Management is confronted with two general types of propositions: those of a factual nature, which accurately describe the observable world, and those of an ethical nature, which assert that one course of action is better than another. According to this classification, factual proposition can be tested and proved to be true or false, but an ethical proposition can only be asserted to be good or bad. Ethical matters pertain to what conditions “ought to be”. The ethical elements of a proposition are subject to varying opinions and value judgments. To date, no philosophical system has been developed that can be called a “science of ethics”. The problem is that there is no way to prove ultimate values. Value systems can be constructed only if we assume what is good, for example, one school of thought may assume that “happiness” is an ultimate good, and another school may assume that custom and tradition determine “right”
Management must meet problems involving varying mixtures of factual and ethical elements. A useful approach is to segregate the factual elements from the ethical ones and to use different methods for handling each group.
Moral behavior can be described as governed by beliefs or feelings of what is right or wrong regardless of self interest or immediate consequences of a decision to do or not to do specific things under particular conditions. The difficulty concerning moral propositions is that varying standards may be used. A number of the generally accepted virtues, such as happiness, lawfulness, consistency, integrity and loyalty, may in a specific situation conflict with one another. For example, a manager who attempts to use integrity and loyalty and his standards may experience conflict if he discovers wrongdoing on the part of superior. Should he remain loyal to his superior, or should he maintain his integrity? Managers typically face moral dilemmas in their decisions and actions. The moral conflicts faced by management in a diagram in which moral standards surround action but in which the standard at one arrow conflicts with the standard at the opposite arrow.
Two approaches to moral questions will illustrate some philosophical treatments of what is good or what “ought to be.” One theological approach considers that certain ultimate values are matters of natural law. Under this view, certain actions are always wrong because they break some basic intuitive law. If one of these laws is “Thou shalt not kill” then a strict interpretation of this law would make killing wrong under all condition Self-defense, capital punishment, abortion, or “killing for what is right” would be considered to be wrong because they violate the natural law. An opposing viewpoint is often referred to as situational ethics. Under this approach, the question of whether an action is right or wrong depends upon the total situation in which the action occurs. This view holds that an action under one set of circumstance an in one environment would be right, whereas the same action under another set of circumstances and in another environment would be wrong. In an organization, a subordinate may face a situation in which his superior orders him to do something that is for the good of the organization but that may conflict with the interest of others to whom the subordinate has a responsibility. Does an order by a superior absolve the subordinate of blame, in the event that an action is detrimental to society or is outright illegal? Managers often must face dilemmas of this type.Changes in societies are described by distinguishing three types of men according to their source of moral direction: (1) the tradition directed type, (2) the inner directed type, and (3) other directed type. The traditional directed type conforms to the culture and social order in which e lives. Society presents unchanging relationships that are accepted as right. In this society little effort is directed toward changing the status quo, because it is considered wrong to break traditions. The inner-directed man receives his source of direction early in life from his elders and develops a “psychological gyroscope” that keeps him on his moral course. If he should get off course, he tends to feel guilt. The other directed man receives hi0s source of direction from his contemporaries and changes his concepts of what is right through a socialized sensitivity to the actions of others.