Upon reading about several different types of ethics that are often used in the world of business, I am focusing on the particular theory of Utilitarianism in this summary. This ethical theory falls into a larger more generic group, called consequentialist theories. Just as it sounds, consequentialist theories consider the end result, or consequence, when coming up with a viable decision.
Consequentialist theories are often used in everyday life because they are a simple and effective way at weighing your outcomes before action is taken. In the process of raising children, parents often times teach their kids to consider the consequences of a particular action before making it. From my memory, I’ve always been told ask myself “what consequences will come from this?” Who will benefit, who will get hurt in the process? Utilitarianism ethics take a similar stance in deciding between right and wrong by considering all possible outcomes, and choosing the decision that positively affects the most people and negatively affects the least people. In other words, one must consider the net of good and bad results in making their decision. When understanding the fundamentals of Utilitarianism, it is crucial to remember that the theory considers all possible outcomes and consequences that could have an effect on society, or those related to the situation. When decision time comes, I find it easy to focus on what is best for myself, yet a utilitarian must consider everyone around them that is related to the situation at hand. Utilitarian theory often times relies more on a calculated approach of decision making when compared to a more abstract theory, such as care ethics.
Thus, when figuring out whether or not to make a particular decision, you must way your options. Perhaps this means creating a pro/con chart, or a potential list of harmful and beneficial outcomes of the result. In the making of this decision, taking into consideration all of those effected in the future can often be difficult to predict. These people that are involved in the situation at hand are known as stakeholders. They have a concern about or are somehow related to the dilemma or conflict that is trying to be solved. The stakeholders are those that must be considered when taking a utilitarian approach. In some cases, it may be impossible to know how many or how severely each person will be affected. This characterizes one of the drawbacks of Utilitarianism, in that all potential harms/benefits are never guaranteed.
It is often regarded as one of the most effective ethical theories for decision making in the business world because it considers all options, and maximized benefit while minimizing harm. For example, if someone wants to transform an abandoned parking garage into new office buildings, they can clearly lay out their options before making the decision. What are the benefits? Perhaps the benefits are jobs for the construction workers that build the office and those that will be working in the office. Additionally, the expansion of certain companies and organizations to a new branch. Those that will be harmed by the decision will likely be very few people. Perhaps a couple homeless people and a few animals that could possibly be inhabiting the parking garage. In this instance, I believe it is quite clear that the decision to transform the abandoned parking garage into new office space would be beneficial for more people than it would harm. The person or team that is making this decision would be able to come to a viable decision based on the utilitarian ethical approach.
In relation to head coach Pete Bell from the film Blue Chips, it is obvious that Pete did not use a utilitarian approach to ethics when making the difficult decision present in the movie. He ultimately made the decision to allow new players and their families to be rewarded with money and other benefits without the knowledge from the school. His approach to decision making basically consisted of the thought that “I hope I don’t get caught”. He made no real attempt to lay out his options or consider the benefits and harms of cheating his way to a successful basketball team. If Pete had used a utilitarian approach and weighed his options, perhaps he would realize the potential consequences.
The benefits of making this decision consist of the team winning, the program succeeding, players and parents being happy, and Pete gets noticed as coaching a team to victory. On the other hand, though, the downsides are just as clear; cheating and making several unethical decisions, tarnishing the school’s programs, risking the relationships with his wife, players, parents and the school. The potential harm from making this decision was clouded by Pete’s emotional struggle for him and his team to succeed. Ultimately, he ended up making a poor decision and had to pay the consequences because of it.