How Does Leadership Styles Influence Ethical Decisions In The Workplace Ethical Reasoning

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Ethical Reasoning

Ethics play a major role in our lives. The decisions we make have an effect on the type of people we are. So, what are ethics? Are they the same for everyone? No, they can’t be. The dictionary defines ethics as a set of moral principles. Because every person perceives a situation differently, something that is ethical to one person may not be to another. For example, I had a friend who was caught stealing money from the cash register at work. When she was confronted by our manager, she lied about the whole thing. She was eventually fired but she believed she had strong reasoning for stealing the money. There are six different ethical viewpoints; experientialist, systemicist, transcendentalist, conventionalist, individualist, and legitimist. Each viewpoint would analyze this situation differently. I’m going to apply these viewpoints to the situation mentioned above and analyze how each style would respond to the stealing of the money.

The first viewpoint is experientialist. Experientialists are people who base their decisions on emotions. This person would go with their “gut feeling”. In the example above, it is most likely a person with the experientialist viewpoint would say that it is unethical to steal money and lie about it. Their decision would affect them emotionally, so it would weigh heavy on them to judge this situation without knowing all the facts. If they know stealing is wrong, then they would call this unethical behavior. The next viewpoint, systemicist, has similar characteristics.

The manager of the store in the example above would most likely have a systemicist viewpoint. Systemicist’s like to base decisions on what is right for everyone involved. In other words, if it is mostly good, then it is ethical. But, if it is bad, then it is deemed unethical. Stealing from the store would automatically be viewed as unethical because the manager’s business is going to suffer the consequences.

The third viewpoint is transcendentalists. Transcendentalists based decisions on an obligation to respond to a deep inner sense of what is right, good, internal, and divine. Basically, their decisions are religiously based. In the situation presented, a transcendentalist would be very clear stance that stealing is bad. No matter what the reason was for stealing the money, transcendentalists would still consider it wrong and unethical. The next viewpoint is differs immensely from this one.

Unlike the transcendentalist, conventionalists base their decisions on whether or not other people believe to be right or wrong. In other words, if everyone else thinks it is okay, then it must be ethical. The downfall to this focus is that there isn’t a clear viewpoint. In contrast to the transcendentalist, what is wrong is wrong and vice versa. However, with this, one may believe something is unethical at first, but after hearing the thoughts of others, they may deem in appropriate. The transcendentalist follows by example which is set by society. Therefore society will dictate what action is or should be taken in any situation.

The fifth decision style is that of the individualist. This style differs from all the rest in that the views are based to ensure one’s own security and interests. Individualists think of the “what will benefit me” attitude. Looking back on the example, the girl has her own reasons for stealing the money. However, the manager has the future of his business to worry about. Each of them has their own interests in mind and the interests of others second. The next and final decision style, the legitimist, varies a lot from the other styles.

The legitimist has a clear cut view on ethical decisions. This person believes in policies and rules and that those rules were set to be followed. Following the rules would be ethical to a legitimist because they believe rules are set for the betterment of society. Looking back at the example, the worker would not have stolen the money if she were a legitimist. Also, the manager followed the legitimists’ views when he fires her for stealing.

Although each decision style has their own characteristics, many of them are similar. Because of this, I think most people make their decisions with mixed views. That is, certain information may sway the views of some people For example; the manager of the store in the example may be a legitimist because he has to be in accordance with the store’s laws. However, if the reason for stealing the money was to buy food for her starving kids, the manager may feel sorry for her and look over it. In that case his emotions would trigger the experientialist decision style.

There are many things that affect what decision styles we use. How we were brought up is probably the most influential. However, as we grow, those views may change. For example, when I was younger, stealing didn’t seem to be a big deal as long as you had a reason to do it. Now that I have worked as a manger I believe that stealing is stealing and there is no excuse for it. My views have obviously changed from my experience and I believe the views of others may change as they experience new things too.

My friend who stole the money told me she needed it to buy gas to make it home. After hearing this, my opinion on the situation changed. I felt bad that she didn’t have enough money to make it home. Given this information, I believe that most of the viewpoints listed above would change their opinion slightly, unless you were the legitimist because they believe right is right and wrong is wrong, period.

So, what is ethical? According the six different viewpoints; experientialist, systemicist, transcendentalist, conventionalist, individualist, and legitimist there are many ways to define ethical. Until the day comes where every person on earth shares the same view, the definition of ‘ethical’ will vary from person to person.

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