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Ethics Of Decision Making At Workplace

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Ethics of Decision Making In The Workplace


Ethical decisions in the workplace can be very difficult to make depending on the situation. Sometimes we must rely on our personal ethics and what is in the best interest of the group or of the individual.

Ethical decision making in today’s business world is encountered on a daily basis. Many of the results of decisions are based on company policies or ground rules established. Other decisions are based on individual or personal ethics. Decision making can have a number of ground rules that help us determine whether our decision is ethical or unethical. Each decision, whether it is based on company or personal ground rules will have its own set of implications. Sometimes we are forced to choose what is right from wrong according to the situation.

According to the “Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary”, “ethics is the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation, a set of morals principles or values” (Merriam-Webster dictionary). We are all instilled with a set of morals and ethics based on what we have learned throughout our lives. What is considered the right decision for one person might not be the correct decision for the other. I work in an investment bank, so an example of an ethical situation in the workplace can be as follows: I am assisting a banker who is working on a merger deal and I see confidential financial stock information laid out on the client’s desk. The financial information on the client’s desk is in regards to a merger that will occur which will cause the price of the stock to drop. I know that my friends are going to invest a large amount of money on the stock that I just saw physical financial information that claims that the price will decrease. Company policy states that any information that I may view while assisting the client is highly confidential private property of the company and cannot be discussed or distributed externally without written consent for a business matter. My friends are in the process of investing their life savings on this company that will collapse financially in price. The ethical predicament here is what is the appropriate action to take in this scenario. Will I break the company policy and call my friends to advise them of my discovery, or just say nothing about my learning’s and act shocked when they inform me of their crippling losses from their investment venture. The company policies clearly state the appropriate behavior for any information viewed when assisting clients by a technical support analyst. Since I work in the technology desktop support department I have access to both banker and broker information such as group or personal directories and any information saved on the network. The policies state that sharing of information or data of the client is a violation, which can lead to jail. We cannot comment to fellow coworkers about stock tips or information learned from banker’s hardware, software, or documentation with or without permission. It is an illegal practice and some choose to do it based on their ethical background. This includes sharing information with anyone outside the company be it a wife, husband, or siblings. Doing so would be considered insider trading. An unethical comment according to company guidelines would be saying, while on the phone or face to face with a person, “I have learned from a banker that this stock will drop in price and you should not purchase it.” The action that seems harmless and an act of good is considered unethical and a violation of company policy and will result in immediate termination upon discovery by our compliance department. My personal set of ethics tells me to call my friends and tell them about the information I have learned, but what happens if the information is passed on to other friends and I am mentioned as the source? This sensitive shared information can ultimately be my downfall. However, not sharing the information with my friends and allowing them to squander away their life savings on a company stock that I know will drop will make me feel guilty. On the other hand, I do not want to take the chance of losing my job. I have been in the investment bank for almost six years and enjoy working in it. I would have to approach the situation in a well thought and careful way. I would suggest to my close friends to research that particular company stock and to possibly hold their purchases for some time. I would not be specific or give any reason as to why I am making this statement based on the information I have learned. This conclusion allows me to obey the ethical practices of the investment bank while keeping the confidentiality of the information learned to some extent. This conclusion also relieves me of feeling guilty about not doing anything about the situation. This type of situation is not spelled out in our company handbook, but I had to make a decision on how to satisfy both sets of ethical ground rules. Ethical decisions are not always in black and white; sometimes I have to work in the gray area.

As Robert Moye states in the article Ethics- “What is going on?”,

To avoid building our code of business and personal ethics on a slippery slope

we need to develop a rock for our foundation. We need to look not only to our

own potential changing view of what is ethical vs. what is unethical, but outside

ourselves for a plumb line that is not affected by our emotions. (p.38)

Meaning, our emotions in a situation can cause us to make a decision that is not in the best interest for the company or the individual. For example, suppose I am in the banker’s office working on a computer issue and I see information on a document on the screen. This occurs while I am closing all the applications in Windows to prepare to reboot the computer, but I see information on the stock that my friends are considering for an investment. The ethical dilemma here is do I contact my friends and inform them of my findings or do I just keep the information



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