A reflective essay on a business ethics topic

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A reflective essay on a business ethics topic
   A reflective essay on a business ethics topic: ‘Make money and you can do whatever you like’    2 Introduction Kunal Dutta, in his article, “ Glencore oil trader on working practices: „Make money and you can do whatever you like”, published in The Independent dated 18 November 2013,  presented a case business ethics. Commodities giant Glencore was forced to sack an oil trader Andrew Kearns, for being late or absent more than 60 times. According to Kearn, the company staffs are permitted to “do what they like as long as they make money”. Glencore, on the other hand argues that Mr Kearns failed to attend critical meetings in the morning, at lunchtime and in the afternoon of 11 October. It also argues that Kearn failed to respond to  phone calls or email messages despite of the company‟s effort to locate him. Glencore  believes that the absence was related to excessive alcoholism of Kearn. On the other hand Kearn admitted taking drinks regularity, but he argues that he had no meetings that day that required his attendance. In his opinion, the company should consider his results or  performances rather than actions since he works in a results-driven business and he got excellent results to prove his abilities and worth to the company. Kearn argues that “The culture in his organization is that he can do what he likes as long as he makes money.” He has  pointed out that his lateness was partly due to his attempts to make money for the company (Dutta, 2013). A lot of ethical theories can be applied to analyze the above business case. This paper analyses the above case with the help of ethical theories such as Kantianism, Utilitarianism, Social Contract Theory and Virtue ethics.  3 Kantianism The core of Immanuel Kant‟s ethical theory is "categorical imperatives." The core concepts of the categorical imperatives formulated by Kant are: “1) Act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law. 2) Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end" (Categorical Imperative, n.d.). According to Kant the categorical imperatives formulated by him are valid in all situations and circumstances if one should obey moral laws. He argued that maxims or ethical principle should be chos en only if it can be applied everywhere in the world. Kant‟s ethical theory can be applied to the give case since it contains many elements relevant to Kant‟s theory. Kearn‟s argument seems to be unethical while analyzing it with the help of first maxim. First maxim says that an action can be justified if it can be applied everywhere in the world. Kearn argues that the company should think only about the money he is making and forget about his personal activities. In other words, Kearn believes that the company should not consider absenteeism, lack of attendance in meetings or reluctance to attend phone calls as a serious offense as long as he brings enough business to the company. It should be noted that modern companies are interested in building its image as much as possible. In fact the reputation of a company depends on the reputation of its workers. A binge drinker like Kearn may cause immense harm to the reputation of the company, even if he is capable of bringing  business. Moreover, the company has every right to ask Kearn to attend meetings or take  phone calls at least, on duty hours. Kearn is a full time worker rather than a freelancer or par time worker. Under such circumstances, he is obligated to obey company laws and instructions. Whether he brings business or not, is only a secondary question. His primary duty is to obey the rules and regulations of the company. It should be noted that Kearn‟s argument cannot be accepted as a universal law in this regard. The second maxim argues that an action can be justified only if it is acceptable to humanity. Binge drinking or violation of company laws cannot be labeled as actions in line with humanity. It is a fact that Kearn has the right to drink as much as when he is off the duty. However, he should st ay away from such things while on duty. “Kant pointed out that a good will must be good in itself    and not in virtue of its relationship to other things” (Johnson, 2008). Kearn should have shown the good will by attending the meetings and responding to the phone calls and emails.  4 At the same time, Kantianism says that an act can be justified if the outcome is good. In other words, if an act produces more good, then it is more moral in nature (Cummiskey, 1990). Kant‟s moral theory believes that as long as a    person‟s consciousness accepts or recognizes a particular act as moral, he can proceed with it without thinking too much about the consequences. Kearn‟s actions seem to be moral when somebody analyzes it based on the above arguments. It is a fact that Kearn brings big money to the company. In other words, the outcomes of his actions are good for the company financially. Kearn‟s consciousness forces him to believe that his actions are right. However, Kearn should realize that the company is facing lot of problems because of his behavior. If all the employees follow the path of Kearn, it would be difficult for the company to sustain its day to day operations successfully. In short, Kearn‟s actions cannot be labelled as ethical according to the principles of Kantianism. Utilitarianism According to the principles of utilitarianism, utility is measured in terms of pleasure and pain (Crane &Matten, 2007). Utilitarianism argues that outcome of an action is important while analyzing the moral validity of that action. In other words, utility of an action is extremely important while labelling it as ethical or unethical. The Kearn‟s actions bring profit to the company on one way and losses on the other way. Therefore, application of utilitarianism in the given case may yield some interesting results. Kearn argues that he failed to attend meetings or respond email messages and phone calls since he was engaged in some other activities in favor of the company. In other words, he argues that the utility of his actions should be acceptable to the company since his actions resulted in profitability to the company. Kearn has every right to argue in this way since he is a successful employee in terms of bringing business to the company. However, he should realize that bringing business is only one responsibility assigned to him by the company. Attending meetings, responding to telephone calls and replying email messages from the company are other duties assigned to him by the company. He cannot violate all the other responsibilities for the sake of one responsibility. According to Mill, (2004, p.6) “Actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness”. Alcoholism may be b ringing happiness to Kearns. However, he should realize that his drinking behavior is causing problems to the company. He cannot argue that liquor is necessary for him to become a successful employee. There are no scientific evidences to  5  prove it. At the same time, there are many scientific evidences to prove the harmful effects of alcoholism. No company would permit its employees to take excessive liquor while on duty since liquor has the ability to distract the focus of the employees from their core responsibilities. According to crane et al., (2013), practices and values are one of the six essential characteristics of a company in terms of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). In other words, a socially committed company can never encourage alcoholism among employees even if the employees perform well. The company should uphold the sanctity of ethical  practices and values as a measure to demonstrate its CSR. It should be noted that CSR is extremely important for company in terms of sustainable development. All modern organizations are giving ample importance to sustainable development and CSR as a measure to stay competitive in the market. Under the above circumstances, it would be illogical and unethical for Glencore to encourage Kearn type employees only because of the business they  bring to the company. Social Contract Theory According to Social contract theory, “majority of the humans are self  -interested and they will work for preserving their interest. But the law of nature ask commands that each man  be willing to pursue peace when others are willing to do the same” (Social Contract Theory, 2004). This ethical theory reminds people that individuals have the responsibility to sacrifice some of their freedoms and liberties to the authorities since the authorities are  providing protection to their rights and properties. Since Kearn should have an employment contract with the company, he should be ready to sacrifice some of his personal interests while working in a company which gives him remuneration and other facilities. It should be noted that the company is paying Kearn well and he has no complaints about it. In exchange, he should sacrifice some of his personal  behaviors such as alcoholism, at least during working hours. It is a fact that individuals have two types of rights; Natural and legal. The right to drink is more of a natural right rather than a legal right. Social contract theory asks Kearn to sacrifice his natural right (right to drink) while on duty since the company is providing all other facilities to him. The ultimate aim and objective of the company is to promote peace and harmony within the organization as well as outside. The company never likes one of its
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