Golden Rule and Virtue Ethics

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No one would disagree or argue that working is never easy. However, working and following all existing laws, including the rules of the country, state, company, morals, and conscience, is even harder. Sometimes a person may do everything possible to make the right choices, never hurt people, and stay ethical, but certain circumstances decide for him or her. There are specific moral issues that put an employee in a quandary and make him or her choose between two possible options, neither of which is absolutely acceptable from an ethical perspective. The purpose of this paper is to discuss an ethical dilemma that is faced by Luke, explain the essence of the problem, and recommend a course of action.

Introduction to the Situation

Luke is the ABC Company’s employee who is responsible for creating land projects. Several days ago, the company purchased land in order to build an adult entertainment retail store. Precisely Luke was asked to develop the building project, but there are some problems with this task, and he decided to go to the internal consultant of the Ethics Department for the ABC Company and ask for advice and recommendations. Luke’s problem is that the land is located on the corner of the neighborhood where his brother Owen lives. Owen aims at selling his house, and he recently told Luke that he got an offer to do that at a pretty good price. The problem is that, as soon as the plans for the retail store become public, property values for the surrounding neighborhood will considerably decrease. The project has to be announced publicly exactly in a month. Therefore, Luke faces a significant and severe ethical dilemma that may influence his present and future.

Luke’s Options for Solving the Problem

In this situation, he has two options that are not completely appropriate. Firstly, he can reveal classified information to his brother and convince him to sell the house as soon as possible. However, by doing this, Luke will break his confidentiality obligations to ABC, which is rather unethical and may make the company stop trusting him. Secondly, Luke can remain silent and not intervene, but then his brother may lose money from an unprofitable sale of the house or not sell it at all. Such a decision is immoral in terms of family and brotherhood. It is recommended that Luke insist that his brother sell the house within a month, but not give real reasons, referring to the fact that they are confidential.

Golden Rule

There are two theories of ethics that may be applied and help to solve Luke’s challenging problem. The first theory is the Golden Rule, which states a fundamental ethical principle: one should treat others the way he or she wants to be treated. The disadvantage of this theory is not entirely evident because this rule seems to be completely positive. It suggests people base their assumptions on hypotheses about how someone may react or feel in a given situation (“Business ethics and the Golden Rule,” 2018). Yet different persons do not have the same feelings and emotions, which is why it may be dangerous to apply this theory in every situation. The advantage of the Golden Rule is that it helps to prevent or perform some actions because before making a final decision, people think whether they would like someone to do exactly the same to them.

Applying the Golden Rule

If Luke applies the Golden Rule while making a decision, it is more likely that he will have a positive outcome. First, he needs to imagine himself in the place of his brother and ask himself: would he like someone to share this confidential information with him? If the answer is yes, then Luke needs to inform Owen about the project. However, if the answer is no, he can relax, remain silent, and not intervene. Therefore, the Golden Rule is rather helpful to apply in this situation.

Virtue Ethics

Another helpful theory is Virtue Ethics, which is one of the three normative ethics approaches. When it comes to ethical thinking, this theory focuses on people’s individual characters rather than actions and consequences (“Eleven Virtue Ethics strengths and weaknesses,” 2016). There are several central character traits, including kindness, fidelity, bravery, and justice. The advantage of this theory is that it deals with people’s virtues and how they use them to make others’ lives better. The disadvantage is that the Virtue Ethics is concentrated on a limited number of virtues.

Applying the Virtue Ethics

It is rather challenging to apply the Virtue Ethics to Luke’s situation. The two of four central character traits of this theory, kindness and fidelity, insist on thinking and caring about others. Thus, Luke needs to put his brother’s interests first and tell him about the retail store. However, justice requires treating other people impartially and equally, and bravery puts a person’s own self-care and protection first. Therefore, Luke has to think about his safety and reputation and never tell Owen about the project. This theory cannot solve Luke’s problem but may only confuse him.

Recommendations for Luke

The recommendation for Luke is based on the Golden Rule since this theory seems to be less controversial and leads to a concrete solution. According to this rule, if Luke wants someone to share essential information with him, he will do this for his brother. Moreover, there are three major reasons for Luke to choose the first variant of telling his brother the truth, even though it is unethical in terms of the ABC Company. First, breaking his obligations of confidentiality to ABC will not cause any damage to the company or its leadership because Luke does not tell this information to its competitors or intend to disrupt the construction of the retail store.

Second, the building project and the sale of Owen’s house are linked only by unilateral connection. In other words, opening a new store will cause Owen trouble, but not vice versa. That is why the store will be built in any case, but the disclosure of secret information can significantly help Luke’s brother. The third reason for sharing the essential information with Owen is connected with the previous two. The truth is that if Owen is the only one who gets this news from Luke, then no one from the company will lose the reputation, money, or trust. No one can get hurt because of Luke’s sincere concern for his brother. Therefore, he needs to fulfill his obligations of confidentiality to the company and also ensure Owen to sell the house as soon as possible without revealing the reasons.


Business ethics and the Golden Rule. (2018). Web.

Eleven Virtue Ethics strengths and weaknesses. (2016). Web.

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