Ethical Decision Making in the Business World

Examines why business ethics is not an oxymoron.

In light of the current scandals that have gripped the world’s economic headlines and reduced the overall levels of trust in the nation’s business leaders, ethical decision making has become a hot-button issue, both in the halls of academia, where MBAs receive their educations, and also in the everyday language of decision makers in the fields of business administration. This paper shows that what is so potent about the examples of Enron and WorldCom, among other companies accused of fraudulent and criminal business ethics, as well as of Martha Stewart, a brand name as well as an example of ‘housewifery gone corporate logo’, is that bad ethics can be bad business. When ethical scandals grip a company, that company’s future and good name can be destroyed. The paper shows, therefore, that the idea that the only ethical query someone need ask him or herself when engaged in a business transaction is will it make money for the company I work for is a fallacy.
Thus, the elements of an ethically defensible decision cannot always be quantified, although they must always be legal, if for only to ensure the continued financial survival of the company. However, for decisions that are ethical and financial in nature, rather than legal, there is no exact calculus, only the need to examine the implications of various options from a multitude of self-interests and perspectives, rather than simply one’s own.