Theoretical Ethics and Its Application to Engineering

Theoretical Ethics and Its Application to Engineering

Engineering Ethics – Section 5

Lawrence Kohlberg was an educator at Harvard University during the mid 1970s and was popular for his chips away at formative brain science. He directed numerous examinations at Harvard’s Center for Moral Development and proposed a hypothesis on good improvement which is famously known as Kohlberg’s hypothesis.

His hypothesis of good improvement was reliant on the thinking about the Swiss clinician Jean Piaget and the American logician John Dewey. He was likewise enlivened by James Mark Baldwin. These men had accentuated that individuals grow logically and mentally in a dynamic manner.

Lawrence Kohlberg’s Theory

Kohlberg suggested that individuals progress in good thinking dependent on their moral conduct. He hypothesized this hypothesis dependent on the considering more youthful kids all through their developing period as grown-ups. He passed on that more youthful kids make judgment dependent on the outcomes that may happen and the more seasoned youngsters make judgment dependent on their instincts.


He accepted that there are six phases of good advancement which are additionally arranged into three levels. The accompanying outline demonstrates the various levels.


Lawrence Kohlberg’s Theory


The procedure being examined here is about the judgment made by the scholar about the hero in a given circumstance. The means of the reasoning procedure demonstrate the ethical improvement of the scholar.


Pre-ordinary Level


This can be comprehended as the principal level of good reasoning, which is commonly found at Elementary school level. The scholar at this stage will in general think and carry on dependent on the immediate outcomes that may happen. There are two sub-organizes in this.


Pre-regular Level


Maintain a strategic distance from Punishments


A scholar at this stage for the most part thinks and accepts that the judgment are to be made according to the socially worthy standards as they are said so by some higher authority (an educator or a parent). This is a youngster like compliance, so as to keep away from disciplines.


These musings depend on the possibility that the hero ought not resist the law or guidelines.


Personal responsibility

A mastermind at this stage, indicates enthusiasm for settling on choices as per the prizes they get in return. This subsequent stage is described by a view that correct conduct means acting in one’s very own eventual benefits.

In this stage, they will in general observe the principles of power since they accept this is important to guarantee positive connections and cultural request.

Regular Level

This can be comprehended as the second degree of good reasoning, which is commonly found at the essential and secondary school level. The scholar at this stage will in general think and carry on dependent on the need to satisfy others. There are two sub-arranges in this.

Customary Level

Getting individuals to like them

At this stage, the thoughts of the general public are considered. This level can be that where the hero carries on because of the ethical grounds which individuals choose for basic leadership. This choice could possibly bolster the law. Whatever the outcome is, the reasoning procedure depends on the best way to intrigue others or society and on the most proficient method to satisfy the individuals around.

Keep up working in the public arena

A scholar at this stage, considers to adhere to the standards to benefit the general public. The ethical grounds on how individuals in the general public will consider the activity done will be the need, in light of the fact that the scholar accepts that a social request is kept up by keeping the principles.

Consequently a mastermind adheres to the possibility that the hero ought to pursue the virtues. The mastermind’s conduct is driven by the position while his speculation complies with the social request.

Post-Conventional Level

This can be comprehended as the third degree of Moral reasoning, which is by and large found after the secondary school level. The scholar at this stage will in general think and act dependent on a feeling of equity. There are two sub-arranges in this.

Post-Conventional Level

Reject unbending nature of laws

In this level, the mastermind utilizes his ethical speculation aptitudes at an estimable pace. He begins to feel for the hero dependent on good grounds. He likewise may have a sentiment that the standards must be changed by compassionate qualities. The mastermind rejects the inflexibility of the current laws and standards at this stage.

Feeling of equity

This is the zenith phase of Moral improvement where the scholar feels a feeling of equity for the hero. The scholar has incredible virtues that he keeps himself free from the outer variables that may impact his reasoning procedure.

These are the three primary segments of good improvement proposed by Lawrence Kohlberg. Give us now a chance to attempt to have some itemized thought on this with a model.


Moral Authority of Professional Engineering

Moral Authority of Professional Engineering

Engineering Ethics – Section 4

Moral Autonomy is simply the way of thinking which is administering or self-deciding, i.e., acting freely without the impact or bending of others. The ethical independence identifies with the individual thoughts whether right or wrong lead which is free of moral issues. The idea of good independence helps in improving self-assurance.

Moral Autonomy is worried about autonomous frame of mind of an individual identified with good/moral issues. This idea is found in good, moral and even in political way of thinking.

Moral Autonomy – Skills Needed

In this area, let us examine the abilities required for good self-governance.

Capacity to relate the issues with the issues of law, financial aspects and religious standards − It is fundamental to be able to investigate an issue and finding the connection with the current law or the subject of issue with the current standards on that theme. The capacity to recognize them two and finding the ethical reasons.

Expertise to process, explain and comprehend the contentions against the ethical issues − If the issue is against some virtues or the moral qualities to be followed in the general public, at that point lucidity ought to be kept up about the distinctions and likenesses. Both of these distinctions and similitudes are to be made a decision about dependent on why they involve concern and in what perspective.


Capacity to recommend the answers for good issues based on realities − If the ethical issues are not satisfying and should be, at that point the arrangements are to be proposed by the ethical issues dependent on the realities and facts of the issue. These proposals must be reliable and must incorporate every one of the parts of the issue. No favoritism is to be permitted in any such angle.


Must have the inventive ability to see the issues from every one of the perspectives − After having thought about the realities and dreams of the issue, a reasonable comprehension is achieved in review the issue in a wide range of perspectives. This empowers one to have the option to recommend an appropriate elective arrangement.

Resistance while giving good judgment, which may raise a ruckus − When the entire investigation is made thinking about every one of the perspectives of the issue, the last yield may be or probably won’t satisfy the people in question. Consequently while announcing the judgment or the choices taken, a point by point depiction of the activities done ought to be given, while the activities should be done ought to be exhibited in a superior manner, to guarantee others that the choices have been taken with no prejudices towards any gathering.

Resilience while giving good judgment, which may raise a ruckus − When the entire examination is made thinking about every one of the perspectives of the issue, the last yield may be or probably won’t satisfy the people in question. Consequently while announcing the judgment or the choices taken, a point by point portrayal of the activities done ought to be given, while the activities should be done ought to be exhibited in a superior manner, to guarantee others that the choices have been taken with no prejudices towards any gathering.

Moral Autonomy Skills Needed

Aptitudes for Improving Moral Autonomy

Moral self-sufficiency mirrors the idea of uniqueness. This identifies with structure one’s self with the virtues one has while growing mentally.

To have moral self-sufficiency in every one of the perspectives, one ought to have a ton of persistence and intrigue. One ought to hold fast to the essential standards of humankind and ought to be severe considering the “Don’ts” he has and liberal with his “Do’s”. The thoughtfulness towards his kindred creatures is additionally a significant idea to be remembered. Teaching of all these significant characteristics, improves the aptitudes of Moral independence in an individual.

A Person must have satisfactory learning and comprehension about the utilization of moral language to guard or bolster his perspectives with others. He should have better information in understanding the significance of proposals and better arrangements while settling moral issues and furthermore about the significance of resilience on some basic circumstances.

Most importantly, one must comprehend the significance of keeping up good trustworthiness and ought to be liberal to comprehend the human conduct in specific situations.


Ethical Obligations of Professional Engineering

ethical obligations

Engineering Ethics – Section 3

On occasion, the circumstances happen where one can’t settle on quick choices as the ethical reasons clash. The ethical reasons can be rights, obligations, merchandise or commitments, which settle on the basic leadership complex.

Moral Dilemmas

Kinds of Complexities

The troubles in landing to an answer, when isolated, can be partitioned into the accompanying three areas.


This alludes to the condition where the uncertainty lies in whether the activity alludes to positive or negative. This is much the same as having an idea that keeping the principles is compulsory. This occasionally incorporates the unwritten guidelines like being steadfast, having regard, looking after privacy, and so on.

Clashing reasons

When you think about the arrangements you have, the creation of better decision among the ones you have, will be the inside clash. Fixing the needs relies on the information and the virtues one has. The motivation behind why the specific decision is being made, bodes well.


At the point when there are at least two arrangements and none among them is obligatory, the last arrangement chose ought to be best reasonable under existing and the most likely conditions. The translation with respect to the ethical purposes for the decision and investigation ought to be made remembering whether this is the better or the more awful arrangement in the likely perspectives.

Steps in Facing Moral Dilemmas

At whatever point an individual is looked with an ethical quandary, the issue is to be settled with a stepwise approach as this will produce a superior yield. The means incorporate the accompanying −

Recognizable proof

The progression of recognizable proof includes the accompanying −

  1. The issue must be completely comprehended.
  2. The obligations and the duties of the people included are to be plainly known.
  3. The ethical elements identified with the issue are to be comprehended.
  4. The clashing obligations, the contending rights and the conflicting thoughts included are to be distinguished.


The contemplations in the issue are to be recorded down. At that point they must be positioned by the needs. The ethical perspective must be considered to rank the issues. The benefits of a solitary individual ought to never be given any significance except if any ethical explanation is there behind it. No favoritism is permitted.


The request of subtleties associated with the issue is to be totally made. Every one of the realities identified with the issue are brought into light. Thinking about the elective game-plans for settling and following, full ramifications are additionally required.


Dialogs are to be made with different individuals, as various personalities take a gander at the issue in various perspectives to give various arrangements. The total investigation of an issue offers opportunities to various perspectives, points of view and feelings from which a superior arrangement can be drawn.

Last Solution

In the wake of dissecting alternate points of view and considering the realities and reasons based on certainties and understanding the imperfections which lead to the issue, a last arrangement must be drawn out. This arrangement will enhance the entire examination, in all perspectives.

Ethical Issues Facing Engineers

Ethical Issues Facing Engineers

Engineering Ethics – Section 2

An ethical issue can be comprehended as an issue to be settled by thinking about the specialized stuff as well as by remembering virtues. To be progressively exact, let us think about the definition as a rule.

“Good issue is a working meaning of an issue of good concern is introduced as any issue with the possibility to help or damage anybody, including oneself.”

Sorts of Moral Issues

There are fundamentally two sorts of ethical issues that we for the most part go over while remembering the moral viewpoints to react. They are −

Miniaturized scale morals 

This methodology focuses on additional on the issues that happen once a day in the field of building and its training by engineers.

Large scale morals 

This methodology manages social issues which are obscure. Be that as it may, these issues may out of the blue face the warmth at both territorial and national levels.


Give us now a chance to comprehend a couple of models identified with good issues.

Model 1

After an ongoing breakdown of a structure wherein numerous individuals passed on, an Engineer came to think about an extension which is possibly protected. He educated his better who asked him than remain quiet and not to examine with anybody, while hanging tight for the following year spending sessions to get some money related assistance for the fix required. What should the designer do?

Model 2

What should an Engineer who watches his partner duplicating secret data unapproved, do right away? In the event that he stops his companion, imagine a scenario in which this gets rehashed without his notice. On the off chance that he reports the administration, imagine a scenario where his companion loses the employment. Which is ethically right?

Model 3

A specialist who builds up a prototype for the task, loses it because of an incident precisely the day preceding the accommodation. Is it ethically right to redistribute the model of the venture and decrease the dangers of employment frailty? What would it be a good idea for him to do?

These are the couple of models just to comprehend the sort of good situations. There may be at least one right answers now and again. There can be some other route around to manage the issue, which one can only with significant effort take note. In any case, the choices must be made by following a moderate and clear process so as to maintain a strategic distance from further issues and furthermore to tackle this in a way that prompts no second thoughts.

Sorts of Inquiries

The issues can be settled by following an examination method, bit by bit so as to have a reasonable comprehension towards the issue. Here we have three distinct kinds of request.

Making a decision about the issues must be trailed by a precise methodology to stay away from any imperfections. Building morals includes examinations concerning qualities, implications and realities. Following are the various sorts of request made for this.

  • Standardizing request
  • Reasonable request
  • Verifiable or engaging request
  • Kinds of Inquiries

Standardizing Inquiries

Standardizing Inquiry alludes to the depiction that portrays what one should do under a particular situation. This is the normal perfect reaction, which may vary from what one accepts to be correct or wrong.

This rundown recognizes and legitimizes the ethically alluring nature for directing people or gatherings. This incorporates the obligation of designers to secure the open wellbeing and how they ought to react under such risky practices. Standardizing request likewise quote the laws and techniques that influence the building practice on good grounds. They allude to the point of view where the ethical rights are to be actualized so as to satisfy their expert commitments.

Applied Inquiries

Applied Inquiry alludes to the portrayal of the importance of ideas, standards and issues identified with designing morals. The morals that an architect ought to have to ensure the security, wellbeing and welfare of people in general, and so forth are depicted under reasonable request.

It portrays what wellbeing is and makes reference to the negligible issues of security alongside the safety measures a specialist should go out on a limb. Calculated request notice the ethical parts of renumeration and how its belongings, alongside the expert morals and demonstrable skill.

Accurate and Descriptive Inquiries

Accurate Inquiry or the expressive request help to give the realities to comprehension and discovering answers for the worth based issues. The specialist needs to direct true request by utilizing logical procedures.

This aides in giving the data viewing the business substances, for example, building practice, history of designing calling, the viability of expert social orders, the methodology to be received when evaluating dangers and mental profiles of architects.

Release us now through the idea of Moral predicament that an individual countenances when stood up to with a circumstance.


Engineering Ethics

Engineering Ethics

What Does Engineering Ethics Mean

Engineering is the way toward building up a proficient system which enlivens and facilitates the work utilizing restricted assets, with the assistance of innovation. Morals are the standards acknowledged by the general public, which likewise liken to the ethical benchmarks of people. An engineer with morals, can help the general public in a superior manner.

Henceforth the investigation of Engineering Ethics, where such morals are executed in designing by the specialists, is fundamental to benefit the general public. Building Ethics is the investigation of choices, arrangements and qualities that are ethically attractive in designing practice and research.


“Morality” starts from the Latin word “mos” signifying “custom”. Ethics are the standards or propensities as for right or wrong of one’s own direct. They are not forced by anybody. Ethics are what you believe is great and terrible by and by.

Despite the fact that ethics are not forced, they can be comprehended as the proclaiming of our internal identity. Contingent upon a couple of elements, our mind channels things as positive or negative. These are the thoughts that help outline our character with the goal that we can recognize what is correct and what’s up.

A good is the set of accepted rules that you create after some time and set for yourself to pursue, much the same as:

  1. Regarding everybody
  2. Talking just reality
  3. Conflicting with what you know isn’t right
  4. Having virtuousness
  5. Abstain from deceiving
  6. Being a decent individual and so on.

Ethics are constantly characterized by one’s own character. Ethics can be changed by one’s convictions as they are totally reliant on one’s recognition towards the moral qualities.


“Ethics” starts from the Greek word “ethos” signifying “character”. Morals are a lot of guidelines or rules that are commonly considered as benchmarks or great and terrible or good and bad, which are generally forced by an outer gathering or a general public or a calling or somewhere in the vicinity.

Morals can be comprehended as the guidelines of direct proposed by a general public or perceived concerning a specific class of human activities or a specific gathering or culture. Morals are subject to others definition. They could conceivably shift from setting to setting.

An individual who carefully pursues a lot of moral standards, might not have any good whatsoever while an individual who damages moral standards now and again, may keep up a high good respectability. The moral hypotheses incorporate obligation morals, right morals, excellence morals, etc. A best model that can clarify morals is utilitarianism.

Utilitarianism is the way of thinking which clarifies that the satisfaction or delight of a biggest number of individuals in the general public is considered as the best great. As indicated by this way of thinking, an activity is ethically right if its results prompts satisfaction of the individuals and wrong if the activity prompts their despondency. This hypothesis moves past the extent of one’s own advantages and considers the interests of others.


Morals are standards pursued relying on the ethical duty that an individual feels. The investigation of related inquiries regarding moral goals, character, approaches and connections of individuals and associations engaged with innovative movement, can be named as Engineering morals.

A designer whether he works separately or works for an organization, needs to experience some moral issues, generally under the conditions, for example, conceptualization of an item, issues emerging in structure and testing offices, or might be on the issues including the assembling, deals and administrations. Questions identified with ethical quality likewise emerge during supervision and group works.

The moral choices and virtues of an architect should be considered on the grounds that the choices of a designer have an effect the items and administrations – that they are so sheltered to utilize, the organization and its investors who have confidence in the altruism of the organization, the general population and the general public who trusts the organization in regards to the advantages of the individuals, the law which thinks about how enactment influences the calling and industry.

An engineer, however everybody needs to pursue a lot of ethics so as to avoid getting ethically corrupted. Our conduct ought to incorporate the accompanying −

  1. Regarding others and ourselves.
  2. Regarding the privileges of others.
  3. Keeping guarantees.
  4. Keeping away from superfluous issues to other people.
  5. Abstaining from tricking and deceptive nature.
  6. Indicating appreciation towards others and urge them to work.

Ethical quality directions regard for people, both others and ourselves. It includes being reasonable and simply, meeting commitments and regarding rights and not causing pointless mischief by untruthfulness and mercilessness or by hubris.


At whatever point there happens an issue, one ought to have a couple of abilities so as to deal with the issue. The issues that architects face, must be managed tolerance and couple of good objectives must be remembered while managing such issues. They are as per the following −

Moral Awareness − One ought to have the option to perceive the ethical issues and issues that happen in Engineering. The investigation on the issue is important so as to separate and make a decision as indicated by morals or as per the standards to pursue.

Apt Moral Reasoning − In request to reach a resolution on an issue, the contention must be surveyed and grasped. The contention on the two sides must be considered with every one of the probabilities and the idea of the contention ought to be coherent and moral.

Moral Coherence − After having experienced all the coherent and good certainties, steady and far reaching perspective focuses are to be shaped dependent on a thought of important realities.

Moral Imagination − The ethical issues and the useful issues must be managed independently. Elective reactions are to be discovered for managing good issues while inventive arrangements ought to be discovered for reasonable troubles.

Moral Communication − The language to impart about one’s ethical perspectives ought to be so exact and clear, that the articulation or words ought not change the first significance.

In spite of the fact that one has all these ethical objectives, the moral thinking for accomplishing good lead with obligation and duty is acquired by a couple of abilities that are depicted beneath.


Give us now a chance to examine the significant aptitudes for moral thinking −

Moral Reasonableness − The capacity and ability to be ethically sensible that one ought to have while managing such issues. Except if one is ready and improve such capacity, equity is impossible.

Regard for Persons − The people associated with the issue, ought to be treated with certified worry by one. Such concern ought to likewise be there with oneself alongside being there for other people.

Resilience of decent variety − One ought to have a more extensive point of view towards ethnic and religious contrasts that the individuals have. Each individual contrasts with another when looked at on grounds of good thinking. The acknowledgment of those distinctions is extremely significant.

Good trust − The ethical clashes can be settled by utilizing better correspondence and having sound discourse which is clear based and open-finished which is satisfactory and considerable by both the gatherings.

Honesty − The ethical trustworthiness must be kept up. Being straightforward and having solid good standards causes one to determine an issue in a productive way. An individual likewise needs to think about other’s expert life and individual feelings while taking care of an issue.

Ethics and the Emergence of World Trade

Ethics and the Emergence of World Trade

Ethics and the Emergence of World Trade

The emergence of world trade is revealing much to us about how to succeed in a global economy.  But to understand the global marketing we must learn to think like people first and business executives second.  This of course seems to be easier said than done.

Everywhere we look our senses are bombarded with corporate reasoning that resembles intellectual incest more than logic.  First we are bombarded by boardroom news releases and management consultant incantations that progress requires strategic positioning such as the formation of trading blocks, the acquisitions and mergers of leading brands, the consolidation of distribution systems, or the establishment of restrictive supplier and customer alliances, just to name a few.  Since these strategies are so popular they must work, right?  Do not be so sure of this.

A closer look at world trade reveals that these developments are unsustainable surface tactics at best, and distractions at worst.  The real strategic developments, which will carry the most sustainable advantages, are found in the underlying background factors of technology and human behavior.  As the explosion in information and communication technology brings people closer together in world terms, the power behind global business shifts from structural systems to people systems.   As people systems emerge and interact with other people systems a powerful invisible hand extends its reach to influence whom the new winners and losers will be.  This invisible hand is our system of ethics.

Our system of ethics forces people systems to develop quality in their behavior.  Acting as a filter to remove unwanted behavior while retaining and developing good behavior, this filtering process is achieved through the pursuit of four attributes all human societies strives for:

  1. Logical processes and internal consistency.
  2. Coherence with other strong theoretical positions.
  3. Utility for individuals, groups, and humanity.
  4. Transactional success in a repeatable social system.

When applying the system of ethics we quickly find ourselves doing things differently, and these differences will open doors for world trade.

Our system of ethics forces us to conduct ourselves, as we would have others behave.  If we choose to compete fairly, others will be encouraged to do the same and trade will be a controllable enterprise where marketable products and services thrive in predictable ways.  Conversely, if we choose to reserve certain advantages only for ourselves at the expense of other trading partners, our outcomes at best will be uncontrollable as the market will react to our trickery with trickery of its own resulting in lost opportunities for the system as a whole.

Our system of ethics forces us to think in terms of quality.  In a global economy no sale is just a sale.  In a global economy every sale is linked severely to the endless chain of world suppliers who also participate in that sale.  In this economic environment any degree of non-quality passed along to a single customer creates a ripple effect of failure costs throughout the world system.  Even though the initial poor quality did not harm the original seller financially in that instance, a much greater harm was passed along to society and the world.  Poor quality by others harms us all every hour of every day.  Knowing this, our system of ethics requires us to do quality all the time, not just when it pays us immediately to do so.

Our system of ethics forces global traders to respect the ways of others.  Before any significant trade can be consummated there must exist a certain mutual interest, respect, and trust which underlies all trade.  There must exist the possibility of transactions, which meet the needs of both parties, not just one party at the expense of the other. There must exist a mutual respect for the ways of each so that neither will intentionally nor unintentionally offend the other.  For trade to occur there must be trust between trading partners.  Each party must know the other is committed to the relationship,  that stable operating environments of law, civil order, and commerce will be maintained, and that problems which arise will be resolved by a due process which is fair to all.  Mutual interest, respect, and trust are also central ingredients of people systems, and where there are people systems the power behind the people systems invariably will be their ethics system.

Therefore our success as world traders in the long run will not depend on the structures we organize around as they are shallow, tactical and unsustainable at best.  Our success will follow from strategies that focus on the quality of our people systems and the faithful use of technology and ethics which support them.


Business Ethics: Are they Important?

Business Ethics Are they Important

Business Ethics: Are they Important?

Leading business schools and management experts have stressed the importance of business ethics in the management.  They have stressed the risks associated with blatant ethical failures such as large legal judgments, prison terms, anti-trust litigation, fines, lost sales, lost good will, etc.  They have also stressed the moral need for organizations to do what is right for moral purposes alone.  While these reasons are all legitimate they miss the biggest reason why business ethics are important:  organizational performance.

Business ethics as a field of management has been stuck in “neutral”  or “external failure mode” for decades.  In this mode business ethics seeks to address only the blatant issues at hand, especially those which are associated with high external failure costs.  The reality is this is only the tip of the failure cost iceberg.  The  largest failure cost component in business ethics is actually the internal failure costs, or the failures that go on routinely within the organization every day, which go largely unnoticed and unmanaged.

The leading causes of many organizational problems -customer dissatisfaction, employee turnover, ineffective quality improvement and training efforts, failed mergers and technology projects, weak innovation, and failed product development – all have been linked as much to failures in the operating culture as all other factors combined.

Operating culture can be attributable to over half of all documented Quality Costs (Costs of Poor Quality).  If Quality Costs for world class organizations run between 10 and 15% of total sales revenue, the associated operating culture/ethics component in the best world class companies is costing companies billions annually.  If the average organization is running Quality Costs of 20-25%, the associated operating culture/ethics component is so significant it may pose an extraordinary opportunity for improvement or an imperative for mere survival.

Most quality improvement projects deal with visible processes such as discrete operations.  It is entirely possible to address the processes but still have major unresolved issues, especially people issues.  If people do not want to cooperate and work together, or if tensions are high, process improvement becomes increasingly difficult.  These people issues often are the result of  recurring “mini ethics failures” that need to be prevented.

There is a human tendency in management to seek single (special) causes for failure when multiple, systematic (common) causes are at work.  In such instances blaming failure on “poor leadership,” “poor employee execution,” or  “market externalities,”  may be convenient politically and identify scapegoats but in reality they rarely fix, change, or improve anything.  A major (common) root cause of sub optimum performance in organizations can consistently be traced to patterns of business ethics failures within the operating cultures.  The ability of organizations to manage ethics at this micro level is a process capability that yields significant economic returns.  This is what Ethics Quality is all about.


What is Ethics?

What is Ethics?

What is Ethics?

Ethics is a body of principles or standards of human conduct that govern the behavior of individuals and groups. Ethics arise not simply from man’s creation but from human nature itself making it a natural body of laws from which man’s laws follow.

Ethics is a branch of philosophy and is considered a normative science because it is concerned with the norms of human conduct, as distinguished from formal sciences such as mathematics and logic, physical sciences such as chemistry and physics, and empirical sciences such as economics and psychology.  As a science ethics must follow the same rigors of logical reasoning as other sciences.

The principles of ethical reasoning are useful tools for sorting out the good and bad components within complex human interactions.  For this reason the study of ethics has been at the heart of intellectual thought since the early Greek philosophers, and its ongoing contribution to the advancement of knowledge and science makes ethics a relevant, if not vital, aspect of management theory.  Ethical principles continue, even today, to have a profound influence on many modern management fields including quality management, human resource management, culture management, change management, risk management, mergers, marketing, and corporate responsibility.

Socrates argued that the determination of good or bad behavior depended entirely on the integrity of the rational process.  Plato argued that to know good was to do good, that doing good was more useful and rational than doing bad, and that one who behaved immorally did so largely out of ignorance.  Aristotle argued that ethics was a purely logical outcome of human nature and it was useful because it was logical.  Kant argued that system-wide consistency was a logical requirement of ethics, stating that ethics begins with the rejection of non-universalizable principles, and that any adopted ethical principle must be a desirable universal law to be applied by everybody.  Pareto clarified the win-win relationship into philosophical terms by defining Pareto Efficiency as the transactional state where at least one party is better off, most are as well off, and none are worse off.  These are just a small sampling of powerful ethical principles that, when applied, will improve performance in any organization.

Ethics is much more than just a collection of values.  Values are almost always oversimplifications, which rarely can be applied uniformly.  Values tend to be under-defined, situational by nature, and subject to flawed human reasoning such that by themselves they cannot assure true ethical conduct.  Consider the sought after value of employee loyalty. Should employees be loyal to co-workers, supervisors, customers, or investors?  Since it may be impossible to be absolutely loyal to all four simultaneously, in what order should these loyalties occur?  Employers that demand employee loyalty rarely can answer this question completely.  Regarding the inadequacy of values, consider this.  Murderers, criminals, and liars all have values, so does this make them ethical?  Also, killing can be either unethical or ethical (such as in self defense) depending on the situation (religious arguments aside for the moment).  For these reasons and more, values by themselves are generally insufficient measures of ethics.

Real ethics calls for a more rigorous treatment of the subject than most business ethics approaches take.  Real ethics is a process of rational thinking aimed at establishing what values to hold and when to hold them. Real ethics requires the continuous realignment of values and reasoning patterns in accordance with ethical principles. In real ethics, we must be ready to adjust our values, thinking, and behavior to be ethical and to remain ethical over time.  Hence, ethics demands a willingness to change.  In organizational ethics we find a metaphysical paradox.  Change management requires ethics, and ethics requires change management.  Since both are true at the same time, with each preceding the other, we can only conclude one thing:  that indeed the quickest way to assure poor ethics may be to require fixed adherence to values.

Real ethics is about ordering the complexities of human behavior in the most useful manner for all involved. Subsequently, in every conceivable human endeavor there exists an ethical component that either succeeds in achieving usefulness and good for all involved, or fails to do so in varying degrees.  This gap between reality and the ideal state can be expressed as a quality problem and solved using both ancient and modern management methods.

Ethics Quality occurs when two conditions are met: when a repeatable reasoning process is followed; and when the outputs of this reasoning result in the intents, means, and ends all being “good.”  When the conditions for ethics quality are met the organization becomes capable of preventing ethical failure, not just catching and punishing it.  Without a means of prevention organizations have no means for controlling its ethics quality.  The key to good organizational ethics is awareness and real time detection (before the fact, not after).  Both awareness and detection can be greatly enhanced by basic awareness training, training aids and group diagnostic surveys. It is a regrettable fact that most ethical failures in organizations are detected well after the fact making any realistic prevention unlikely.

Poor ethics can be extremely damaging to organizational performance (ref. Enron).  When ethical behavior is poor it taxes operational performance in many visible, and sometimes invisible ways. The tax can be on yield or productivity, which is easily measured. The tax can impose itself on group dynamics, suppressing openness and communication, which is hard to measure but easily felt.  Perhaps the most dangerous tax is the one placed on risk, which is neither measurable nor easily sensed.  Whether the damage is visible or invisible, poor ethics blinds the organization to the realities of their declining environment leaving any organization vulnerable to setbacks that could be avoided.

Good ethics on the other hand have a surprisingly positive effect on organizational activities and results. Productivity improves.  Group dynamics and communication improve, and risk is reduced. One reason for this is ethics becomes an additional form of logical reasoning, increasing the flow of information, and adding an additional set of eyes and antennae to give the organization needed feedback regarding how it is doing.  Increased reasoning capabilities, coupled with additional information, is a strategic advantage in any business or organization.

Real organizational ethics is a rational process for exploring all possible behavior alternatives and selecting the best possible choices for all involved.  Real ethics, at the organizational level, goes beyond personal ethics and values.  Real ethics is a collective undertaking, or a team sport, with team like demands and results. Ethical issues in organizations can get complicated very quickly, so much that even the best trained ethicists often will not know what decisions to make or what ought to be done. Such times are precisely when the disciplined reasoning of ethics quality pays off the most. Ethical decisions and their corresponding behaviors in organizational settings are never perfect. However, the quality of the processes applied, as well as the usefulness of their outcomes, is precise and measurable with scientific certainty.  It is through the process of ethical reasoning that bad things are preventable and great things become more possible.

Organizations need ethics quality not only to prevent unhealthy behavior but to inspire superior reasoning and performance.  It is only through human nature, and ethics, that we can inspire greater levels of innovation, teamwork, and process breakthroughs that result in sustainable competitive advantages.  Oliver Wendell Holms wrote, “Once a person’s mind is expanded by a new idea the mind can never return to its original form.”  The same is true with management and ethics.  When managers understand how ethics makes them better, their role as a manager changes forever.  Once ethics is learned we all acquire the ability to see what we often could not see before.  We see that using ethics – the reasoning science – to improve individual and group performance is what real ethics -and real management- are all about.

Nine Attributes of Good Ethics Policy

Ethics Policy

Nine Attributes of a Good Ethics Policy

The first objective of any ethics policy is to facilitate legitimate ethical reasoning activity. It is impossible to merely glance at an ethics policy and judge its “goodness.” The true test of any ethics policy is how it actually works within a specific organization. The following attributes are frequently missing in weak ethics policies, and are positive drivers in strong policies:

1. Addressing the “Big E (not just the “little e”)

Policies not only need to address compliance issues (the “little e”) but  the “Big E” issues such as reasoning, prevention and performance.  The “little e” is more about control and compliance, whereas the “Big E” is about assuring that intents, means, and ends are “good.”  For ethics policies to be impactful and truly improve ethics and contribute value to the organization, they need to be more about the “Big E” than the “little e.”

2.  Universality

Ethical policies must be based on sound logic and universal ethical principles (such as The Golden Rule and The Greatest Good), and these universal principles must be capable of trumping compliance policies.

3. Sound Logical Reasoning

Most ethical reasoning flaws begin with logical reasoning flaws. Ethics policies need to reflect a commitment to data driven and logical decision processes, information sharing, effective dialog and examination.  Ethics can not operate without facts and execution between people. See our training aid Organizational Reasoning.

4. Ethical Examination Skills

Ethical reasoning is a process capability that is a component of organizational reasoning capability. Without sound ethical reasoning the organization becomes less capable of solving problems and making sound decisions. Ethics policies need to reflect a commitment to developing ethical reasoning capabilities at every level of the organization, with every employee, regarding how to elevate dialog and reasoning to “right versus right” reasoning modes. Developing and sustaining  such skills requires an organizational commitment to training, practice and rewards. See our training services.

5. Transforming “wrong” to “right” and “bad” to “good”

Good ethics policies promote skills where logical fallacies and ethical lower forms will be identified and transformed into higher forms of universal ethical reasoning. The transformation of wrong thinking, wrong actions, and bad outcomes to right thinking, right actions and good outcomes is the “blocking and tackling” of organizational ethics. See our training aid 101 Fallacies and Lower Forms. To encourage this constructive activity the policy must assure that any employee may freely engage and question the ethics of any action without penalty. The organization needs to actively solicit inputs from all participants to aid in the identification of ethical issues. See our Online Group Surveys and Diagnostics.

6. Prevention

Ethical policies need to emphasize the importance of identifying “bad” ethical rationale and transforming them to “good” ethical rationale, as stated in Attribute #5, but with one kicker:  It must be accomplished before the fact.” Most ethics policies are compliance based and merely catch wrongdoing “after the fact” when many of the failures, if they had been identified earlier, could have easily been prevented. A good ethics policy incorporates early warnings and checks and balances, not merely to catch and punish violators, but to identify emerging risks, facilitate behavior change, and to prevent ethics failures.

7. Organizational Change Orientation

Organizational processes and practices impose a dominating influence on individual ethical behavior in organizations. Ethics policies need to encourage and reward the willingness to adapt values and behavior patterns to improve the organization’s moral maturity. Policies need to confront processes more than individual’s actions, and focus more on awareness and change than just compliance. Adherence to fixed value positions at the exclusion of systematic causes in an organizational context can itself become a cause of unethical behavior, posing an even greater liability to the group than minor issues of noncompliance. Moving the entire group to the next moral maturity level is far more important to organizational well-being than punishing an employee for a petty violation that should have been prevented in the first place.

8. Employee Training

Ethics policies should require uniform ethics training around logically applied universal ethical principles. Furthermore, after initial training the principles need to be continuously emphasized, integrated and promoted by a structured managerial effort, team or committee. Most employees need to be exposed to the ethical principles several times before they can internalize them, and most need to actively practice them with the support of fellow workers to develop proficiency with them. See courses: Basic Ethics Training and Getting Ethics into Organizations.

9. Leadership by Example

Ethics policies are not tactical or symbolic monuments that executives can erect and delegate, or worse yet ignore.  Ethics policies are only as valid as the commitment  management give to them. Management is ultimately responsible for the firm’s moral maturity level, and therefore needs to be held to a higher ethical standard than regular employees, not the lower standard we too often see among corporate leaders. Management’s commitment to organizational ethics sets the tone for the ethical direction and performance of the entire organization. Management determines whether that direction is positive, negative, or stagnant. Therefore, ethics policies themselves are not the primary indicator of an organization’s moral maturity. Management’s commitment  to preventing poor organizational reasoning and conduct, and their willingness to hold themselves to a higher standard and lead by example, are the two greatest indicators of ethics excellence in the organization.


Ethics Tests

Ethics Tests

Ethics Tests: 

  • Determine the quality of your group’s ethical reasoning skills.
  • Serious about getting ethics into your organization?

Quick Test for Organizational Ethics Quality

[answer “yes” or “no”]

  1. Are you proud of your group’s ethics?
  2. Are communications void of false pretexts or hidden agendas?
  3. Do ethical codes, policies and practices work positively for everyone?
  4. Is the group routinely improving processes with high consensus?
  5. Do improvements matter and/or last?
  6. Is current resistance to change normal and/or inconsequential?
  7. Is there sufficient trust and openness to resolve important issues?
  8. Are existing practices and policies free of double standards?
  9. Do your superiors set good examples and reward good ethics?
  10. Are your group’s ethics an asset that contributes to business results?

Count the “No’s.”  How did you do?

0 – 3 = excellent,  4 – 6 = average,  7 – 10 = poor.

If you scored average or worse, your organization probably has significant room for improvement and would benefit from assessment and training services.

Short Basic Test for Applied Ethics Quality.

  1. Are lower forms of ethical reasoning routinely interfering with ethical reasoning and decision making?
  2. Is the group routinely failing to meet it’s highest duties in its everyday decisions?
  3. Do everyday decisions generally fail to meet the Golden Rule and serve the Greatest Good for the Most?
  4. Are involved or affected parties routinely excluded from consideration?

Count the “No’s.”  How did you do?

3 – 4 = excellent,  2 = somewhat deficient,  0 -1 = poor.

Short Advanced Test for Applied Ethics Quality.

  1. Are most decisions refined to “good versus good” alternatives?
  2. Are at least 3 alternatives generally considered?
  3. Do meetings often have false pretexts, claiming to be about making a decision when in fact the decision has already been made and only group buy-in is sought?
  4. Are attitudes and decisions monitored and corrected if found to result in unethical consequences?

Count the “No’s.”  How did you do?

3 – 4 = excellent,  2 = somewhat deficient,  0 -1 = poor.