Ethical lapses are often confused with ethical dilemmas! In application, these are two very different things. An ethical lapse is a failure to behave in an ethical way in some specific situation, while an ethical dilemma is a situation in which no good ethical choice or decision is possible. Consider the two following global management situations:
- Philip Thomas, a British manager makes a visit to a subsidiary in Nambodia, a developing nation, and finds that a local manager has hired a 10-year-old boy as a factory worker. This violates the company’s corporate policy regarding child labor. Thomas instructs the Nambodian manager to remove the child from the factory, but the local manager tells Thomas that the child is orphaned, has no income or family and would likely end up homeless without the factory job. What should Thomas do?
- On the same subsidiary visit, British executive Philip Thomas finds that his manufacturing plant in Nambodia, a developing nation, is discharging chemicals into the local river in excess of what U.S. laws would permit. It is likely that such levels of toxic waste pose a potential health hazard but the capital investment required to correct the problem will result in the plant not achieving its profitability requirements for the next two years.
After considering these two different scenarios, discuss the following:
- Which is a genuine ethical dilemma and which is an ethical lapse, and why?
- It is frequently stated that “ethics rises above the law.” Explain this reasoning as it would apply to one of these scenarios.
Just response each posted # 1 to 3 only down below.
Hello Class, this week we are to discuss which situation is an ethical lapse, ethical dilemma and explain the “ethics above law” reasoning as it relates to one of the situations. In the first situation I would say that there is an ethical dilemma. If the boy does not keep the job he will be homeless and have no income which is not a good choice. If the boy keeps the job he can have income but it still is not a good ethical choice as it is child labor. There is not a good ethical choice in this situation. The second situation is an ethical lapse. The decision to pollute the environment is obviously unethical. There is another ethical answer although not profitable the capital project to fix the problem would be the ethical approach.
The second situation would relate to the ethics above the law reasoning. The discharging of chemicals may be within limits of the law in Nambodia but ethically the company should not knowingly pollute the environment with toxic chemicals.
In both situations presented, I believe them to be ethical dilemmas. An ethical dilemma is considered to be a problem between two possibilities that are not acceptable or preferable. Making a choice between the two would result in hurting the other. Employing the child is wrong because of labor laws, but the child is able to provide for themselves because of it. Taking away the employment would make the child homeless and hungry. The second scenario is also a dilemma because you run the risks of loosing profits if you do things the correct way. Neither choice would result in a preferable outcome. Doing the right thing sometimes comes with a price.
I would say that scenario one is the ethical dilemma. "That is the nature of ethical dilemmas—situations in which none of the available alternatives seems ethically acceptable. In this case, employing child labor was not acceptable, but given that she was employed, neither was denying the child her only source of income." (Hill, Hult, 2018). The scenario has no positive alternatives, child labor is obviously unethical but if the child is relying on that money to live, what do you do? Thomas could look the other way so that the child could continue to receive a paycheck, or ensure that the child does not work there anymore and then the child will possibly starve to death. There is no positive solution and that is why it is a dilemma. The ethical lapse is the second scenario because there is an ethical situation but the other option is harmful to the person or business. In this case, properly disposing the chemicals in a proper way instead of dumping them in a river, the company will not reach profitability for two years.
Ethics rises above the law in the first scenario because no matter what the law states, there might be a choice that is ethically correct that goes against the law. Like this case, child labor is against the law but in order for the child to survive, Thomas would need to allow the child to continue working there.
Hill, C. W. L., Hult, G. T. M. (2018). Global Business Today, 10th Edition. [Purdue University Global Bookshelf]. Retrieved fromhttps://purdueuniversityglobal.vitalsource.com/#/books/undefined/