Ethical Decision Making

Making good ethical decisions requires a trained sensitivity to ethical issues and a practiced method for exploring the ethical aspects of a decision and weighing the considerations that should impact our choice of a course of action. Having a method for ethical decision making is absolutely essential. When practiced regularly, the method becomes so familiar that we work through it automatically without consulting the specific steps. (Manuel Velasquez, 2015)

Following are the steps that can help in reaching ethical decisions:

1.Recognize an Ethical Issue

Recognizing an ethical issue requires you to ask some questions to yourself that is how it will affect the others. We may ask the question like could this decision or situation be damaging to someone or to some group or does this decision involve a choice between a good and bad alternative, or perhaps between two “goods” or between two “bads”.

2. Get the Facts

This step involves taking different facts into consideration that might affect the decision or trying to gather unknown facts.e-g what are the relevant facts of the case or what facts are not known? What are the options for acting? Have all the relevant persons and groups been consulted? Have I identified creative options.

3. Evaluate Alternative Actions

This step involves evaluating the different possible decisions that one might wants to take and then deciding at the best possible action. It would involve:
• Which option will produce the most good and do the least harm? (The Utilitarian Approach)

• Which option best respects the rights of all who have a stake? (The Rights Approach)

• Which option treats people equally or proportionately? (The Justice Approach)

• Which option leads me to act as the sort of person I want to be? (The Virtue Approach)

4. Make a Decision and Test It

It involves after evaluating different approaches which decision would suit best to the given situation. It would involve asking questions to yourself like to consider all these approaches, which option best addresses the situation?

5. Act and Reflect on the Outcome

This is the step that should be taken after making the decision that is How can my decision be implemented with the greatest care and attention to the concerns of all stakeholders or How did my decision turn out and what have I learned from this specific situation. (Manuel Velasquez, 2015)

Ethical approaches

1. Utilitarian

Utilitarianism is a consequential ethics. According to the utilitarians one  can determine the ethical significance of any action by looking to the consequences of that act. It Focuses on the philosophy of maximizing the overall good i-e “The greatest good for the greatest number”. It tries both to increase the good done and to reduce the harm done. In utilitarian principle ends justify means.

2. Rights

This approach believes that humans have a dignity based on their human nature or on their ability to choose freely what they do with their lives. On the basis of such dignity, they have a right to be treated as ends and not merely as means to other ends. The list of moral rights -including the rights to make one’s own choices about what kind of life to lead, to be told the truth, not to be injured, to a degree of privacy etc. Also, it is known that rights imply duties-in particular, the duty to respect others’ rights.

3. Justice

It says that all equals should be treated equally. Today we use this idea to say that ethical actions treat all human beings equally-or if unequally, then fairly based on some standard that is defensible. We pay people more based on their hard work or the greater amount that they contribute to an organization, and say that is fair. It looks that whether the decision is defensible or not.

4. Virtue

A very ancient approach to ethics is that ethical actions ought to be consistent with certain ideal virtues that provide for the full development of our humanity. These virtues are dispositions and habits that enable us to act according to the highest potential of our character. Honesty, courage, compassion, generosity, tolerance, love, fidelity, integrity, fairness etc are all examples of virtues. Virtue ethics asks of any action like is this action consistent with my acting at my best. (Thomas Shanks, 2015)

Features of Ethical Decisions

Following are the features of ethical decisions:


The culture of an ethical business starts from the top of the organizational chart. For a business to be ethical, its leaders at the top level must demonstrate ethical practices. The true test of this leadership is in the decision-making process when there is a choice between what is ethically responsible and what will result in profit or gain. When the culture is solid at the top of the organization, it trickles down to all lower areas in organization.


An ethical business has a core value statement that describes its mission. Any business can create a value statement, but an ethical business lives by it. It communicates this mission to every employee within the structure and ensures that it is followed. The ethical business will institute a code of conduct that supports its mission and is followed by every employee.


Integrity is an important characteristic of an ethical business. The ethical business adheres to laws and regulations at the local, state and federal levels. It treats its employees fairly, communicating with them honestly and openly. It demonstrates fair dealings with stakeholders and other related concerns.


Solid relationships are a cornerstone of an ethical business. Employees who work for a loyal employer want to maintain the relationship and will work harder toward that end. Vendors and customers will remain loyal to a business that is reliable and dependable in all situations. An ethical business stays loyal to its partnerships even in challenging times. The result is a stronger relationship when emerging from the challenge.


An ethical business has concern for anyone and anything impacted by the business. This includes customers, employees, vendors and the public. Every decision made by the business is based on the effect it may have on any one of these groups of people, or the environment surrounding it. (Phillips)


Manuel Velasquez, D. M. (2015). A Framework for Ethical Decision Making. MArkkula Centre for Ethical Decision Making .
Phillips, C. (n.d.). Six Characteristics of an Ethical Business. Chron .
Thomas Shanks, S. (2015). Thinking Ethically. Markkula Center for Applied Ethics .