It is very hard to attain high ethical standards in the present-day business settings, especially for a company manager. Due to the imperfections of the company’s policy, organizational management, or any other aspect of the company’s performance, a manager, the company leader and/or employees often have to face ethical dilemmas, which can be solved with the help of a rational approach. However, because of the ethical misjudgments, the efficiency of leadership is often jeopardized, which results in drops in the company’s performance efficiency. To learn to solve ethical issues, one must learn to recognize the dilemmas outlined by Messick and solve them efficiently.
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Introduction: Workplace Setting and Ethical Issues
Workplace ethics is a complex concept, with a number of stakeholders involved, and important decisions to be made. However, in most cases, the factor that affects a manager’s or a company leader’s decision happens to be not the amount or veracity of proof, but subjective factors, which makes the decision biased at best, triggering drastic effects at worst (Luban, 2006). In order to analyze the phenomenon of ethical judgment flaws, my former workplace setting was chosen as the example to consider. Although in most cases, the right decision was obvious, the choices made by the leader or managers disregarded it, which can be explained and, more to the point, corrected with the help of Messick’s theory of ethical judgment.
To start with, the ethical settings in which the concepts developed by Mesick are going to be applied to must be described. I used to work in a private company, which provided the services of waste collecting and disposal. Although my experience was relatively short (2 months), I still managed to learn much about the ethical side of being a leader of a team.
Messick’s Ethical Three Barriers
When it comes to analyzing the three barriers mentioned by Messick, one might want to stress the fact that these barriers mostly occur without the parties involved noticing anything suspicious about the judgments that they pass regarding a particular ethical dilemma. It is quite remarkable that what Messick defines as the “illusion of objectivity” (Messick, 2006, p. 95) can be interpreted as the process of viewing the situation through the lens of a person who lacks certain information. In other words, the absence of the required information can cause misjudgment of a particular situation.
Another issue that Messick addresses in his article, the ethical duality of a particular situation also deserves being mentioned as an obvious discord in ethics. Indeed, there are few ethical conflicts that have an ultimate solution to them; in most cases, the guilty party can also be sympathized with, and his or her motives can be perfectly understandable. At the given point, Merrick’s idea crosses with Morrison’s one, Morrison providing the solution to Messick’s problem: “it is in the best interest of corporate leaders to eliminate any presence of internal corruption, especially extortion and bribery” (Morrison, 2010, p. 307)
Finally, Messick warns about the peril of fear. Even a renowned specialist depends on the support of the crowd; and, once the crowd is dissatisfied with a particular opinion or the outcomes of a certain decision, the authority of the person who made the decision begins to drop quickly. Consequently, the necessity of making the right choice is ousted by the necessity to remain an authority in a particular team.
Bumping into Three Barriers in Workplace Setting: Logistics and the related Issues
The invisibility of bias, which was broadly commented on by Messick, can also be found in practically any setting, and my workplace is not an exception. As a manager of the logistics department, I tend to be as objective as possible and retain my ability to see the situation through the lens of my employees, yet sometimes, my moral compass fails me.
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One of the most graphic examples of ethical fading, which I have witnessed in the course of my work as a logistics manager, concerned the discussion of the complexities that our partners are likely to face in the process of the goods transportation. At some point of the discussion, I said that it was the concern of our partners to make sure that they would receive the goods. The given statement can be seen as a very graphic example of the inability to view the situation from the standpoint of another person.
Speaking of the second principle, i.e., the hypothesis saying that any conflict or a controversial situation in the workplace setting can be viewed from at least two standpoints, can be proven easily in the settings of my workplace, i.e., the routine of a company manager.
While Messick uses the example of an employee stealing a laptop and a manager torn apart by his official duties and the sympathy towards an otherwise impeccable employee, in the chosen settings, the given phenomenon manifested itself as a dilemma between, say, knowing that one particular employee does not behave in accordance with the company’s code of ethics, e.g., gossips and creates false rumors, which border on slander, and having to promote the aforementioned employee owing to his doubtless and honest achievements, such as performing the largest amount of work within the shortest deadline, etc. In the given case, the compromise was made by promoting the employee yet having a face-to-face talk with him, therefore, letting him know that his actions have been noticed and disapproved of.
The third ethical dilemma, which was specified by Messick and which, according to the latter’s assumptions, may hinder relationships within an organizational setting, is referred to as the fear of misjudgment, or, to be more exact, the fear of the consequences that the judgmental remark will trigger, should be named. Though seemingly having little to do with the major types of unethical decisions mentioned above, the given one is definitely the most difficult one to cope with, as my experience as a logistics manager has proven successfully. When working as a logistic manager, I had a chance of observing the outcomes of a very peculiar conflict.
Because of the disagreement concerning the choice of transportation, one of our partners offered using ferry transportation; however, the given choice was quite unreasonable, since it was incredibly time-consuming. The partner, however, was very insistent and famous for his short temper; out of the fear of losing him, the company leader made the logistics department follow the partner’s instructions, no matter how flawed they were. The given example displays the way in which fear and/or authority can affect an organization’s choices to the point where these choices make little to no sense.
Analysis of the Company’s Prospects: Facing Ethical Dilemmas
Judging by the fact that each of the dilemmas listed by Messick appeared to be an issue at the place where I used to work, it was reasonable to quit the job. However, when analyzing the effects, which these dilemmas have had on the organization, I must admit that these issues helped the company leader and managers, including me, realize how flawed our ethical judgments can be and how important it is to remain objective, disregarding the obstacles. It can be assumed, though, that the company could use a more efficient leadership style. For example, the application of transformational model could help the company get back on its feet by motivating the employees and the managers to follow the corporate values.
Conclusion: Improvements Are Attainable
Facing ethical issues is not an easy task, since the given process challenges not only one’s professional qualities, but also personal ones. Therefore, dealing with ethical dilemmas means questioning one’s own authority, which triggers inevitable and quite understandable fear. However, with the application of the right management strategy, one can solve ethical issues successfully without Messick’s three barriers standing in the way.
Luban, D. (2006). The psychological dimension: Cognitive dissonance and the moral compass. In Rhode, D. (Ed.), Moral leadership: The theory and practice of power, judgment and policy (pp. 67–74). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Messick, D. (2006). Three barriers. In Rhode, D. (Ed.), Moral leadership: The theory and practice of power, judgment and policy (pp. 95–110). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Morrison, J. (2010). Responsibility, ethics and legitimacy of corporations. Journal of Education for Business, 85(5), pp. 307-309.