Understanding Ethics And Applying Ethical Decision Making
Ethics varies from one culture to another and sometimes we never know whether we have taken the right ethical decision or not for a given situation. Ethics defines the basis or the underlying framework of our societies and constitutes the core of our relationships. It consists of several conceptions or notions that affect our personal and business lives. These concepts include trust, judgement, responsibility, duty, obligation, right, damage, values, conduct, morals etc.
When you start thinking ethically, the first question you might think about is “Why should I?” or “Why should I not?”. Being capable of answering this question will help you develop better understanding on how to deal with the world around you. Some people only think about their self-interest and do not care about the harm they might inflict on others as a result of their actions. If everybody puts his self-interest above all, the world would definitely be in chaos and the only way to restrict this would be by Law (imposed regulation). In order to avoid clash with Law, you need to change yourself. Thus ethics emerges when you start regulating yourself. The consequences of making an ethical decision would be good both to you and to others.
Ethics serves as a guide to the choices that we make and actions that we take. It deals with your character and the way you treat others. It considers the reasons or principles behind your choices and the impact or consequences of your actions on others. It is not a set of rules or principles or simply a Law that you are doomed to follow (e.g. do not kill, do not steal etc.). Sometimes it would be more ethical to break the law in a given situation if you are able to justify your decision and actions and accept others to behave in the same way when dealing with this situation.
Concepts of Ethics
As stated earlier, ethics relies on important concepts that everybody should be aware of. These concepts form crucial parts of ethics and affect how you deal with others:
Values are the reasons, motives, or beliefs for your actions or for putting yourself in a given situation
Code of ethics is a set of guidelines that you rely on when making ethical decisions (e.g. Australian Computer Society Code of Ethics)
Code of conduct details what you would do in specific situations
Rights are justifications or excuses for your actions that place obligations on others to consider and respect
Obligations put you into forced commitments or bindings imposed by others (parents, boss, Law etc.)
Duties are responsibility requirements on you by others based on trust and promise
Responsibility means a moral duty that you are to fulfill to others
Liability is more or less a legal responsibility on you for all its consequences or actions
Harm is some sort of damage that is inflicted on you without your awareness
Hurt is the feeling you get when you become aware of the damage
Trust is created when you promise and fulfill your obligation with others; otherwise it is broken
Judgment is the decision you make after analyzing the situation and its effects. Judgments can be objective and based on clear principles or rules to be followed (e.g. winning/losing in a contest) or relative with subjective principles that you choose. How ethical your subjective judgment is, depends on how you use the concepts above to weigh your decisions ethically with others.