Moral Awareness in Ethical Decision Making

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Nowadays, the policy of corporate governance is closely connected the psychological and human factors. It is obvious the human behavior and moral values of the worker strongly influences in the process of decision making. Therefore it is reasonable to discuss what the main reasons for decision making are. There is a strong belief that moral awareness is the most significant element of ethic decision making because it an inherent part of business ethics and it is the firs stage in the process of cognition. In addition, moral awareness has the philosophical nature

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Moral Awareness is an Inherent Part of Business Ethics

Decision making process is frequently used in the business sphere and is a part of business ethics. Touching upon this question the idea arises that business ethics does not exist and can be merely compared with a specific stylistic device as oxymoron (Andrew Crane and Dirk Matten 2007) since one word of the word combination contradicts another and vice versa. Despite the fact that decisions made in reference to business activities are not subjected to any logical thinking and do not comprise any hint for the decision being made according to the laws of ethics. Nonetheless, there are still some activities left for ethical judgment and are impossible to decide otherwise. That mostly concerns such aspects as leadership, cooperation, team working. Thus, that phenomenon serves to be an instrument for solving the conflict appeared while communication between employers and employees. Furthermore, business ethic is applied in various spheres of business activities and closely interconnected with the law as one more matter of choosing the right and the wrong. It worth adding, that business ethics should not be confused with the law that is also an academic subject although they are closely interacted. The reason for that is that ethics being broader in meaning can involved in many theoretical studies.

However, to follow business ethics is not an easy matter and there are numerous reasons for that. First of all, when coming to a new working team you may face the problem of breaking your own moral value and be imposed to act according to the business ethics of that company. In such ethical dilemma situations there appears a confrontation of moral principles. (Linda Klebe Trevino and Michael E. Brown 2004) It can be illustrated by an example running about the problem of employing children. Such an example makes us think over the moral issues involving in carrying out business.

Owing to the fact that there are a lot of unpredictable and disputable situations, the need for managing business ethics is crucial. To support the idea, the main function of business ethic is not only to solve the urgent situation arising while carrying business activities but to eliminate those people who express unwillingness to observe moral rules within the company and to avoid such cases in the future.

Moral awareness has philosophical nature

While talking about the concept of the business ethics, a special attention should be paid to the connections of that concept with Confucianism being “a body of philosophical ethical thought” (Cary Kok Yew Chan p. 347) despite the fact of assigning them to different origins. Since business ethics is “Western-oriented” nowadays, the supporters of Confucianism do not acknowledge the notion of business ethics as such. However, there are still common features for the controversial concepts which lies in the fact that both “undergone and are currently undergoing crises of sorts” (Cary Kok Yew Chan p. 347). Nevertheless, Confucianism is likely to contribute greatly to the improvement of moral awareness and moral intensity. Such suggestion is mostly based on the appropriate philosophic virtues such as respect and cooperation. In addition, using the term “ethics” in business activities presupposes the philosophical background of organizational codes and their following the ethical and moral standards. (Ronald R. Sims 1994) Thus, ethical behavior has become the main attribute of each respectable company that is eager to succeed in being promoted to a more advanced level of social and moral organization. More and more companies are concerned about the problem of bribery, polluting of the environment, encouraging the noble policy of social benefits for diligent workers. Nowadays, businesses are striving to work out their own strategy and to “frame work for principled reasoning” (Mary E. Guy 1990 p. 3) and ethical decisions as well. Hence, the whole essential scope of workplaces will be predominantly directed at the maintenance of moral codes. Mary E. Guy gives a precise characteristic of the term “ethics” and manages to briefly clarify the strict limits of that notion:

“Ethics is different from law because it involves no formal sanctions. It is different from etiquette because it goes beyond mere social convention. It is different from religion because it makes no theological assumptions. It is different from aesthetics because it is aimed at conduct and character rather than objects. It is different from prudence because it goes beyond self-interest to include the interests of others.” (Mary E. Guy p. 3)

Speaking about the organization itself, it should be admitted that it assessed by a society and the society itself is influenced by the organization imposing on the society newly-framed moral issues. The organizational domain also serves as one of the methods of performing social responsibilities and intercourse.

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Moral awareness as the first stage of ethic decision making

As it may be understood from all above mentioned, business ethics is based on moral awareness and intensity. So it is necessary to define these notions, how they function and how they are formed in the course of personality shaping. In most cases, moral awareness starts with moral concern which is one of psychological processes that greatly influence the human behaviors, their perception of the world and further decision taking. To be more exact, moral awareness is “recognition that situation raises ethical issues” (Deborah L. Rhone 2006). Besides, it reflects not only personal aspects but situational as well. Especially it concerns workplace where the employers do their best to encourage the employees and to evade the moral conflicts. Further on, moral awareness involves the feeling of humans’ capacity to sympathize and to reflect the awareness through such principles as justice, fairness and equality. The opposite feelings lead to the moral disengagement and frustration. Moral awareness is usually influenced by the level of socialization, religion, political outlook and education. These aspects of moral awareness can create the awareness of other needs of a person. However, depending on the above mentioned constituent parts that forms the human mentality sometimes one can across for moral myopia. Debora L. Rhone illustrates an example of employer’s pejorative attitudes to his subordinates calling them “total rubbish” (Deborah L. Rhone p.23). In fact, this must be considered a gross mistake since in this case the employer lacks moral awareness that provokes such a humiliating attitude.

Moral awareness presupposes moral reasoning lying in defining what is wrong or right, searching what is more acceptable for the society and forming judgments. In its turn, moral judgments can be distinguished depending on the position of the workers. Moral reasoning implies a relevant moral conduct. In the context of business activities it means grasping the idea of diffusion of responsibilities among the employers according their obligations and rank. The displacement of responsibilities contributes to the disclosure of passive workers (Deborah L. Rhone 2006).

Hence comes, the development of all those cognitive processes are of paramount importance in evaluating the problem and creating a decision. It should also be mentioned the trigger point of the decision making process belongs to the moral awareness since the capacity to recognize human’s bad and good values serves as the basis for the further mastering of the problem solving.

The notion of the ethic decision requires a particular consideration since it can be observed from different dimensions. And each one will be considered to be right from one point of view and unfair from another point of view. Similar situations are obvious in the working process especially if it concerns the subordinate relationships. The problem of decision making process demands the detailed consideration of stages as well while solving the problem. Joseph Ponterotto (2001) presents several stages in the decision making process and emphasizes that in any case the outcome of that decision will surely affect the ethical behavior or the surrounding people. Thus, we may constitute three main features of the ethic decision. Firstly, “the decision is likely to have effects on others” No matter what decision it affects people who either negatively or positively. Secondly, “the decision is likely to be characterized by choice” and finally “the decision is perceived as ethically relevant by one or more parties” (Thomas M. Jones and Lori Vestegen Ryan 1998).

However, the decision making equally depends on the situation impact and ethical behavior (David De Cremer 2009). As we know, human behavior is influenced both by our feelings and thoughts and by a particular situation in what a person may appear. So, it is necessary to take into consideration all the affects of influencing the situation on the ethical of unethical human behavior. A greater interest attached to the reason of immoral acts and decisions. Ann Tensbruel (2006) suggests the idea of “self-interest” as a ground motivation for unethical decision- making process in particular and the basic stages in decision making in general. In addition the author studies the influence of self-interest at various stages of decision making. In this case self-interest mostly contributes to loss of moral awareness and appears to be difficult for a person to acknowledge negative moral consequences of decision. Thus, in the relation to the moral awareness and moral intensity, the aspect of self-interest itself is important both for a particular person and for the working group owing to the fact that self-interest both explicitly and implicitly participates in decision making process and may be a serious obstacle for moral awareness. It means that there is a possibility that the final decision is likely to more subjective. Hence comes, that moral awareness is more objective phenomenon because it is mostly based on neutral assessment of bare facts.

As noted, the ethical decision making based on moral issue implies to be objective taking into consideration the fact that decision making process implies two levels of application which are mutually interconnected. In other words, decision making process is also strongly influenced by “general and special ethic perspectives” (Joseph G Ponterotto 2001) The role of moral awareness here lies in the fact relying on this element, only one variant of the problem solution is acceptable. Thus a ethic code is formed in the course of choosing the most appropriate decision. However ethic code is not universal as it implies that creation of exclusive rules for human behavior in a certain community. Hence comes, there is a tendency of using situation and the background while creating a possible solution to a problem.


Consequently, a thorough examination of that issue brings me to conclusion that the problem of ethic decision making is directly connected with moral awareness for the reason that it contributes greatly to the elimination of ambiguity in biased situations occurred at the workplace. On more ground for is the including of human factor in the process of carrying out of human activities and a philosophical basis of the moral issues nature. To support the idea, nowadays there is a tangible inclination to Oriental philosophy.

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Reference List

Crane A, Matten D 2007 Business ethics, CPI Bath Ltd, GB.

Chan G. K. 2007 ‘The relevance and Value of Confucianism in contemporary business Ethics’ Journal of Business Ethics, pp. 347-360.

Cremer D. 2009 Psychological Perspectives on Ethical Behavior and Decision Makin Process Information Age Publishing Inc, US

Guy, M. E. 1990. Ethical Decision Making in Everyday Work Situations. CT: Quorum Books, Westport

Jones T. M. and Ryan L. V. 1998 ‘The effect of organization forces on individual morality: judgment, moral approbation, and behavior’ Business Ethics Quarterly, vol. 8 pp. 431-445.

Ponterotto J. G. 1995 Handbook of multicultural counseling. Calif.: Sage, Calif, Thousand Oaks.

Rhone D. L. 2006 Moral Leadership: the theory and practice of power, judgment, and policy, A Willey Imprint, US.

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Sims, R. R. 1994. Ethics and Organizational Decision Making: A Call for Renewal. Quorum Books, Westport, CT

Tensbruel A.E 2006 Ethic in groups Elsever, Ltd, the Netherlands.

Trevino L.K and Brown M. E. 2004 ‘Managing to be ethical: debunking five business ethics myths’ Academy of Management Executive, vol. 18, pp. 69-84.

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