Thursday, January 19, 2006

Ends, Means and Spotting Ethical Problems

The University of Washington Business School has issued a study on how people approach ethical problems. A certain type of person is more inclined to spot ethical problems. An excerpt:

“Reynolds found that people who focus primarily on the ends recognize ethical issues when harm is done but are much less sensitive to ethical issues that seem to only involve a violation of the means (someone lied, broke a promise, violated a policy, etc.). When it appears that no harm is done, ends-based decision-makers are much less inclined to see the issue as an ethical one. Means-focused people, however, recognize both harmful situations and those situations in which the means used were an ethical issue.


“The results are surprising, he said, because they suggest that means-based decision makers are affected by a much broader range of what they consider to be ethical issues. "’For that reason, ends-based decision-makers might be very surprised to know what others call or treat as ethical issues,’ Reynolds said. ‘You could say that ends-based decision-makers are 'blind' to those kinds of ethical issues.’”

Read the whole article here.

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