The normative ethical decision-making framework consists of approaches such as the utilitarian approach (Ferrell et al., 2013). Most ethics philosophers emphasize the utilitarian approach to be the best since it causes the least harm or generates the most significant good instead of injury. Ethical corporate action generates the highest amount of good while causing lesser damage to those affected, such as customers, shareholders, employees, the environment, and the community. The utilitarian approach is used in managing consequences by increasing the good done while reducing the harm (Ferrell et al., 2013).
Ferrell et al. (2013) assert that the utilitarian approach is the first ethical system in normative ethics. It focuses on the concept of providing the greatest good for the most significant number. It is sometimes called consequentialism since ethical decisions are made based on the consequences of an action. Utilitarian ethics focuses on issues relating to conflict while regarding the societal segment that should be viewed as the most important (Everett & Kahane, 2020). Predicting the outcome of an action is not always possible. Consequences can not be accurately used to measure ethics in a situation due to its unpredictability. Therefore, using results to measure ethics doesn’t give professionals the accuracy of measuring whether the decisions are ethical. According to Velasquez et al. (2015), professionals must evaluate choices and decisions based on fundamental ethical principles rather than depending on some outcome to lead them to make a moral decision.
Other philosophers and ethicists consider the rights approach as the best in protecting and respecting the moral rights of people affected (Velasquez et al., 2015). The practice stems from the moral acceptance that human worthiness depends on their essence without determining their ability to decide the things they do with their lives. Based on their satisfaction, they have a right to be treated as ends and not just as means to other ends (Velasquez et al., 2015). Many moral rights such as the right people have to make their own choices regarding the kind of life to lead, right to truth, right against injury, and right to privacy, among others, are constantly debated. Some people argue that rights should not be given to humans alone but non-humans (Velasquez et al., 2015).
The ethical approach is based on the idea that people should be treated with dignity and respect because they have rights. Therefore, people have a mandate to respect the rights of others and treat them in the best way possible (Velasquez et al., 2015). The primary notion behind this is that there exist objective obligations mandatory for all people. Whenever they are faced with an ethical situation, the process they undertake is simply identifying one’s role and making the suitable decision (Velasquez et al., 2015).
According to Velasquez et al. (2015), the rights approach has some challenges. Conflicts arise due to lack of agreement concerning the principles used in the decision, when there are implications of making a right choice that has terrible outcomes, and determining the choices to be made when there is a conflict of duties. Therefore, when relying on the rights approach ethical system, the challenges should be considered.
The fairness or justice approach suggests that all equals should have equal treatment as Greek philosophers such as Aristotle and others (Velasquez et al., 2015). The idea is used today to indicate that actions based on ethics treat every human being with equality, or if not equally, then relatively based on defensible standards (Velasquez et al., 2015). People are paid based on their hard work or their most significant contribution to an organization, considered fair. However, there is a debate regarding salaries paid to CEOs that are larger than the employees. Several people ask whether the considerable difference depends on standards that can be defended or if it is the outcome of power imbalance in the organizations hence unfair.
The common good approach is also an idea contributed to by the Greek philosophers. They assert that life within a community is good in itself, and our deeds ought to give something to that life (Jaede, 2017). The approach implies that the interlocking societal relationships are the foundation of ethical reasoning. It is also the basis of respect and compassion for every other person, more so the vulnerable. These are the requirements of such sense. Therefore, the common goods framework or approach shifts attention to the usual conditions that are essential for the good of everybody. For example, this may be the law system, public educational system, adequate police and fire departments, health care, or even public recreational places (Velasquez et al., 2015).
The virtue ethics approach is one of the ethical approaches that have lasted for a long duration (Manners, 2008). It affirms that moral actions are supposed to be compatible with some illustrative beneficence that leads to the complete development of our humanity. These virtues are habits and tendencies that make us act according to our character’s highest potential and on behalf of qualities like truth and beauty. Other virtues include courage, love, honesty, integrity, compassion, fairness, generosity, fidelity, prudence, tolerance, and self-control. Virtue ethics requests any action (Velasquez et al., 2015). Therefore, a person is left wondering what kind of person they will become if they partake in a certain deed or if their action depends on how they act at best.
Virtue ethics is a philosophy that originates from Aristotle, and its basis is on the virtues of a person who makes a decision (Manners, 2008). Its primary consideration is what constitutes a good person; therefore, the virtue ethics approach requires the person making decisions to understand what moral behaviors or principles are appropriate for public relations. Decisions are made based on ethical principles (Manners, 2008). For example, in a situation where honesty is the essential virtue to an excellent public relations professional, every decision should be made based on ethics to ensure the preservation and maintenance of honesty.
Ethical decision-making also applies to the New York Times test approach. New York Times test is a rule based on common sense ethical conduct. It states that a person should refrain from doing anything that debatably interesting enough to be reported as news either in private or in public that someone would mind having reported on the front page of a major newspaper (Tanner, 2018). If you have concerns that the actions you take during your leadership can go public, you should do something different. Therefore, leaders should always make ethical decisions that they are not afraid to be judged for in public (Tanner, 2018).
These ethical decision-making frameworks or theories form the foundation of all conversations under normative ethics. Therefore, professionals in the public relations sector must equip themselves with understanding the application of the concepts to the life situation in the actual practice of their profession (Velasquez et al., 2015). Applied ethics are ethical discussions that focus on how professionals make their decisions. It has a heavy influence on the role played by the profession or its purpose within society
A variety informs different approaches to decision-making and moral development of theories and views that lead to an inconsistency in how the moral terms are defined and used hence confusing (Garrigan et al., 2018). The occurrence of ethical decision-making undergoes maturity through time; therefore, its relationship to behavior is complex. Moral values and virtues give standards for morally good decisions while omitting how they should be reached (Garrigan et al., 2018). Ethical theories are based on the assumption that we are principled hence capable of making the right decisions. As a result, investigations are verifiable by scientific experimentation based on the techniques and resources we use to make moral choices relevant (Garrigan et al., 2018). According to our consideration, theoretical parallels of ethical utilitarianism hold that moral decision-making may intercept the means and procedures that have initially transformed non-moral decision-making (Garrigan et al., 2018). Therefore, moral development ends up impacting decision-making.
Acting ethically is not always easy despite being the right thing to do. According to Blink. (2021), conformity to high standard conduct is not about straightforward and incorrect decisions, but the choice between the “lesser of the two evils.” Some decisions require prioritization and the choice between competing ethical values and principles. Ethical decision-making relies on essential character values such as respect, fairness, caring, trustworthiness, and responsibility, among others (Blink, 2021). Ethical decisions enable people to behave ethically; therefore, the capability to produce a good foundation for business practices.
Making ethical choices depends on the ability to distinguish between two options in competition. Therefore, the application of the seven-step framework is crucial in the making of better decisions. The first step is stating the problem. It focuses on the main issue at stake in a situation (Davis, 2013). In this case, the issue at stake is data mining and the sale of users’ information by Facebook (Savat, 2021). The company has been accused of collecting user information and then selling to advertisers who use social media algorithms to target users with advertisements that entice them into buying.
The second step is gathering and assessing relevant facts in the case. It is essential in addressing the non-ethical issues raised within the subject (Davis, 2013). There is a leak of internal documents exposing Facebook’s priority of profits over the public’s safety. Advertisers invest in Facebook and other social media platforms to collect and use customer data to improve their returns (Savat, 2021). Privacy laws apply in this case where users whose personal information was shared with third parties lost control over aspects of their lives they would not have wished to be accessed by others. Privacy laws are an aspect of civil rights whose exemptions are constitutionally allowed under specific circumstances. Some of the reasons one can lose the right include when it is a matter of public interest or when they expressively consent to access and use their personal information.
The third stage is identifying the stakeholders. All stakeholders in the decision are identified (Davis, 2013). One is required to have enough information to uphold an intelligent choice. The stakeholders here are Facebook, advertisers, and consumers. The people who will be affected by the decision made by Facebook to sell their data are Facebook customers (Savat, 2021).
The fourth stage is developing options. Once one has known what they want to achieve and has all the current facts when making a judgment, they can create a list of things to do to fulfil their goals (Davis, 2013). If the decision is remarkable, there is a need to involve a trusted person in talks to broaden their views and consider new options. Options from each stakeholder’s perspective are as follows. Facebook’s selling of data is a profit-making means, so it should continue selling the data. Advertisers’ buying consumer data from Facebook generates the market for their goods and services; therefore, they should continue. From Facebook users’ perspectives, selling and buying of their data amount to stealing of personal information. Consequently, they would want it to stop. The consumers also can agree on the kind of data shared before sharing it with advertisers. Facebook should stop sharing its user’s data. However, they should ask the users for permission before taking any action that might affect their privacy (Waldman, 2016).
The fifth stage is testing options. Harm, virtue, reversibility, organization, professional, publicity, colleague, and defensibility tests are used here (Davis, 2013). Choices should be filtered to ascertain if any of one’s choices will violate any of the central ethical values and then get rid of any option that is not ethical. Identification of who will be affected by selection and how it will affect them also occurs in this stage. According to the Harm test, the choice does less harm since it involves handling Facebook’s ethical dilemma (Savat, 2021). Therefore, we would like to go on with our fight against Facebook sharing our data with advertisers. When it comes to the publicity test, we would want our choice to be published in the newspaper to make it more formal. We would defend our choice before a congressional committee, our parents, or a committee of our peers because we value our rights and privacy. If we were one of the people affected, we would still go for this option because it will ensure we are safe from any data invasion by Facebook and advertising firms in the future. Choosing that option would show our conformity to positive virtues. On the colleague test, our friends like and support our suggestion and want to do the same. Our profession’s ethics committee would support our choice since it is built on morality. Facebook’s ethics officers agree with our choice and promise to ensure such a breach of private data doesn’t occur again in the future.
The sixth stage is making a tentative choice based on the previous five steps. A decision is made, and if the option is not immediately apparent, one can try talking to those whose judgment they respect (Davis, 2013). Facebook should give assurances on their solution to the problem since we have to live with social media. They should also stop sharing personal data belonging to the customers with advertisers.
The seventh stage is making the final choice. This happens after reviewing the previous six steps, acting, and then asking the necessary questions (Davis, 2013). People engaged in ethical decision-making monitor the outcome of their decisions. If they are not getting the required results or lead to other incidental and objectionable outcomes, they should re-evaluate the situation and develop new choices (Savat, 2021). Adherence to strict laws with the assistance of regulators could make Facebook not likely to make the decision again. Companies and organizations created refined advertisement and promotion tools for their products. Therefore, this shows suitable precautions against the ethical dilemma. The company should come up with a customer privacy protection policy to avoid data breaches. We also plan to engage the government to create regulations for companies dealing with consumer data like Facebook to refrain from selling sensitive information to advertising companies.
In conclusion, normative ethical approaches are principles that guide the shaping of ideas meant for ethical decision-making. The normative ethical decision-making framework consists of the utilitarian approach, the rights approach, the fairness or justice approach, the common good approach, and the virtue ethics approach. It also applies to the New York Times test approach. The frameworks or theories form the foundation of all conversations under normative ethics. Sometimes the different approaches to decision-making and moral development are informed by various ideas and views that lead to an inconsistency in the way the moral terms are defined and used, confusing. Application of the seven-step framework is crucial in the making of better decisions. The steps include: stating the problem, gathering and assessing relevant facts in the case, identifying the stakeholders, developing options, testing options, making a tentative choice based on the previous five steps, and making the final choice.
Blink. (2021). Ethics Awareness. UC San Diego.https://blink.ucsd.edu/finance/accountability/ethics-awareness.html
Davis, M. (2013). Seven step method for ethical decision making. Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions, Illinois Institute of Technology.http://ethics.iit.edu/IPRO/7stepmethod.pdf
Everett, J. A., & Kahane, G. (2020). Switching tracks? Towards a multidimensional model of utilitarian psychology. Trends in cognitive sciences, 24(2), 124-134. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2019.11.012
Ferrell, O. C., Crittenden, V. L., Ferrell, L., & Crittenden, W. F. (2013). Theoretical development in ethical marketing decision making. AMS Review, 3(2), 51-60. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13162-013-0047-8
Garrigan, B., Adlam, A. L., & Langdon, P. E. (2018). Moral decision-making and moral development: Toward an integrative framework. Developmental Review, 49, 80-100. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dr.2018.06.001
Hoover, K. F., & Pepper, M. B. (2015). How did they say that? Ethics statements and normative frameworks at best companies to work for. Journal of Business Ethics, 131(3), 605-617. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-014-2255-z
Jaede, M. (2017). The concept of the common good. Dostopno na: http://www. Political settlements. org/publications-database/the-concept of-the-common-good/(sneto 10. 2. 2018). https://psrpdev.law.ed.ac.uk/psrpx/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/201705_WP8_Jaede_Concept-of-the-Common-Good.pdf
Manners, I. (2008). The normative ethics of the European Union. International affairs, 45-60. https://rucforsk.ruc.dk/ws/portalfiles/portal/40112479/Ian_Manners_The_Normative_Ethic
Savat, S. (2021). WashU Experts: Facebook controversy raises ethical questions for corporations. Washington University in St. Louis. https://source.wustl.edu/2021/10/washu-experts-facebook-controversy-raises-ethical-questions-for-corporations/
Schroeder, K. (2019). 3 Reasons why business ethics is important. University of Redlands. https://www.redlands.edu/study/schools-and-centers/business/sbblog/2019/may-2019/3-reasons-why-business-ethics-important/
Tanner, R. (2018). Management is a journey.https://managementisajourney.com/the-new-york-times-test-goldman-sachs-and-greg-smith/
Velasquez, M., Moberg, D., Meyer, M. J., Shanks, T., McLean, M., & DeCosse, Andre, C. & Hanson, K. (2015). A framework for thinking ethically. Makkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University. Retrieved October, 14. https://www.scu.edu/ethics/ethics-resources/ethical-decision-making/a-framework-for-ethical-decision-making/
Waldman, A. E. (2016). Privacy, sharing, and trust: the Facebook study, Case W. Rsrv. L. Rev. 67(1) 193-233. https://scholarlycommons.law.case.edu/caselrev/vol67/iss1/10