of change, free of pain, free of the obligations of life and death. But change is law and no amount of pretending will alter that reality.

ix. I am not an Athenian or Greek but a citizen of the world.

x. Contentment is natural wealth, luxury is artificial poverty.

xi. Employ your time in improving yourself by other men’s writings so that you shall come easily by what others have labored hard for.

xii. From the deepest desires often come the deadliest hate.

xiii. The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.

xiv. Think not those faithful who praise all thy words and actions; but those who kindly reprove thy faults.

b. Confucius:

Confucius (551-479 BC) was a Chinese thinker and social philosopher who is credited with the well-known saying, ‘Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself.’ He is a follower of the principle of virtue ethics.

He emphasized on the following ethical principles:

i. Personal and government morality

ii. Correctness of social relationships

iii. Justice and sincerity

iv. Family loyalty, ancestor worship, and respect for elders

v. Superiority of personal exemplification over explicit rules of behaviour

vi. Self cultivation

vii. Emulation of moral exemplars

viii. Attainment of skilled judgement rather than the knowledge of rules

ix. Doing proper things at the proper time

x. Maintaining existing norms to perpetuate an ethical social fabric

xi. Violating rules in order to get ethical good.

Let us now understand the last point using an example – You are approached by someone whom you know to be a confidence trickster, asking for the address of somebody in the locality. You know the address and the person living there well. Telling the truth is a universal value. But here, should you tell the truth? You are not sure what the person will do with the address. So you tell him that you do not know the address. It is highly likely that some good may result from telling this lie.

Ethics – Development: Greek Ethics, Medieval Ethics and Modern Ethics

Ethics has developed as a science of moral reasoning in the following phases:

1. Greek Ethics:

It advocates that ethics deals with duties of a person as moral citizen of the nation. A good or ethical man is the one who performs his duties as a good citizen. Famous advocates of this view are Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.

2. Medieval Ethics:

This is the period when Christianity spread in Europe. It spread the thoughts that ethics is not simply a part of politics (as said in the Greek philosophy). It does not deal with duties of a person. Rather, it deals with increasing the inner aspect of a person’s morality.

3. Modern Ethics:

This era of ethics believes in performing actions whose results bring good to us and to others. It deals with determining Tightness of the acts. It tells about what individuals or institutions ought to do.

Moral theories that advocate modern ethics deal with two components:

(a) Theory of Value or Theory of Good:

It decides about what is good or valuable, though it does not make this explicit. It focuses on properties that we want to be realized in our actions. These properties may be compliance with law of nature, human freedom, social solidarity or combination of one or more of them.

(b) Theory of the Right:

It does not tell about which properties are valuable but tells about what individuals and institutions should do by responding to valuable properties.

Ethics – Top 2 Methods Used for Instilling Ethics: Whistle Blowing and Fraud Hotline

Fraud is a major concern among business executives. One needs to ensure that employees and the man­agement team practice ethical behaviour. Anyone could be involved in a scam; a person may have vested interests or a situation may compel one to commit the act.

Whistle blowing may be necessary in a variety of business situations—when a senior or a junior is seen to be indulging in an unacceptable practice or when the boss orders something unacceptable with regard to the environment. In order to instil ethics among employees in organizations, there are two methods that can be used—whistle blowing and fraud hotline.

i. Whistle Blowing:

In a football match, whenever there is a forward in off-side or a defender fouls, the referee uses his whistle to correct the fault done immediately. Similarly, in organizations as soon as a fault or unethical action is done, someone should blow the whistle to alert the erring employee.

Whistle blowing means calling attention to a wrongdoing at the instance when it occurs within an organization. The accountability project lists some ways to blow the whistle.

Some of them are as follows:

a. Reporting an unlawful activity or a violation of the law to the proper authorities

b. Refusing to participate in workplace wrongdoing

c. Testifying in a legal proceeding in a departmental inquiry or a court of law

d. Leaking evidence of wrongdoing to the media by a person other than the spokesperson.

ii. Fraud Hotline:

The fraud hotline is a process for reporting concerns about improper, illegal, or anything that may violate the company’s image. The most important and common hotline is the telephone for reasons of convenience. The manager responsible to maintain ethics may be accessible through a 24-hour hotline system. The hotline is the most effective system that a company can allow for employees, customers, and even vendors to give information anonymously.

The witness or observer of an unethical incident will have to convey the message and the voice will be recorded at the other end. The recipient of the message, a trained live interviewer at the other end of the line, may like to seek some more information for probing the extent of gravity of the information.

For example, being an employee of a large company, if one has information about a fraudulent incident happening in the company, one may not feel like talking to the senior. The superior may be committing the fraud. In such cases, one should bring the matter to the notice of his/her senior’s senior. However, this may be a dangerous step as the senior also might be entangled in the fraud chain.

Furthermore, one may not want to talk to other employees because he/she may not be sure how they would react. By protecting oneself, an employee may access the information without disclosing his name and contact details. If the identity is revealed, the experienced interviewer may ask pertinent questions to get all the relevant information they need, so that they can get the take up matter to the company. The hotlines operate 24 hour/365 days a year and are equipped to handle different languages spoken within a company.

Organizational Drives:

It has already been established that the code of conduct should be laid out in a formal document. Con­currently, organizations should educate the new recruits and existing employees, create an environment conducive to promoting ethical conduct, and demonstration by the leadership team.

The measures that can be adopted are as follows:

1. Business conduct process should be an integral part of the induction programme for new recruits. Management needs to send frequent messages to them, keeping in mind that ‘it is easier to make the doll when the clay is soft’.

2. Employees should be aware of the business conduct policies. The legal department should design a ‘legal compliance course curriculum’ and the course should be conducted by experienced personnel. These courses should be mandatory and the employees must be evaluated.

3. Management-employee interaction session is a great platform to raise employee awareness and is of paramount importance where the management can share certain dos and don’ts with regard to behaviour disposition. These interaction sessions promote employee relations.

4. Internal communication plays an important role in conveying business conduct policies informally in a non-instructional manner, citing examples of actual situations to communicate acceptable form of behaviour.

Organizations can definitely derive benefits by adopting these practices in a planned manner.

Instilling Ethics through Culture:

An organization needs to create a culture of ethical conduct. The processes must be well defined so that the decision-makers can take the right decisions from amongst available alternatives. The orga­nizational culture should develop employees so as to evaluate them through self-questioning.

Sasikar 2010 suggests three dimensions of self-questioning:

1. Is my action consistent with the company’s corporate values of uncompromising honesty and integrity?

2. Can my action stand public scrutiny?

3. Will my action protect the company’s reputation as an ethical company?

Ethics and Virtue:

It is as important to be virtuous as it is to be ethical. Some of the virtues that one must possess are benevolence, contentment, cooperation, courage, determination, humility, tolerance, and wisdom. Other virtues include mercy, obedience, cleanliness, and introversion.

Ethics – Guidelines for Ethical Behaviour

Though each individual or group has his own sets of ethical values, a few guideline have been prescribed to be followed:

1. Obey the Law – Obeying the legal practices prevalent in a country is conforming to the ethical values.

2. Tell the Truth – Disclosing the fair accounting results to the concerned parties and telling the truth is also an ethical behaviour on the part of managers.

3. Respect for People – Management ethics requires managers to show respect towards whomsoever he comes in contact with.

4. The Golden Rule – The golden business principle is “Treat others as you would want to be treated”. This, if followed, will always result in ethical behaviour.

5. Above All, Do No Harm – Even if law does not prohibit the use of chemicals in producing certain products, managers must avoid using them if their use happens to be an environmental pollutant.

6. Practice Participation – Not Paternalism – Managers should not decide on their own as to what is good or bad for the different stakeholders. They must assess their needs, analyse them in the light of business needs, and integrate the two needs by allowing the various stakeholders to participate in the decision making processes.

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Ethics: Definition, Principles, Importance, Ethical Issues, Ethical Dilemma, Code of Ethics (2024)


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