Issues of ethics as well as situations that require that we make choices out of competing interests are things that individuals and businesses face every day. People should develop ways of ensuring that they make the best choices when situations when ethical situations come their way. This paper explores the role of virtue ethics in the field of management, where I was involved as an intern last two summers, where I had to report to my immediate manager and supervisor. However, despite being in the management position of this esteemed restaurant, the manager relegated the duties of ensuring the supervision process to me to conduct on junior employees of the restaurant.
Before exploring the specific instance encountered, it would be relevant to explore the theme of ethics. The exact meaning of ethics is hard to capture because it is fluid. What is “ethical” varies from place to place depending on the culture and so it would be an exercise in futility to essay to make a case for some universal code of ethics and pass that around as the standard. The most that could be done is to describe ethics in terms that people everywhere will agree with - like to say that ethical behavior aims to create harmonious coexistence between individuals in a social setting- but then leave it to the local cultures to decide which behaviors these are.
Many people also confuse ethics with religion and laws; they are not. We can only hope that our laws reflect the ethical standards that we think are important. Ethics refers to a body of standards of wrong and right, borne, not out of a requirement to obey a rule but for the sake of goodness and justice and fairness. Concerns about ethics cut across the whole sphere of society – from the household to the workplace to places of worship et al. So long as people interact, the question of how best to come within reach of their interaction and create an environment that is conducive will always arise (Gale, 2010)
Having taken different philosophy classes in College, I believe through learning in the classes that ethics sprout from the work of Aristotle that premises on the virtue-ethics. The practicality of the ethics depends on the type of activity, character, and motivation of the people engaged. Since my situation was business based, I would relate ethics in a business set up.
Dobson (2007) writes that ethics can be integrated into business in two ways. One way is through action-based approach and the other way through established rules, that governs the management’s actions. The established are usually enshrined in the business’ code of conduct or code of ethics. In contrary to the established rules, the action-based approach leaves ethics as a concern of the character and motivations of the person concerned. In this view, moral behavior separates from the law constrains and adopts individual rationality as the premise of operation. The second approach defines ethics as “central to the rationality concept as an objective rather than a constraint” (Dobson, 2007, p. 1).
The methodology agent based approaches of ethics accrues from virtue-ethics theory. Virtue refers to the ideal traits required of an agent. Virtues include traits such as courage, honesty, integrity among others. These values lie in a spectrum of good to bad. On the farthest of good are values of honor such as the goods, honesty, integrity, etc while the exact opposite are values not desirable such as cowardice, rashness, dishonesty among others. The virtuous ethicist is involved in a duel between balancing actions such that decision-making process becomes laden with excellence of character in a consortium of attributes. (Gale, 2010)
Working with a “lazy” boss, all the managerial responsibilities were relegated on me. I was the immediate supervisor of various top officials. However, I did not feel competent enough to handle the situation. The managerial position required many history records to be followed while handling the information and issues that arose in the restaurant. However, I could not access all these required information and my attempt for a follow up bore no fruit. I contacted my boss who never showed any interest on his job at all leaving me in a dire situation of helplessness.
I wondered what would be the best solution to this when my immediate boss who could be my rescuer cared less. In addition, I dint not want to set bad record on my first internship exercise. I wondered what the right intervention would be since the executives only visited the restaurant after three months when my internship with the restaurant would be done I also feared approaching my boss to tell him of changes that he would make in his position to ensure success of the restaurant. However, I feared victimization and what would be considered disrespect to the boss. I did not have the direct link with the restaurant executives making it difficult to make direct communication to them. Also approaching my immediate lazy boss would seem lack of competence.
After one week of this desperation, I made up my mind believing that honesty and integrity should override my pride. I approached my boss, explained the difficulty I was experiencing and asked for insight on what would be the right form of action considering the complexity of the job. To my utter disbelief, it appeared that the otherwise labeled “lazy” boss was intentionally creating this type of work environment to determine my honesty as an ethical virtue in business, to determine how long that would take me accept the challenge and seek for help. After a whole week of fidgeting, I found out that the otherwise considered “lazy boss” wanted to determine my integral ability in honesty. Could I be able to admit the difficulty rather than doing nothing to mitigate the situation? All were upon me to administer the ethical solution to the problem.
Dobson, John. “Applying Virtue Ethics to Business: The Agent-based Approach.” Electronic Journal of Business Ethics and Organizational Studies Vol 12, no. No.2 (November 12, 2007).
Gale, B. (2010). Managing Customer Value: Creating Quality and Service That Customers Can Se. Los Angeles, CA: Simon and Schuster.