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Luke is employed by the ABC Company, which has given him the lead on a forthcoming land development project. The business plans to purchase land next to Owen's, Luke's brother, home and construct an adult entertainment complex there. Owen is currently thinking about selling his property, but he hasn't decided whether to accept the price that has been offered because he believes that waiting longer will raise its value. Luke struggles with the decision of whether to tell Owen about the corporation's plan or to keep it a secret as the company demands. Luke is aware that once the company formally announces its plans, all the properties near the project will depreciate and this will include Owen's property.
The ethical challenge present in Luke's situation is deciding between whether to remain loyal to his employer, ABC, and disclosing the project plans to benefit his brother. If he chooses to keep the details from Owen, he will secure his job and opportunities for career advancement regarding promotions and ensure the company's plans are not affected. In case Owen finds out about the development construction and the effect it will have on the nearby house prices, he will be disappointed in his relationship with Luke. On the other hand, if Luke reveals the information to Owen, he risks losing his position at the company, and the company's project plans will be affected. Other parties concerned by this stakeholders are Luke, Owen and the entire ABC Company and the community.
Utilitarianism theory of business requires Luke to arrive at a decision that favors the stakeholders. It seeks to maximize the positive effects of an ethical question at the same time minimizing the adverse effects of the same. According to this theory, Luke should decide if informing Owen of the company's project will affect the involved parties or not. Disclosing the company's plan will favor Owen but on the other hand will interfere with the company's development progress. This decision will affect the majority who are supported by the utilitarian theory. It will also impact on him considering that leaking the information is against the company's policy and is punishable by law. The company will lose trust in him and even consider firing him labeling him as irresponsible, incompetent and a liability to the company. The expected decision following the utilitarian theory is to remain loyal to the company by keeping the project secret.
The consequences for following this principle are that a minority are disadvantaged. In this case, Owen will be financially affected if Luke does not reveal ABC plans to him. The decision not to disclose ABC's plan will affect Owen's trust for Luke and will have a negative impact on their family relationship.
The golden rule is founded on religious statutes on reciprocity. The principle focuses on the idea that one should treat others as they expect to be treated, i.e., you put yourself in all your parties' situation before making a decision. In our case, Luke has to put himself in the shoes of the stakeholder, analyze the impact of his decision on the parties separately and then decide on what is the best thing to do. For instance, when in the ABC company shoes, Luke must take into account the consequences of leaking the information before the formal announcement. Some of the scenarios likely to occur are in opposition to the company project by the community and lawsuits that will lead to delays, money wastage and some of the employees will end up losing their jobs. On the other hand, if Owen was the one working for the company and Luke is one with the property; what will he feel if his brother does not reveal the information and ends up selling at a lower price than what is currently its market value offered. As a result, this could lead to family wrangles and situation where his brother will be bitter, mistrust, and feeling of betrayal which will jeopardize their relationship. Assessing all the circumstances as provided by the golden rule, Luke must arrive at a decision that will be fair to both parties.
According to this theory, ethical decisions are made based on a person's character. Character consists of a person's intentions, motivation and their thoughts on integrity. The rules and regulations governing a company do not control who a person is but instead brings out the true identity of that person. The nature of the environment one is in influences his/her character and should be considered while making ethical decisions. The virtue ethics theory does not provide a wrong or a right answer. However, your intentions will decide the correct answer. If Luke decides to keep the company's plans to himself, will showcase him as a selfish man who forgot his own family, but his career will remain intact. On the other hand, if he informs Owen of the company's project, he jeopardizes his career as it would seem as though he was not loyal to his employer. The company may also interpret his decision as the inability to follow company rules which risks the company's future, and this may cost him his job. Luke has to rationalize what choice defines his character perfectly.
Universal ethics is also referred to as the Categorical Imperative by a philosopher called Kant. It states that all ethical decisions should be fair and just to all. Its application in the decision-making process in ethics is similar to the conventional universal law. Considering Luke's moral dilemma, applying this theory will make it impossible to arrive at a decision fair to him, Owen and the company. Choosing his brother over the company will breach the company's confidentiality clause. Choosing the company over his brother will be a betrayal of his family. Either way, his decision favor's one party and neglects the other. According to the universal ethics theory, Luke should only consider that which will be universally accepted.
If Luke applies the golden rule theory, he will decide to keep the information about the company's project to himself. The critical thought process used to in drawing this conclusion is that he expects the other employees to uphold professionalism and high level of ethics by keeping confidential information of the company within the company. Luke would also not like anyone to jeopardize his career by sharing the private information about the company. By using the golden rule theory, he sets an example of what he expects his co-workers to do when faced with a similar challenge.
With the help of the virtue ethics theory, the best decision that describes his personality is opting to keep the company's project plan private. This decision portrays Luke as an employee who bears loyalty and commitment to the ABC Company. It also reflects on his firm personality which remains unshaken during this moral dilemma. Luke is more likely to benefit from this decision compared to the other involved parties because his business reputation will prevail and the company might consider promoting him after showcasing his commitment to his job. However, he will possibly face mistrust and rejection by his family who will assume that he betrayed his brother for the sake of his career. Owen needs to understand his brothers' responsibility to the company and that his intentions aimed at preventing harm to his family as disclosing confidential information is punishable by law which means his family would have to finance lawyers to keep him away from prison.
Utilitarianism theory is quite challenging in its application in Luke's probe. The fact that his decision should seek to favor the majority who are the company, employees and himself but undermine the minority, in this case, his family makes it harder. According to this theory, Luke would decide to keep the company's plan confidential to benefit the majority.
The universal ethics theory suggests that the decision made should be acceptable to all stakeholders in this scenario. It goes beyond consequences, loyalty, blood ties, and responsibilities. Therefore, the decision puts into consideration the right thing to be done. The universally accepted choice includes benefitting his company by keeping the project a secret, advising Owen to sell his property before its value depreciates and retain his job and reputation. A sound decision requires Luke to focus on the bigger picture, for the greater good of everyone.
Luke must put into consideration all options before making a decision. He must identify who the majority is and who the minority is after which he takes his values and align them with the professional code of ethics and decide what is fair at both ends. After in-depth consideration and critically analyzing the situation, I recommend that Luke should remain faithful to the company's code of ethics by keeping the project secret will reflect his loyalty to the company as well as ensure that his job is secure. Luke should also advise his brother to sell his land now but keep the company out of the discussion. He should recommend Owen as a loving brother and not as an employee who is snitching. Luke should be able to separate business and family matters and address them singly to avoid interference. This recommendation will have solved the conflict of interest which Luke is experiencing.
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