Business Ethics and Deontology
In the Module 1 Case, you will be writing a paper that uses deontological ethics in the critical evaluation of a business problem.
Note: Please be sure that you have completed the Module 1 SLP in full prior to beginning any work on the Module 1 Case.
Read the following case from Santa Clara University’s Markkula Center for Applies Ethics:
The following ProQuest article may be useful in your assessment of WorldCom:
M M Scharff. (2005). WorldCom: A Failure of Moral and Ethical Values. Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship, 10(3), 35-47. Retrieved July 27, 2011, from https://proquest.umi.com/pqdweb?index=15&did=1176439141&SrchMode=3&sid=1&Fmt=4&VInst=PROD&VType=PQD&RQT=309&VName=PQD&TS=1311793787&clientId=29440&aid=1
These links may be helpful as well. First, here is a discussion of rights: https://www.scu.edu/ethics/practicing/decision/rights.html
Secondly, and related to the foregoing discussion of rights, the Rights Test (based on one’s duty – and respect of others’ rights) may help you to frame your analysis: https://ethicsops.com/RightsTest.aspx
In the Module 1 Case, you will perform a critical analysis of a business problem using deontological ethics.
Keys to the Assignment:
Using the resources in the Background Information section (you may use as many as you need), write a 5-page paper, critically responding to the following:
Step 1) What are the ethical problems raised in the WorldCom case?
Step 2) Critically evaluate WorldCom’s ethical problems using the deontological framework.
Step 3) Assess WorldCom’s ethics from Immanuel Kant’s point of view – specifically, using Kant’s Categorical Imperative.
Your paper will be evaluated on the following seven (7) points:
Precision – Does the paper address the question(s) or task(s)?
Breadth – Is the full breadth of the subject, i.e., all the keys to the assignment, addressed?
Depth – Does the paper address all elements of the topic in sufficient depth? Does it include and apply the background readings and other background resources? Are they included as references?
Critical thinking – Are the concepts of the module applied accurately, logically, and relevantly?
Organization – Is the paper organized in a coherent and systematic manner? Are section headings included in all papers greater than 2 pages?
Clarity – Is the writing clear and the concepts articulated properly? Are paraphrasing and synthesis of concepts the primary means of response to the questions, or are thoughts conveyed through excessive use of quotations?
Referencing (citations and references) – Does the paper use citations and quotation marks where appropriate? Are all references listed in the bibliography used and referred to via citation? For the Module 1 Case, do not be concerned about use of proper APA citation (we will cover APA style in Module 2).
Tips and Suggestions:
Please note the following requirements as well, as your Case will be graded using them:
1) When writing your Case, be sure that you use the TUI Well-Written Paper guidelines provided you in the SLP – i.e., cover page, formatting, etc.
2) Be sure that your paper contains 5-7 pages of discussion and analysis. Note that the 5-7 page minimum length requirement does not include your cover page and references.
3) For the Module 1 Case, be sure that you cite all of the sources (Background Information section of this module and external references) that you use in your essay. To this extent, do your best to properly cite any sources you may use (using APA style if you can). However, you will not be penalized here for inaccurate sourcing and referencing, as we will be covering proper citation and referencing in the next module.
4) You are required to analyze the Case. This entails that you not simply recount the facts contained within the above articles, but that you perform a critical analysis of the WorldCom case using deontological ethics and Kant’s Categorical Imperative as a framework.
Module 1 – Background
Business Ethics and Deontology
Most of us would agree that the bad (some would say “outrageous”) behaviors of Enron’s Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling and WorldCom’s Bernie Ebbers (and their respective companies in general) violated – in a quite terrible way – the public trust. The notion that “good ethics is good business” seems to fall on an ever-increasing number of deaf ears these days.
“Good ethics is good business” may be a somewhat old and tired cliche, but when we consider this expression more reflectively, we come to recognize that “ethics” means different things to different people. I certainly don’t mean to imply that we would necessarily disagree as to whether Ken Lay’s or Bernie Ebbers’ behaviors were unethical or criminal. We probably would not disagree about such things at all. At the same time, if there was a crystal clear definition of “business ethics,” and the term “business ethics” meant the same thing to all people at all times and in all circumstances (and there were hard-fast rules as to how we should behave under all conditions and at all times), this course would not be needed at all. But that is clearly not the case. Aside from criminality borne out of the Ebbers, Lay, Skilling (and now the Bernie Madoff) ilk, there are certain situations in which organizations find themselves in which there are no hard fast rules for prescribing – nor guiding – what they should do.
For example, I recall a late 1980’s case study in which an industrial firm was confronted with the dilemma as to whether it should include – on its balance sheet – a fairly costly liability for the clean-up of a hazardous waste pool that was generated as a consequence of its operations. At issue here is that inclusion of the liability on the company’s financial statements would have had the immediate effect of quite significantly decreasing the value of the company, also severely harming its stockholders. At the same time, should the company choose not to include the liability on its financial statements, any persons interested in buying stock (or ownership) in the company would also have been unknowingly buying shares of a company that was overvalued. To complicate matters, there were no accounting rules nor any clear guidance as to what the company should have done. Indeed, no matter what the company should have decided, innocent persons – existing shareholders or potential shareholders – would have been hurt as a consequence. While the above circumstances were unlikely to have involved any form of criminality, they very clearly did raise substantive business ethics concerns – and they raised some very serious and complex ones at that!
Let’s turn to several means by which we might consider how we might best decide what should be done in circumstances such as those above. Essentially, there are three kinds of normative ethics: deontological ethics, teleological ethics, and virtue ethics. In Module 1, we will begin by considering the notion of “ethics” in general terms – we will next be considering the deontological approach to business ethics specifically. We’ll also be applying deontological (or duty) ethics to a business issue.
In each module, you will find required readings and optional readings. Be sure that you read the required readings and that you watch the required videos as well, as they will help you to complete the Case and SLP assignments. In each module, I will also include optional readings and videos (as I have done below), which you may also read and view as you deem necessary to assist you in your understanding of key modular concepts.
Required Readings and Videos:
Following is an overview of the three categories of normative ethics from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy – a peer-reviewed academic resource! We will be studying each of these categories over succeeding modules – and we’ll be applying them to business situations – so please do feel free to surf this informative site:
The Seven Oaks Philosophy website gives a very good overview of ethics. Keep in mind that (as business ethics theorists quite abundantly tend to do) we will borrow widely from philosophical ethics as we construct our framework for business ethics. Note also that organizational problems can be assessed using three approaches: 1) one’s duty to others; 2) the consequences associated with a given decision or action; and 3) the notion of virtue.
Be sure that you watch Parts 1 and 2 of Dr. Steve Gold’s excellent video on normative ethics:
Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMWtrA1tspU
Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jj3TYB44OEY
Deontological ethics hold that the duty to act or not to act is rooted in the goodness or evil of the act itself – and not in the outcome of the act. That is, certain acts are good or bad in and of themselves. Immanuel Kant was a deontological philosopher, who argued that people must act out of duty. The following is a complex – although very interesting – discussion of Kant’s philosophy. You don’t need to read all of this (simply scan), but do be sure that you take particular note of Kant’s Categorical Imperative:
Here is a very good overview of the Categorical Imperative by Professor Philip A. Pecorino of Queensborough Community College. Note the excellent links provided throughout the article to other websites concerning Kant:
Optional Readings, Videos, and Resources:
Following is a superb lecture by Professor Michael Sandel on deontology. Included is discussion of Immanuel Kant’s Categorical Imperative (and every good business ethics philosopher must be familiar with the Categorical Imperative!):
The following website – the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (a peer-reviewed resource) – is an excellent overview of Kant’s Categorical Imperative.
Following is a very good video by Dr. Thomas O’Brien of DePaul University on the basics of morality and ethics:
Following are Professor Charles Kay’s (Wofford College Department of Philosophy) notes on deontology:
The following articles from School Oaks Philosophy and Carnegie-Mellon University give excellent descriptions of deontological ethics:
This video from Dr. Thomas O’Brien of DePaul University is also a very good overview of deontological ethics:
ETH501 – Additional Readings and Resources (Optional):
I have included the following resources for your reference, as they may be useful to you throughout the course (review of the following resources is optional):
The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy will provide you with in-depth and broad information on ethics:
Garth Kemerling’s Philosophy Pages are a very good information resource. Use the Search link at the top of the page:
Here is Dr. Philip A. Pecorino’s online textbook Introduction to Philosophy. Click on the Table of Contents link, and then click on the link to Chapter 8 (Ethics):
The following is a basic ethics resource. Be sure that you click on the “Content” button at the top of the page! This will take you to various ethics resources:
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is a scholarly – albeit in-depth – philosophy website. You need to type in the specific type of normative ethics in which you are interested – for example: “deontology,” “utilitarian,” or “teleological.”
Here is the Stanford Encyclopedia’s discussion of “business ethics”:
This website contains an excellent – and robust – series of sites that may be accessed for information and research purposes.
The following website is the Free Management Library’s discussion of business ethics and social responsibility. I will note that the Free Management Library is a good resource for all business topics.
To access articles in the Library, please follow the below steps:
1. Login to CourseNet at https://coursenet.trident.edu/
user name is hmullen
pw is monty2011
2. On the left hand navigation pane under Resources, select “Library Portal.”
3. From there, you will be directed to the Touro College Library database. If you know the database in which your article is located, then select that database to start your search.
4. If you cannot locate an article in one set of databases (such as EBSCO), try to find it in ProQuest.
At this time, the only exception remains Ebrary. To search Ebrary, please return to the navigation bar of CourseNet and click on Ebrary. It is located just below the Library Portal. It will take you directly to this database.
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