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Genb 4350 - Application of Ethical Lenses/theories

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Luke is currently an employee at ABC Company. Lately, he was responsible for a project which involved purchasing a land to develop an adult entertainment retail store. He recognizes that the store location is close to the house of his brother, Owen. Luke can predict that local property prices will sharply decline after ABC`s public announcement on the project next month. Accidentally, Owen is trying to make a decision whether he should sell his house at current market value or wait until the price increases in the future.


Luke`s ethical issue in this situation is that should he disclose or protect his company`s confidential plan from his brother. In short, which is the right side for Luke to place his loyalty on? Is it his family or his company?  There are no simple solutions to this dilemma. Now, Luke`s decision will need to legally fulfill the duties towards both his employer and to his brother without violating his own moral and ethical values.


There are four philosophical theories that can help Luke resolve his case ethically and legally.


The first one is utilitarianism, whose final goal is to ethically promote the well-being of the majority of the stakeholders involved. To practically apply this concept, Luke firstly needs to carefully consider who those people might be, and the possible effects of his action on those. Next, he has to evaluate and quantify all the potential damages and the benefits, then select the most beneficial and ethical resolution for his stakeholders.

If Luke decides to protect his company`s plan and hides the plan from his brother, Owen will positively lose a considerable sum of money when selling his house after the announcement. Further, their brotherhood will possibly be in jeopardy if Owen discovers the true story that Luke intentionally ignores his brother`s benefits.

On the other hand, if Luke wants to maintain a tight family relationship and confides his company`s secret in Owen, he will definitely deal with the high risk of unemployment. Moreover, his own integrity and ABC`s reputation will be seriously damaged. It is certain that ABC`s reliability and capacity will be immensely downgraded by their own stakeholders, investors, and the public. This breach of confidentiality will probably disrupt ABC`s development plan for the retail store and cause the investors to question the company`s competence. Moreover, Luke`s credibility will be dramatically diminished after this incident and it might be hopeless for him to apply for any future job opportunities with this scandalous record. The worst scenario is that ABC fails to execute their plan and the shareholders begin to withdraw their investments, which will obviously lead to a great loss to the company and force ABC to terminate contracts with a part of its employees.

However, it can be much more challenging for Luke to precisely estimate and quantify all parties` loss and benefits to reach his final “verdict”. How can Luke convert his family values into monetary units so they can be fairly compared with ABC`s financial risks? Is it possible for him to accurately forecast how severely his reputation will be affected? What is the correct measurement for both ethical and legal values in this problem? Now, Luke`s first priority is to thoroughly analyze the consequences and produce a solution that can guarantee happiness for most stakeholders.

Universal Ethics

Another method is to use the theory of universal ethics, which requires Luke to define moral absolutism. Luke`s actions have to be the standards for all the human beings to always comply in every situation with no exceptions. The most critical drawback of this concept is that it eliminates flexibility, which makes it impossible to create any codes of conduct without considering any specific sets of factors for each case.

If Luke wants to be loyal to his company and conceal this classified information, the company will have to hide it from everyone else including its investors. Is it legal or ethical for a company to conceal its future decisions as well as financial data from its shareholders? Apparently, those people have the right to obtain the necessary information to maximize their own profits, since they have been a vital source of support for this company.

On the contrary, if Luke chooses to tell Owen the truth, is it acceptable for all employees in ABC to act the same? Should they be allowed to reveal the company`s secret to their families or even the competitors? This leak will doubtlessly harm ABC not only on this occasion, but also in the long run if all the staff is permitted to freely share any upcoming business plans.

What is the absolute guideline that Luke and everyone can apply to any situation? It has to be completely legal and ethical so all parties can use as their own standards.

Golden Rule: 

This theory suggests that you should care about other people in the same way that you care about yourself. For example, if you want others to be honest with you, you need to be honest with them. This concept gives prominence to the moral consciousness of a society.

To practically apply this theory, Luke firstly needs to imagine what he would do if he were in Owen`s position. If someone told Luke about some secret information affecting the real estate market, how would he react? That information would definitely help him figure out the future price change in order to make the most profitable decision whether he should sell or wait.



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