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Moral Philosophy in the Workplace

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When analyzing personal decision making from a philosophical point of view, it is considered in the framework of normative ethics. Normative ethics is a branch of moral philosophy that, unlike metaethics dealing with abstract concepts, is aimed at defining personal moral behavior basing on his or her actions, as well as the results of these actions. Personal moral philosophy determines what one should do in a certain situation, what is right and what is wrong for him/her. Workplace ethics is closely connected to decision making. It is an application of personal moral philosophy in business.

The ethical dilemma described in the given text deals with the case of crime at the workplace and confrontation of different moral principles of the two participants in the situation. The rejection of promotion becomes a crucial point in careers for both Jack and Carla and changes their moral principles.

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There are two ethical issues in this text. First is connected with Jack’s theft of the company’s software while second is connected with Carla’s encountering her boss’s theft and becoming a silent accomplice in this crime. Copying software is considered to be illegal without authorization of the owner or creator of this software. In addition, if Jack is going to distribute the software, using it in his new workplace or transferring it to his partners, this would be copyright infringement according to Chapter 5 of the U.S. Copyright Law (2011).

Both participants’ behaviors are logical and explainable from the psychological point of view. There is unethical behavior from Jack, but he believes that he can justify it. Jack has been working for this company for 17 years; he is tired and needs further promotion to be interested in his job, but he does not get it, so he gets angry with the company and wants revenge. Carla is a novice in this company; she has certain problems to solve outside work, and she is dependent on this work and Jack as her boss and supervisor. That makes her decide to be silent rather than act fair towards the company.

Jack’s actions are well known as white-collar crime, which is defined as committing an illegal act towards the employer, including abuse of trust and authority. The researchers who studied white-collar crimes revealed that the majority of the “criminals” were not poor people, and the main causal factor of the crime was usually greed.

As a result, Jack’s crime influences not only Carla’s consequent behavior, unusual to her principles, and her further career, but also the future of the company he is going to leave, as from this point, with Jack’s possessing probably unique and reliable software of the company, A&A’s position on the market becomes unstable. The following decisions of the parties will also influence the families of Jack and Carla.

In the given situation, Carla acts compassionately towards her boss. She shows her interest in his business and seems to be sincere, without egoistic thoughts. For two years of working in the company, she probably became attached to Jack as an experienced leader. She worries about him not getting a promotion, although, she does not expect that it can stagger her own career and moral principles. When she finds out about Jack working on the side and catches him stealing the company’s software, she understands that she becomes involved in the situation as Jack’s assistant and a person who has witnessed the crime. She has a difficult problem to solve: either report on Jack or be silent.

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Carla is probably prone to deontology as the philosophy that teaches to act fairly and is aimed at the duty of a person. This is confirmed by how she reacts to Jack’s actions, exclaiming, “That’s stealing!”. When Carla hears Jack’s accusations of using the company’s telephone for long-distant calls and copying things for outside activities, she becomes silent. She thinks about the situation, and, though, she does not consider what she did as equal to stealing software, Carla has to solve the issue based on the principles differing from her usual philosophy. She needs to weigh all the pros and cons in order to decide what would be better for her, her career and her family in this situation. Carla has to adjust to the working conditions and decides to act in order not to lose her job or get bad ratings. She thinks about her husband being dependent on his business in Ohio and has nothing to do but choose a utilitarian approach. The utilitarian approach is aimed at a positive outcome for the majority of the parties involved in the situation. Carla is going to decide what would be right or wrong basing on the benefit for the majority. She considers silence to be more appropriate for her, her husband and her boss with his family while A&A Company, as a suffering side, is outnumbered. Besides, Jack’s logical explanations of his actions and his statement that the company would not bear losses convince Carla to make a decision in favor of the majority and, maybe, make her feel more comfortable and right about this decision.

Jack is a hard worker who devoted much of his time to A&A and made a great contribution to the company’s success. He preserved distributive justice philosophy, which is based on evaluating the outcomes of the business relations. He worked for the company’s good and considered it fair to be rewarded for his efforts, which is typical for this type of philosophy. However, A&A rejected to promote Jack promising to revise their decision in a few years. “I’ve done all that they’ve asked me to do. I’ve sacrificed a lot, and now they say a few more years. It’s not fair.”. Although justice is a type of philosophy closer to deontology regarding the issue of what one is due to do based on his/her rights and performance, Jack had subconscious theological principles aimed at the positive result of promotion. After the crucial point, when he does not get the result he expected, Jack changes his moral principles dramatically and finds this theological implication prevailing in his mind. As it is mentioned in the text, it took Jack about half a year to realize his position and make a decision. It is exposed to how he began to act. Jack did not care about his work anymore. He seemed to be protesting, coming at work late and leaving early. He was not ashamed of what he was doing and had done.

Jack was first focused on the company’s interests, but after rejection focused on his own benefit and his family. He seems to be egoistic when he steals and uses the software of his company for his own benefit. However, he did not do it until the rejection, and that makes his philosophy different from pure egoism. Here, we deal with enlightened egoism, when one cares about his own benefit and also allows for the well-being of the others. Jack justifies his working on the side by his needs and emphasizes unfair situation with failed promotion. He does not think that he harms his company as he works with people from a different area out of A&A’s interest. This means that he still thinks about his company, which again proves that he is not acting of pure egoism. Jack considers it fair to take software and compares it to calling at long distances or copying something for outside activities. By this comparison, Jack recollects the principles of justice. He does not equate his actions with stealing as he thinks that devoted work for A&A for such a long period enables him to use the software of the company as if he was the owner of these programs, and the unfair situation with promotion means that he can do whatever he wants to. Jack is convinced that Carla cannot judge him and is ready to rebuff. Carla considers his actions egoistic, but she has nothing to do with it as they both understand his superiority in the issue and the fact that Carla’s words do not mean anything against Jack’s, and it is impossible to reassure him.

In general, Jack is firm in his principles both before the rejection of promotion and after. He does not notice how his principles change, and that proves that his moral philosophies before and after the incident were similar. Carla doubts about making the right decisions and, probably, the prevailing deontological philosophy makes her contrite about the outcome.

The analyzed ethical dilemma considers the question of violation of workplace ethics. In this text, we encounter the problem of white-collar crime, stealing of the software, and silence as an act of concealment of this crime. The issue can be considered from the philosophical point of view as the confrontation of two different moral philosophies. The issue also regards the differences between a person’s moral philosophies outside and at work. Jack, the devoted worker in the A&A company, preserved distributive justice philosophy with the subconscious elements of theology for a long time. However, after the culminating moment of rejection in promotion, he gradually changed his principles for enlightened egoism. Carla, the novice in the company and Jack’s assistant, is a pure deontologist. Although, under the circumstances of the working environment, she forced herself to use the utilitarian approach as more appropriate and beneficial for the majority of the parties involved in the issue. As a result, the only party suffering in this situation is the A&A Company, which is predictable in the case of white-collar workers’ crimes.

People evaluate the situations they encounter within the real-life differently, each can judge from his/her own point of view about what is “good” and what is “bad” in the situation. However, everybody should observe certain rules both at home and in the workplace to remain humane. The differences between work and life moral philosophies are sometimes inevitable. It is impossible to judge about personal characteristics of the two workers relying on their workplace moral philosophy, as it happens that individuals can use different moral philosophies at work and outside it. The pressure of the working environment can make a person change his/her philosophy and adjust to the situation. That is what happened with Carla while Jack, being in an advantageous position, remained firm and stable, aiming at the positive outcome of his actions but not forgetting about the parties involved in the issue.

The moral philosophy of a worker has great influence on decision making and, consequently, on the company’s success. Knowing moral principles of the workers is a way of resolving problems within a working group and improving the work of the whole company.

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