- What is ethics?
- Ethics vs Morals vs Values
- How do we know what is ethical?
- Deciding factors in an action
- Ethical vs Legal vs Norms
- Values and Virtues
- Ethical dilemmas
- Conflict of Interest
- How to solve?
- Emotional Intelligence
- Components of EI
- What is EI?
- How EI helps?
- Power and Authority
- Types of power
- Types of Authority
- Corporate Ethics
- Corporate Governance
- Work Culture
- Corporate Social Responsibility
- Professional Ethics
- Ethical Skills
- Code of Ethics and Code of Conduct
- Environmental Ethics
1. What is Ethics?
We hear the word ‘ethics’ now and then. Often we confuse between the words ethics, values and morals. In this article, we shall try to clear these confusions.
Ethics is a wider term encompassing values and morals. It is the branch of knowledge that deals with moral principles. Ethics is a branch of philosophy which deals with the questions like what is good or bad and why. In our society there are many institutions that tell us what is good or bad, right from our family. Ethics as a branch of knowledge tries to analyse the various systems.The various influences in our ethical thoughts are the social norms, law of land(constitution), religion, knowledge etc.
1.1 Ethics vs Morals vs Values
The difference is explained by the following diagram
1.2 How do we know what is ethical?
In our daily life, we can follow the following principles to know what is ethical
Is it sensible?
- Use of our own senses to judge the action.
- For example, you are going to cheat on your friend. Is it pleasant to you and your friend? No. Then the action is unethical.
- Thus ‘TRUST’ becomes a virtue
Is it desirable?
- Check with the Categorical imperative – “Act as if the maxim of thy action were to become by thy will a universal law of nature.”
- Which means “Are you willing to permit everyone to adopt the action?” If Yes, your action is moral. If No, your action is immoral.
- For example, as a civil engineer, you decided to go for a substandard building material, for favouring a particular contractor. Think whether you permit this if the same is going to be your own house? No. Then your action is unethical
- Thus ‘Adhering to Quality’ becomes a moral
Will it bring greatest good to greatest number of people?
- Utilitarianism says that actions are right if they are useful or for the benefit of a majority
- Finds applications in governance
- For example, take labour reforms. It will help 90% of workers, where as the 10% who are already enjoying the protective laws will lose. Utilitarian principle will give ‘yes’ for the reforms
Will it violates others basic rights?
- Based on the belief that all human have the right to live with dignity
- If an action violates the basic rights of anyone else, it is unethical
- For example, A railway engineer decided to skip the mandatory safety checks of the track, owing to work pressure. But this negligence can cost life of travellers, if accident happens. He/she cannot take the right to life of others for granted
- Thus ‘Adhering to safety practices’ is a moral responsibility
The ethicality of an action can be judged in different ways
The branch of ethics which explores morality is called META ETHICS
1.3 Deciding factors in an action
The morality of an action depends on its
- Individual’s role
- Scale of the effect of actions
So the action should be judged based on
- The motive of the action
- How the action is done, ie the way adopted
- The consequences of the action
- The situation of the actor, whether he or she had the free will to act
- The options available to the actor
1.4 Ethical vs Legal vs Norms
|Ethical or Moral
|The actions are judged based on certain principles as discussed above
||Aims to maintain morality
May be codified or un codified
Has a mechanism to enforce it
|Are rules of behaviour in society or organisation
They comes from values.
They are specific like codes of conduct
|Every moral things may not be legal
Every illegal things may not be immoral
|All legal may not be moral
Ex- Triple talaq, which discriminates women, was legal untill the court declared it as unconstitutional
| Ex: Do not use cell phones in class room
Give seat to elders in a public place etc
The branch of ethics which deals the question what is good and bad is called NORMATIVE ETHICS
2. Values and Virtues
If values are the goal, virtues are the way to get there. Virtues are innate good qualities or morals within people.
For example integrity is a value. Openness,Honesty, Sincerity, Forthrightness, Incorruptibility, Righteousness, Probity etc are the virtues that helps to attain integrity.
Integrity refers to quality of a person’s character
- Means absence of conflicts within a person
- The person will have clarity in thoughts
- He or she will be confident
- There will be no conflict and confusion between priorities in life
- Absence of integrity makes one vulnerable
3. Ethical dilemmas
Are situations in which there is a choice to be made between two options, neither of which resolves the situation in an ethically acceptable fashion . The common ethical dilemmas are
- To prioritize one ethical principle over another
- When personal values come into conflict with the professional values – This is normally called as conflict of interest.
3.1 Conflict of Interest
Is a situation that has the potential to undermine the impartiality of a person because of the possibility of a clash between the person’s self-interest and professional interest or public interest.
The common dilemmas are
- Receiving gifts – You are working as an engineer, and the contractor who carries out projects in your department and you are good friends. Can you accept gifts from him during festivals?
- Breaching confidentiality – When your spouse or relatives ask for critical information from our office, which is not supposed to be disclosed
- Affecting impartiality – You happens to be in an interview panel to select candidates for job, in which your relative or friend is also participating
- Reporting malpractices – When you come to know that your friend or relative is doing malpractice, will you report to authority?
3.2 How to solve?
For ethical dilemmas there is no easy answer, and sometimes there is no right answer. You have to decide what’s best for your personal relations and your profession. But some basic principles can be followed. They are
- Listen to your voice of conscience – This will buy time and prevents impulsive actions
- Be responsible – Do not ignore your responsibility. For example, an engineer has to take care of safety, however compelling the other factors may be
- Respect other’s fundamental rights
- Give preference to larger good, compared to a smaller good(Social responsibility)
- Declare any conflict of interest early, in cases like any commercial interests conflicting with office work
- Rescue yourself from situations like being in an interview panel where friend is also participating
4. Emotional Intelligence
Academic aptitude (IQ) was once considered the most important part of intelligence. But now Emotional Intelligence is recognised as playing a major role in a person’s success. Today companies worldwide routinely look through the lens of EI in hiring, promoting, and developing their employees.
Emotions are recorded experiences in the brain. Have salience, ie the emotions are either +ve or -ve. Emotional decisions seems to be spontaneous or impulsive. These emotions have a significant role in decision making along with reasoning. While reasoning is used in exploring various options; emotions are used to decide among various options.
4.2 Components of EI
The emotional intelligence is the ability to to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. This requires
- Perception – are you correctly recognising your emotions? Won’t you confuse sometimes whether you are sad, or angry or disgusted? Observe carefully own emotions and recognise them.
- Attribution – is assigning reasons for your emotions. Hasn’t there be situations where you just do not know why are you sad? Analyse what happened and find the actual cause
- Management – is knowledge when and how to use your emotions. Once you have proper perception and correct attribution, you know when and how your emotions occur. Thus you can manage them.
- Expression – emotions are to be expressed. There is a way to express it. See good leaders, they are very good at expressing their emotions.
4.3 What is EI?
Thus emotional intelligence is about how well one is managing his or her own emotions and relations. A person with EI,
- Can regulate own emotions – Ex- managing anger.
- Understand own emotions, with right attribution
- Use emotions in decision making – by using emotional information to guide thinking and behaviour
- Understand others emotions – Ex- good interpersonal and leadership skills
4.4 How EI helps?
EI helps a person in
- Maintaining good relations with others
- Better expression of emotions
- Gives mastery over a situation particularly in can of dilemmas. EI plays a major role in handling the unforeseen situations.
- Gives confidence to tackle any problems in public and personal life
- Achieve self motivation
- Are evaluation of various aspects of the social world such as that towards a person, object, event, ideology etc.
- It can be either positive or negative.
- Social factors have a major role in determining a person’s attitude.
- For example we Indians do ‘jugaad’ as an acceptable form of frugal engineering. The absence of sufficient resources have created this societal attitude of finding solutions through shortcuts.
- When the attitude is formed towards a person or social group, it creates a stereotype.
Attitude has cognitive, affective and behavioral components
- Cognitive(belief) – The act or process of knowing and perceiving. Involves judgment, and reasoning. Example – belief that all exams are difficult
- Emotional(likes&dislikes) – Feelings and emotions formed out the believes and perceptions. Example – hating exams(formed from belief that all exams are difficult)
- Behavioural(actions&inactions) – how attitude is expressed. Example – do not apply for any exams (because of hatred towards the exams)
Is effort to change the attitudes, beliefs, perceptions or behaviours. The success of persuasion depends on three factors:
(1) source – there is a difference when your mother tells not to eat junk food and when Virat Kohli says the same.
(2) message – many will not listen to the traffic police’s message to wear helmet, but when it comes along with a emotional tone of care for family, more people obeys.
(3) target – young minds can be easily persuaded, so the packaged foods business mainly target kids in their advertisements.
6. Power and Authority
Power is the ability to get things done despite resistance. Authority is a legitimate power.
6.1 Types of power
The six types of power are
- often the least effective but most employed(abused)
- is forcing someone to do something against their will
- rely on threats, bullying
- is the concept of do this and get that
- is useful as long as the reward is perceived as having value
- used to increase morale
- is the power of position or role
- a formalized way of ensuring that there is someone to make a decision and that someone is responsible
- Is the power and ability for an individual to attract others and to build loyalty
- created through the values of the individual
- is the power of having information that another does not have
- used to measure and improve tasks, processes, and strategies
- when an individual possesses in-depth information, knowledge, or expertise in the area that they are responsible for
- is often the most effective type of power
- they can often persuade others do to things for them using trust and respect
6.2 Types of Authority
- leader is not only capable of but actually possesses the superior power of charisma
- Ex- Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr.
- depends on established tradition or order
- based on some kind of a dominant power
- Ex – Father in a family
- Is grounded in clearly defined laws
- Ex – the President of India
7. Corporate Ethics
The broad area dealing with the way in which a company behaves towards, and conducts business with, its internal and external stakeholders, including employees, investors, creditors, customers, and regulators.
7.1 Corporate Governance
Governance is about doing what is fair in a transparent manner with full accountability . It is about enhancing shareholder value on a sustainable basis while ensuring fairness, transparency and accountability in every action vis-à-vis every stakeholder – customers, employees, investors, vendor-partners, government of the land and society.
- It results from maintaining transparency in all actions
- Sound corporate governance is critical in enhancing and retaining investor trust.
- It includes
- Making a clear distinction between personal convenience and corporate resources
- Communicating externally in a truthful manner about how the company is run internally
- Complying with the laws in all the countries in which the company operates
A three-tier governing system for companies is suggested where
- A supervisory board is constituted and should lay down the framework for the functioning of the board of directors -It will monitor performance as well as the value system for the company
- The board of directors manages the affairs of the company and oversee the functioning of the executive management
- The executive runs the day to day operations.
Role of Independent directors, Company Secretary and Auditors
- Independent directors are custodians of corporate ethics.
- The company secretary should ensure compliance with the regulations of the land
- The auditors will have an objective check on the financial statements prepared by the directors
Companies are regulated under the companies act. If they are listed in the stock exchange, SEBI(Securities and Exchange Board of India) watches over certain operations, especially to protect the small shareholders.
The challenges are
- Ensuring independence in spirit of Independent Directors and their active participation in functioning of the company
- Improving safeguards and disclosures pertaining to Related Party Transactions
- Issues in accounting and auditing practices by listed companies
- Addressing issues faced by investors on voting and participation in general meetings
7.2 Work Culture
The work culture decides the way employees interact with each other and how an organisation functions.
- It helps to increase the morale of the employees
- Morale is expressed in self-confidence, enthusiasm, and loyalty to the organisation. It stems from the people’s conviction about the righteousness or worth of their actions and the hopes of high rewards in the future.
- It improves the cohesion ie unity, solidarity, connection, and interrelatedness with in the organisation.
- Improves productivity – helps in higher levels of organizational effectiveness, financial performance and customer satisfaction.
- It increases positive emotions and well-being.
- It attracts employees to the organisation.
Work culture is about
- Beliefs, thought processes, attitudes of the employees.
- Ideologies and principles of the organisation.
- The company which believes in diversity will include more female employees
- The armed forces work culture is strict hierarchical, where obedience is given more importance
7.3 Corporate Social Responsibility
Is a company’s initiatives to assess and take responsibility for its effects on environmental and social wellbeing.
- Corporations can have detrimental effects on the environment. Example Oil spills.
- Industries such as chemical manufacturing, mining, agriculture and fishing can do permanent damage to local ecosystems.
- Climate change can also be attributed in large part to corporations. Ex- Power corporations
- Many corporations have profited from the deterioration of the global environment.
- In many cases, harm to the environment and harm to vulnerable communities go hand-in-hand
CSR is the way through which a company achieves a balance of economic, environmental and social imperatives (“Triple-Bottom-Line- Approach”).
Key CSR issues are : environmental management, eco-efficiency, responsible sourcing, stakeholder engagement, labour standards and working conditions, employee and community relations, social equity, gender balance, human rights, good governance, and anti-corruption measures.
8. Professional Ethics
Professionals possess and use specialised knowledge and skill.
“Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil”
So the professionals who possess skill and knowledge needs a direction.
Professional Ethics encompass the personal, organizational, and corporate standards of behavior .
8.1 Ethical Skills
Ethical skills are distinguished from the self-help skills and social skills, as those which helps in
- Ethical sensitivity, involves the skill or ability to interpret the reactions and feelings of others.
- Ethical judgement – if an ethical situation exists and requires action, he or she must decide which course of action is the most justifiable in the situation
- Ethical motivation is the desire to be ethical and to act and live in a manner consistent with one’s moral values.
- Ethical action, involves determining the best way to implement the chosen decision and having the ability and confidence to persist to completion.
To achieve these, the ethical skills should encompass
- Code of conduct, courage, dependability, duty, efficiency, ingenuity, initiative, perseverance, punctuality, resourcefulness, respect for all etc
Where as the Self-Help Skills are Care of possessions, diet, hygiene, modesty, posture, self-reliance, and tidy appearance etc
The Social Skills includes Good behaviour, good manners, good relationships, helpfulness, No wastage and good environment etc.
8.2 Code of Ethics and Code of Conduct
Are the two common ways that companies and professionals self-regulate.The professional bodies commonly establish codes of conduct and ethical codes for the guidance of their members.
Code of Ethics
- Referred to as a Value Statement
- Acts like the Constitution with general principles to guide behaviour within an organisation
- Outlines a set of principles that affect decision-making
Code of Conduct
- Outlines specific behaviours that are required or prohibited
- Ex- Forbid sexual harassment at work places
9. Environmental Ethics
Deals with relationship of man with environment.
Some common questions in environmental ethics are
- Should humans continue deforestation for the sake of food production?
- Should humans continue to make gasoline-powered vehicles?
- Is it right for humans to knowingly cause the extinction of a species?
- Should we stop all developmental works to conserve the environment?
- Should we continue to use coal for power generation?
The concept of Sustainable development
Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It contains within it two key concepts:
- the concept of “needs”, in particular the essential needs of the world’s poor, to which overriding priority should be given; and
- the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment’s ability to meet present and future needs.
The goals of economic and social development must be defined in terms of sustainability in all countries—developed or developing, market-oriented or centrally planned.
The environmental ethics has personal dimensions such as
- ethical consumerism
- minimising waste and recycling
- love for nature and other living beings etc
The branch of ethics concerned with particular moral issues like corporate ethics, environmental ethics etc, is called APPLIED ETHICS