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Best Person for the Job

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In response to the case study The Best Person for the Job by Joanne B. Ciulla; it is important to examine the prima facie obligations of W. D. Ross, any of which can be defined as "an obligation that can be overridden by a more important obligation." According to Ross, there are seven prima facie obligations, which we must consider in the process of moral decision making. These include: duties of fidelity, duties of reparation, duties of gratitude, duties of justice, duties of beneficence, duties of self-improvement, and duties not to injure others. This particular case study forms a hypothetical scenario aimed at the reader for the purpose of inciting critical thinking on a moral level; and a brief synopsis thereof reveals the moral dilemma contained therein.

Assuming that the reader is a high-ranking executive at a major firm, the author provides the following set of occupational circumstances. First; an employee, Sam, who has been handling the firm's top account, has handed in his resignation. Second; the client firm, Magnolia Corporation, is headed by CEO, J. W. Crawford who according to Sam, possesses an antiquated mindset and would probably be most receptive to financial suggestions from a male associate. In addition, J. W. has a reputation for objectifying women, including seasoned account executive, Elaine, who experienced his distasteful attitude first-hand in a meeting last year, where J. W. ignored her sound advice and made unprovoked verbal and physical advances toward her. Based on the given turn of events, one must consider the moral obligations toward the three major parties with vested interest in this business relationship: Magnolia CEO, J. W. Crawford, the firm itself, and Elaine.

In order to understand the full moral implications of his decision, an executive faced with this situation must not forget that he still has prima facie obligations to J.W. Crawford, in spite of his boorish behavior. The first of these is the duty of fidelity. It is logical that, in order to procure this fiduciary relationship in the first place, explicit and implicit promises would have been made to take Magnolia Corp.'s best interest to heart and maintain financial loyalty to this valued client. The duty of gratitude is also present here. In appreciation for the long-standing relationship that has developed, it is only right to put an experienced executive on the account. Finally, one must consider the duty of beneficence. Surely, improved working environments could be achieved through a continued relationship with Magnolia Corporation, and by default, J. W. Crawford. This would stem from the enhanced efficiency of both firms through the sharing of industry knowledge and productive business tactics, yielding an improvement of all employees' ability to perform well at their jobs.

The second party to which prima facie obligations are held is the firm for which the decision maker himself works. Again, we see the emergence of the duty of fidelity. It is certain that, upon being hired, one would certainly have made explicit promises to act in the best interest of the employing firm. The duty of beneficence applies to this party as well. It is the responsibility of any morally sound executive to enhance the well-being of both his firm and his subordinates via the implementation of sound business decisions and practices. The last of Ross's obligations applicable to the firm itself is the duty of self-improvement. By finding a morally correct way to extend the life of this business relationship, one would enhance his own management skills as well as interpersonal and moral intuitiveness; and in so doing, would contribute to the overall success of those around him and the firm by setting such a strong leadership example.

Finally, and perhaps most crucially, the prima facie obligations toward Elaine must be examined in detail. As with the previous two parties, the first duty that is relevant in the case of Elaine is that of fidelity. Therein is found the implicit promise that every good executive makes to each of his subordinates; which is to contribute to their overall success, and consequently that of the entire firm and its clients. There have also inevitably



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