In the dynamic business environment of today, business ethics play the most fundamental role in shaping the inter-personal relationship between employees. Lack of business ethics has proved to boost the growth and profitability of business organization but it may impede the upsurge in the long-run (Michaelson, et al., 2014). The organizations with strong code ethics, at times, face ethical issues where management has to choose between right and wrong, or ethical dilemmas where less disreputable choice has to be made between two or more disreputable scenarios.
The case of Tutor University (TU) is presented where owners face a dilemma of either choosing profit over ethics or the other way round. TU has a code of conduct to prevent unethical business activities. Code ensures that employees assist students with mentoring and coaching in such a way that the learning process of students is not hampered. With the introduction of new competitors, owners of TU are searching for new ways to prevent hurdles in achieving desired growth rate. To do so, they will have to compromise the code of conduct to keep up with the pace of market competitors. But the business managers also need to ensure that the good repute of the organization remains intact.
Unethical decisions often lead to prompt whistle-blowers to launch into an outburst. A former employee at TU suspects the recent moves from management which might lead him to reveal potential unethical practices. This paper tries to identify the dilemmas faced by management, the consequences of compromising code of conduct to solve those dillemas, the theories that may provide a solution and comparison of theories to figure out the most reasonable solution.
Tutors University is known to students and universities as being a reliable source to seek mentoring and coaching. TU has grown upon the reputation to enforce its employees to strictly follow business ethics. But the introduction of competitors with compromising ethical values has created a dilemma. If owners choose to follow the footsteps of competitors by introducing the feature of “Tutors for hire”, they will end up compromising their code of conduct. However, working upon something for student which will not affect the learning graph of student does not violate ethical values. Conversely, following the code of conduct will result in stagnant growth of company in near future, eventually decisive for the company to carry out downsizing.
Another dilemma would be a choice between either retaining both the repositories created by students and tutors or to avoid creation of trust deficit between company and stringent university teachers. Profit-making might result in a loss later because of whistle-blowers but there is no immediate fear of loss. Thus, organization is encountering two ethical dilemmas and has to choose the one with the lesser unfavorable consequences in both dilemmas.
TU Code of Conduct
Code of conduct plays compelling role in shaping the dilemma faced by TU. Every clause except the first reflects the policy of encouraging students to think critically through in-depth analysis. Furthermore, the code ensures that working for students should not be interpreted as facilitation and should be curbed. However, the new services contradict the code exceedingly. The provision of already written or typed assignments, notes and projects would contradict the clause of learning process. Similarly, the hiring tutors to attend online class in-place of students themselves would contradict fourth clause that ensures a tutor does not work for student. If third and fourth clauses are not being followed, critical thinking in students would be averted too.
First clause does not have an impact on any of the two dilemmas since TU still has the policy of providing coaching and mentoring as it was, before the changes. Each of the other clauses trigger the two dilemmas.
The two dilemmas belong to a common ethical issue of whistle-blowing. Spencer Tracy, being the former director of Tutors, knows the code of conduct and ethical values being followed in the organization. Thus, adoption of profit-making means that would compromise code of conduct might enable Spencer to launch into an outburst. The fact that can prevent his outburst is the realization that his action can cost the job of his former colleagues. Reporting over this matter may bring a bad repute to his former organization. Reporting unethical behavior outside company will have far-reaching consequences (Near, et al., 2016).
Another ethical issue that arises in this case is the that of trust and integrity (Michaelson, et al., 2014). Students that avoid unethical means and used TU only to seek mentoring and coaching might become distrustful of TU. Issue of integrity may arise when students are not delivered with what they had been promised. Eliminating such issues may keep the ethics intact but it would result in shrinking the profit.
Ethical Theories and Case of TU
Before searching for a viable solution to solve this dilemma, following question needs to be asked.
“Is the practice of earning by working in place of students ethically fair?”
Following are the theories by Kant, Rand and Bentham that are mentioned to make an attempt to solve the ethical dilemma faced by TU.
Kant theory goes with the perception that a practice is a much ethical as the purpose behind it. A bad intention might lead to sound consequences but that would still be bad as Kant suggests (Korsgaard, C. M. 1999). In the first dilemma stated above, the learning process of a student might not be affected by someone else working in his or her place. But going by the perspective of Kant, since the intention was bad, the practice is unethical. Conversely, if TU does not opt the new services, it might lead to downsizing of employees to keep up with the profit margins. As Kant theory goes, it is one’s duty to be on the morally correct side (L’etang, J. 1992) and hence, downsizing is not unethical because the purpose that led to downsizing was not immoral.
By using Kant theory, the most reasonable solution to the first dilemma would be sticking to the code of conduct even at the cost of company’s profit and employees’ jobs. Profits may not necessarily drop because other competitors would be sticking to unethical means, prompting whistle-blowers to speak against them.
As for second dilemma, Kant theory suggests that the organization should avoid establishment of trust deficit and hence, should quit repositories by students and tutors.
As the Rand theory suggests, TU owners need to find out what serves their personal interests (Hicks, S. R. 2009). Revisiting the question, Rand theory would pass ethical earning as virtuous since it serves the purpose of company’s growth in the right path.
The best approach to solve the first dilemma, according to Rand theory, would be to compromise the code of conduct and giving up on altruism so that the new services can be adopted. This approach would work because it would fulfill company’s desired annual growth rate instead of slipping into loss. Furthermore, second dilemma, in direct contradiction to the Kant theory, recommend to maintain repositories.
Bentham’s utilitarianism calls for more in-depth analysis before conclusion. The theory weighs the collective pleasure against pains as a result of an action or a decision. Thus, one has to choose the path that ensures domination of pleasure over pain (Bentham, J. 1994). Application of this theory would answer the question of ethical earning. In case of TU both pleasure and pain can be measured in terms of growth of company, student and employee facilitation and student learning process.
As surging profits would ensure growth of company, job security of employee and facilitation of students, pleasure or happiness index would weigh more in comparison to the sticking to code of conduct which is only ensures appropriate learning process for students. Therefore, using this theory, verdict can be made in favor of adopting new services and giving up the code of conduct.Moreover, utilitarian approach appeals for further investigation before reaching a decision. Sticking with the repositories would out-weigh the scenario of retaining the repute.
Comparison of theories
Kant Theory is good to implement to reach a verdict in usual resentments inside the company. On the other hand, Rand Theory is agreeable in cases where altruism may result into huge and immediate losses to company. The first dilemma is neither a resentment nor can emerge into immediate and huge losses. Thus, the best approach, out of the three, to solve the first dilemma would be Bentham Theory. By using Bentham Theory, TU owners can deliberate deep down into the evils being faced in dilemma and hence, can provide a comprehensive solution.
Ethical issues and dilemmas are very frequent in business organizations. Over the time, theories have been developed to tackle such scenarios but, at times, solutions provided by each of the theories appear contradictory to each other. The specific scenario gives the clue about which theory would be most viable to achieve the reasonable trade-offs.
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