Interpersonal vs. Professional Relations in Ethics


An ethical decision generally means choosing between the right and wrong, and eventually, having weighed everything, the CEO is expected to do what is deemed right and in the company’s interests. However, the decision that is taken by the CEO should be in line with major stakeholders meaning they need to understand clearly why the particular decision was taken and the logic behind it. In the case study, Jill Jones, 45, the vice-president of sales in a mid-sized family company built her career at the company from school and worked her way up to the top. Recently she has been asked by William Potter, the firm’s head to consider his son, Henry for the position of CEO.

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Henry proved himself as a committed employee and successfully managed the Miami branch, and the decision to hire him as CEO seems straightforward and logical. However, Jill had known Henry earlier when he failingly proposed to her and made her life a misery. Jill got over it with time and kept the incident to herself whereas Henry moved to Miami. Jill’s negative experience surfaced again as Henry was proposed as CEO, now Jill is faced with an ethical dilemma which needs to be resolved in line with the company’s interests.

Different theories may be applied to Jill’s dilemma: one of them is utilitarianism which is one of the most influential theories in moral ethics. This theory is based on a wide range of criteria that are involved in the choices that people are faced with. What makes utilitarianism so applicable to Jill’s situation is that it primarily focuses on the consequences of the actions and the results that her choices will lead to.

Utilitarianism may be falsely perceived as a simple theory because it is based on a principle that we need to do what produces the best consequences (Devellennes, 2014). However, the theory is more complicated because one may not assess the single principle without knowing what things are perceived as good or bad, are they good for an individual or for a group, and whether the actions are right or wrong based on the result they produce (Devellennes, 2014).

Jill may also apply the Virtue Theory because it focuses on an individual character making it the fundamental element in ethical reasoning (Lara, 2008). The virtue theory does not focus on the rules or the acts, as does Deontology or Consequentialism (Lara, 2008). Virtue ethics focuses on the role of character as opposed to doing what is one’s duty or taking a decision with good consequences in mind.

Application of the appropriate theory

Although there exists an array of theories which could facilitate the decision-making process, each seems to have its shortfalls and limitations. The theory of utilitarianism seems to be most applicable to Jill’s situation because it primarily focuses on the consequences and the results of Jill’s decision. However, since Jill has not seen Henry for many years, she may not know all the variables that are needed to adequately assess the consequences and the results of his appointment.

Henry might have changed as a person; he might have started a family and re-assessed his attitude to Jill. Out of multiple variables and possible consequences, Jill knows only a few of them, and therefore, may not apply the theory. The Virtue Theory appears inapplicable to Jill’s dilemma because the consequences and the results of her act need to be considered in the first place whereas the virtue of her act and decision should be the second priority.

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Plan of Action

The plan of action for Jill is to decide whether she is capable of working with Henry despite their prior tensions. If Jill is willing to make a brand new start, she needs to approach Henry and talk to him about their chances of working together. Jill needs to reason with Henry and convince him that the family business owned by his father is at stake, and it is far more important than their past offences. If Henry signals that he is willing to bury the hatchet and work professionally, Jill might attempt to work with him. Furthermore, many years passed since Henry unsuccessfully proposed to Jill, and perhaps he has developed a new relationship and forgot about his feelings to Jill.

This is also a criterion that might influence the decision. However, if either Jill or Henry feels that their professional partnership might compromise the family business, then Jill certainly needs to approach William Potter and tell him the truth. Since she has worked her way up the ladder and dedicated her life to Porter’s business, he will most likely understand her and make a wise decision. Finally, the competition for the position of CEO may be very intense, and it is likely that there is a candidate who is better suited for the position. For the sake of objectivity, Jill could honestly confront Potter and tell him that there is a better candidate who would be more effective for this position.


Social interactions between people are always multifaceted and complex, and therefore, there often isn’t a clear-cut choice between the two options. There are a lot of variables which need to be taken into account before coming up with the right ethical decision. The theories may be used as guidance to help Jill rationalize more effectively. Having all the variables after the conversation with Henry, Jill could apply the theory of utilitarianism which will allow her to evaluate the consequences and the results of her decision.

Reference List

Devellennes, C. (2014). Utility contra utilitarianism: Holbach’s international ethicsJournal of International Political Theory, 10(2), 188-205. Web.

Lara, A. (2008). Virtue theory and moral facts. Journal of Value Inquiry, 42(3), 331-352. Web.

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