ETHICAL DECISION-MAKING CASE STUDY

Essay Directions
ASSIGNMENT OVERVIEW
The case study for this ethical decision essay assignment was written by Chloe Wilson and is titled Picking Up the Slack, which presents a

common ethical dilemma that you find when working on a team. Your assignment is to write an essay analyzing this ethical scenario. The following

are the steps to follow:
• Read Picking Up the Slackcase studyso you understand the ethical dilemma that Greg is facing.
• Explain why this is an ethical issue that requires an ethical decision.
• Now learn about the different ethical standards that can be used when making an ethical decision. When facing an ethical situation, one

way to determine what action to take is to evaluate the situation using the Five Approaches to Ethical Standards discussed in the article titled

A Framework for Thinking Ethically.
• After readingthe Framework article, learn more about ethical decision-making by finding at least two other sources that you will use in

your essay. One of these sources may be your Think Communication or Practically Speakingtextbook. More sources are listed on the last page of

this assignment under Works Cited. Feel free to explore this topic using other articles or books.
• Once you understand the Five Approaches to Ethical Standards, analyze Greg’s dilemma from more than one ethical standard. Determine the

action Greg should take if he applied these ethical standards. Consider the consequences and possible outcomes of his actions.
• Glossary of Ethical Terms is listed on the third page of this assignment.
• Also at the end of the Framework article, there is information about a free Ethical Decision Making app for your mobile device that you

might find useful; however, this is not required. I found this app to be interesting as it can be used for future ethical dilemmas and does not

just apply to this assignment.
• Now that you know more about ethical decision-making and determined a course of action based on these approaches, analyze this dilemma

from your own ethical perspective. If you were Greg, what would you do? Which ethical standard would you apply if you were in this situation?
• Last discuss the ethical values and core beliefs that influence your ethical conduct and ethical thinking.
ESSAY FORMAT REQUIREMENTS
• At least 800 words
• Your name and section number in the top right hand corner of the first page.
• Center the title of essay at the top of the first page.
• Four sources of evidence to support your interpretation of the ethical standards and conclusions. Sources must be cited in your essay.
• Use effective word usage and phrase choices; proper spelling, syntax, and grammar.
SOURCES ARE REQUIRED USING MLA STYLE
• In your essay, you will refer to the Picking Up the Slackcase study and A Framework for Thinking Ethically article, which must be cited

in the text of your essay and the Works Cited page or it is considered plagiarizing.
• In addition to these two sources, two other sources are required of which one may be from our textbook or the NCA Credo for Ethical

Communication.
• Plagiarizing Policy: If all sources are not properly cited in the essay and Works Cited page, then zero points will be earned for this

assignment.
EVALUATING SOURCES AND EVIDENCE
• Is the author an authority on the subject? (background and credentials)
• Is the information relevant to the assignment?
• Is the information accurate? (reliable, correct)
• Is the information current and up-to-date?
• Is the information objective, unbiased, and complete?
• Evidence should be relevant, credible, sufficient, and free from fallacies.
• Internet information and websites should be used with caution. Be skeptical if
o The source or author is not named.
o The author’s credentials are not given.
o The website is not current (has not been updated).
o The information is biased.
ESSAY GUIDELINES (How to write your essay.)
1st Create the Introduction (first paragraph):
• Write as if you do not know who will be reading your essay and assume your reader has not read the case study.
• Clearly state the ethical dilemma that will be analyzed in the essay (topic sentence).
• Provide a brief summary so the reader has a full understanding of the issue (remember the reader has not read the case study). Summarize

the situation with fairness to all parties.
• End your introduction with a clearly stated purpose, which is your thesis statement. Tell your reader what will follow in the body of

your essay.
2nd Develop the Body (minimum 4 paragraphs):
• After reading A Framework for Thinking Ethically, follow the directions above and analyze the ethical dilemma using the Five Approaches

to Ethical Standards. Consider the implications and consequences of each decision if these approaches were applied to this situation. Assume

your reader has no knowledge of these approaches so explain the key concepts. (2-3 paragraphs)
• If you were involved in a situation like this, what would you do? Analyze the situation using the ethical standard that you would apply

to this situation. Discuss the implications and consequences of your decision if you used this standard as a rationale for your decision. (1

paragraph)
• Next discuss how this ethical standard is similar or different from your own ethical values and core beliefs. Discuss your core beliefs

and how they evolved to form your ethical identity. How do your core beliefs guide your ethical thinking and ethical conduct today? Which core

beliefs influenced your decision in this dilemma? (1 paragraph)
• According to the AACU’s Ethical Reasoning VALUES Rubric,
o Core beliefs “can reflect one’s environment, religion, culture or training.”
o Core beliefs are “fundamental principles that consciously or unconsciously influence one’s ethical conduct and ethical thinking . . .

.even if they are unacknowledged.”
o You may or may not choose to act on your core beliefs.
o In general, your core beliefs shape your responses when faced with an ethical decision.
• For the body of your essay, follow these writing guidelines:
o Start each paragraph with a topic sentence that effectively states the purpose of the paragraph.
o Develop sentences that are logical and clear. Ideas should flow logically. Paragraphs should be unified and work together to support

the thesis.
o Make paragraphs coherent by using effective and appropriate transitions between ideas and paragraphs.
3rd Write the Conclusion (last paragraph):
• Restate the thesis.
• Provide a summary and closure.
Essay Checklist and Important Reminders
• The essay should not sound as if the writer is answering a series of questions.
• The purpose of the essay should be clear to the reader.
• The thesis should be clearly stated in the introduction.
• Relevant background information should be provided in the introduction so the audience has a clear understanding of the ethical issue

and why an ethical decision is required.
• The introduction should engage the reader.
• The essay should be well-organized.
• The essay should be written in Standard English.
• The essay should be free of grammatical and syntax errors.
• Word choice and phrases should be appropriate and effective.
• Main ideas should be fully developed, supported, and show critical thinking.
• Ideas should flow logically. Sentence structure should be correct, coherent, and varied.
• Outside sources should be smoothly integrated in the essay. The essay should include correctly formatted in-text citations and a

correct Works Cited page.
• The essay should follow MLA guidelines.
• The conclusion should provide closure and restate the thesis.
• The essay should reflect an awareness of the audience.
• The tone and style are appropriate for the essay’s purpose and audience.
• There is a clear voice and point of view. The writer is identified with a quality (honesty, sincerity, intelligence). The audience

should get a sense of the writer.
• Facts are distinguished from opinions.
• Opinions are supported and qualified.
• Opposing views are represented fairly.
• Essay has been spell-checked and edited.

GLOSSARY OF ETHICAL TERMS (by AACU and Stephen F. Austin State University)
• Character traits associated with ethics include honesty, truth-seeking, integrity, responsibility, respect, compassion and empathy.
• A core belief is a principle or fundamental belief which guides a person’s actions or decisions. A core belief can change over time.
• Ethics refer to standards of right and wrong that influence our core beliefs and values, our ethical conduct and ethical thinking. Our

ethics guide our daily actions and behavior, including our communication with family, friends, co-workers, and the community.
• An ethical dilemma is a problem or situation that requires a person to choose between alternatives based on standards of moral conduct.
• Ethical standards impose obligations to “do the right thing,” to stand up for our rights and the rights of others.
• Ethical perspectives/concepts are the different theoretical means through which ethical issues are analyzed, such as ethical theories

(e.g. utilitarian, natural law, virtue) or ethical concepts (e.g. rights, justice, duty).
• Ethical Reasoning is reasoning about right and wrong human conduct. It requires you to be able to assess your own ethical values and

the social context of problems, recognize ethical issues in a variety of settings, think about how different ethical perspectives might be

applied to ethical dilemmas and consider the ramifications of alternative actions. Your ethical self-identity evolves as you practice ethical

decision-making skills and learn how to describe and analyze positions on ethical issues.
• Context is the historical, cultural, professional, or political situation, background, or environment that applies to a given ethical

issue.
• A perspective is a world view that informs core beliefs and ethical opinions. It is how one sees oneself, other people, and the world.

Perspectives are not limited to theories and concepts in ethical philosophy. They may also include political and religious convictions,

cultural assumptions, and attitudes shaped by one’s family, background.

Works Cited
Engleberg, I. & Wynn, D. Think Communication. New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc. 2015. Print.
“Ethical Reasoning Value Rubric.” American Association of Colleges and Universities.American Association of Colleges and Universities. 2009.

Web. 15 Aug. 2014.
“Personal Responsibility Value Rubric.” Stephen F. Austin University. Stephen F. Austin University. 2014. Web. 15 July 2014.
“NCA Credo for Ethical Communication.” National Communication Association. National Communication Association, Nov. 1999. Web. 28 Oct. 2015.
Rothwell, D. Practically Speaking. New York: Oxford University Press. 2014. Print.
Velasquez, M. et al. “A Framework for Thinking Ethically.” Markkula Center for Applied Ethics. Santa Clara University. May

2009. Web. 15 Aug. 2014.
Wilson, C. “Picking Up the Slack (Big Q).” Markkula Center for Applied Ethics. Santa Clara University. 11 Mar. 2013. Web. 15 Aug. 2014.

A Framework for Thinking Ethically

This document is designed as an introduction to thinking ethically. We all have an image of our better selves of how we are when we act

ethically or are “at our best.” We probably also have an image of what an ethical community, an ethical business, an ethical government, or an

ethical society should be. Ethics really has to do with all these levels (acting ethically as individuals, creating ethical organizations and

governments, and making our society as a whole ethical in the way it treats everyone).
What is Ethics?
Simply stated, ethics refers to standards of behavior that tell us how human beings ought to act in the many situations in which they find

themselves as friends, parents, children, citizens, businesspeople, teachers, professionals, and so on.
It is helpful to identify what ethics is NOT:
• Ethics is not the same as feelings. Feelings provide important information for our ethical choices. Some people have highly developed

habits that make them feel bad when they do something wrong, but many people feel good even though they are doing something wrong. And often our

feelings will tell us it is uncomfortable to do the right thing if it is hard.
• Ethics is not religion. Many people are not religious, but ethics applies to everyone. Most religions do advocate high ethical standards

but sometimes do not address all the types of problems we face.
• Ethics is not following the law. A good system of law does incorporate many ethical standards, but law can deviate from what is ethical.

Law can become ethically corrupt, as some totalitarian regimes have made it. Law can be a function of power alone and designed to serve the

interests of narrow groups. Law may have a difficult time designing or enforcing standards in some important areas, and may be slow to address

new problems.
• Ethics is not following culturally accepted norms. Some cultures are quite ethical, but others become corrupt or blind to certain

ethical concerns (as the United States was to slavery before the Civil War). “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” is not a satisfactory ethical

standard.
• Ethics is not science. Social and natural science can provide important data to help us make better ethical choices. But science alone

does not tell us what we ought to do. Science may provide an explanation for what humans are like. But ethics provides reasons for how humans

ought to act. And just because something is scientifically or technologically possible, it may not be ethical to do it.
Why Identifying Ethical Standards is Hard
There are two fundamental problems in identifying the ethical standards we are to follow:
1. On what do we base our ethical standards?
2. How do those standards get applied to specific situations we face?
If our ethics are not based on feelings, religion, law, accepted social practice, or science, what are they based on? Many philosophers and

ethicists have helped us answer this critical question. They have suggested at least five different sources of ethical standards we should use.
Five Sources of Ethical Standards
1. The Utilitarian Approach
Some ethicists emphasize that the ethical action is the one that provides the most good or does the least harm, or, to put it another way,

produces the greatest balance of good over harm. The ethical corporate action, then, is the one that produces the greatest good and does the

least harm for all who are affected, i.e., customers, employees, shareholders, the community, and the environment. Ethical warfare balances the

good achieved in ending terrorism with the harm done to all parties through death, injuries, and destruction. The utilitarian approach deals

with consequences; it tries both to increase the good done and to reduce the harm done.
2. The Rights Approach
Other philosophers and ethicists suggest that the ethical action is the one that best protects and respects the moral rights of those affected.

This approach starts from the belief that humans have a dignity based on their human nature per se or on their ability to choose freely what

they do with their lives. On the basis of such dignity, they have a right to be treated as ends and not merely as means to other ends. The list

of moral rights -including the rights to make one’s own choices about what kind of life to lead, to be told the truth, not to be injured, to a

degree of privacy, and so on-is widely debated; some now argue that non-humans have rights, too. Also, it is often said that rights imply

duties-in particular, the duty to respect others’ rights.
3. The Fairness or Justice Approach
Aristotle and other Greek philosophers have contributed the idea that all equals should be treated equally. Today we use this idea to say that

ethical actions treat all human beings equally-or if unequally, then fairly based on some standard that is defensible. We pay people more based

on their harder work or the greater amount that they contribute to an organization, and say that is fair. But there is a debate over CEO

salaries that are hundreds of times larger than the pay of others; many ask whether the huge disparity is based on a defensible standard or

whether it is the result of an imbalance of power and hence is unfair.
4. The Common Good Approach
The Greek philosophers have also contributed the notion that life in community is a good in itself and our actions should contribute to that

life. This approach suggests that the interlocking relationships of society are the basis of ethical reasoning and that respect and compassion

for all others-especially the vulnerable-are requirements of such reasoning. This approach also calls attention to the common conditions that

are important to the welfare of everyone. This may be a system of laws, effective police and fire departments, health care, a public educational

system, or even public recreational areas.
5. The Virtue Approach
A very ancient approach to ethics is that ethical actions ought to be consistent with certain ideal virtues that provide for the full

development of our humanity. These virtues are dispositions and habits that enable us to act according to the highest potential of our character

and on behalf of values like truth and beauty. Honesty, courage, compassion, generosity, tolerance, love, fidelity, integrity, fairness, self-

control, and prudence are all examples of virtues. Virtue ethics asks of any action, “What kind of person will I become if I do this?” or “Is

this action consistent with my acting at my best?”
Putting the Approaches Together
Each of the approaches helps us determine what standards of behavior can be considered ethical. There are still problems to be solved, however.
The first problem is that we may not agree on the content of some of these specific approaches. We may not all agree to the same set of human

and civil rights.We may not agree on what constitutes the common good. We may not even agree on what is a good and what is a harm.
The second problem is that the different approaches may not all answer the question “What is ethical?” in the same way. Nonetheless, each

approach gives us important information with which to determine what is ethical in a particular circumstance. And much more often than not, the

different approaches do lead to similar answers.
Making Decisions
Making good ethical decisions requires a trained sensitivity to ethical issues and a practiced method for exploring the ethical aspects of a

decision and weighing the considerations that should impact our choice of a course of action. Having a method for ethical decision making is

absolutely essential. When practiced regularly, the method becomes so familiar that we work through it automatically without consulting the

specific steps.
The more novel and difficult the ethical choice we face, the more we need to rely on discussion and dialogue with others about the dilemma. Only

by careful exploration of the problem, aided by the insights and different perspectives of others, can we make good ethical choices in such

situations.
The following framework for ethical decision making is a useful method for exploring ethical dilemmas and identifying ethical courses of action.
A Framework for Ethical Decision Making
STEP 1: Recognize an Ethical Issue
• Could this decision or situation be damaging to someone or to some group? Does this decision involve a choice between a good and bad

alternative, or perhaps between two “goods” or between two “bads”?
• Is this issue about more than what is legal or what is most efficient? If so, how?
STEP 2: Get the Facts
• What are the relevant facts of the case? What facts are not known? Can I learn more about the situation? Do I know enough to make a

decision?
• What individuals and groups have an important stake in the outcome? Are some concerns more important? Why?
• What are the options for acting? Have all the relevant persons and groups been consulted? Have I identified creative options?
STEP 3: Evaluate Alternative Actions
• Evaluate the options by asking the following questions:
 Which option will produce the most good and do the least harm? (The Utilitarian Approach)
 Which option best respects the rights of all who have a stake? (The Rights Approach)
 Which option treats people equally or proportionately? (The Justice Approach)
 Which option best serves the community as a whole, not just some members?
(The Common Good Approach)
 Which option leads me to act as the sort of person I want to be? (The Virtue Approach)
STEP 4: Make a Decision and Test It
• Considering all these approaches, which option best addresses the situation?
• If I told someone I respect which option I have chosen, what would they say?
STEP 5: Act and Reflect on the Outcome
• How can my decision be implemented with the greatest care and attention to the concerns of all stakeholders?
• How did my decision turn out and what have I learned from this specific situation?
This framework for thinking ethically is the product of dialogue and debate at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University.

Primary contributors include Manuel Velasquez, Dennis Moberg, Michael J. Meyer, Thomas Shanks, Margaret R. McLean, David DeCosse, Claire André,

and Kirk O. Hanson. It was last revised in May 2009.

WE ACCEPT