Critical Thinking – Learning Unit 3Purpose of the AssessmentDuring the course of this Learning Units, we have looked at Ethics in the Workplace from a number of different angles. Viewing the nature of employment, how individuals are treated in the workplace, rights to privacy, drug testing, and other issues are all relevant topics. The purpose of this assessment will focus on looking at ethical dilemmas from an Individual point of view or a Communal point of view.Goal of the AssessmentAfter reading the Ethics in Organization article, you will use your knowledge and skill set to assess how ethical dilemmas are treated at your current (or former) place of work.Components of the AssignmentsPart OneRead the Ethics in Organizations article that is found in Blackboard, or via the following link (https://www.scu.edu/ethics/ethics-resources/ethical-decision-making/ethics-in-organizations/)Part TwoProvide analysis on what you believe to be the conclusions of Marvin Brown’s article. This question is purposely left open to your interpretation.Select one area of Employment Ethics to further explore. Privacy in the Workplace, Diversity, Affirmative Action, Drug Testing, are all valid choices but you may select anything that is of interest to you.Write about the topic from the Individual Point of View and then the Communal Point of View. Is there a best practice when it comes to implementing your topic of choice? Your analysis should include positives and negatives from each point of view, ranking of stakeholders, potential pitfalls, and how the topic has been implemented in the real world.
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Ethics in Organizations
From debates over drug‐testing to analyses of scandals on Wall Street, attention to ethics in
business organizations has never been greater. Yet, much of the attention given to ethics in the
workplace overlooks some critical aspects of organizational ethics.
When talking about ethics in organizations, one has to be aware that there are two ways of
approaching the subject‐‐the “individualistic approach” and what might be called the “communal
approach.” Each approach incorporates a different view of moral responsibility and a different
view of the kinds of ethical principles that should be used to resolve ethical problems.
More often than not, discussions about ethics in organizations reflect only the “individualistic
approach” to moral responsibility. According to this approach, every person in an organization is
morally responsible for his or her own behavior, and any efforts to change that behavior should
focus on the individual.
But there is another way of understanding responsibility, which is reflected in the “communal
approach.” Here individuals are viewed not in isolation, but as members of communities that are
partially responsible for the behavior of their members. So, to understand and change an
individual’s behavior we need to understand and try to change the communities to which they
Any adequate understanding of, and effective solutions to, ethical problems arising in
organizations requires that we take both approaches into account. Recent changes in the way we
approach the “problem of the alcoholic” serve as a good example of the interdependence of
individual and communal approaches to problems. Not so long ago, many people viewed an
alcoholic as an individual with problems. Treatment focused on helping the individual deal with
his or her problem. Today, however, the alcoholic is often seen as part of a dysfunctional family
system that reinforces alcoholic behavior. In many cases, the behavior of the alcoholic requires
that we change the entire family situation.
These two approaches also lead to different ways of evaluating moral behavior. Once again, most
discussions of ethical issues in the workplace take an individualistic approach. They focus on
promoting the good of the individual: individual rights, such as the right to freedom of expression
or the right to privacy, are held paramount. The communal approach, on the other hand, would
have us focus on the common good, enjoining us to consider ways in which actions or policies
promote or prohibit social justice or ways in which they bring harm or benefits to the entire
When we draw upon the insights of both approaches we increase our understanding of the
ethical values at stake in moral issues and increase the options available to us for resolving these
issues. The debate over drug‐testing, for example, is often confined to an approach that focuses
on individual rights. Advocates of drug‐testing argue that every employer has a right to run the
workplace as he or she so chooses, while opponents of drug‐testing argue that drug‐testing
violates the employee’s right to privacy and due process. By ignoring the communal aspects of
drug abuse, both sides neglect some possible solutions to the problem of drug use in the
workplace. The communal approach would ask us to consider questions which look beyond the
interests of the individual to the interests of the community: What kinds of drug policies will
promote the good of the community, the good of both the employer and the employee?
Using the two approaches to dealing with ethical problems in organizations will often result in a
greater understanding of these problems. There are times, however, when our willingness to
consider both the good of the individual and the good of the community leaves us in a dilemma,
and we are forced to choose between competing moral claims. Affirmative Action Programs, for
example, bring concerns over individual justice into conflict with concerns over social justice.
When women and minorities are given preferential treatment over white males, individuals are
not treated equally, which is unjust. On the other hand, when we consider what these programs
are trying to accomplish, a more just society, and also acknowledge that minorities and women
continue to be shut out of positions, (especially in top management), then these programs are,
in fact, indispensable for achieving social justice. Dropping preferential treatment programs
might put an end to the injustice of treating individuals unequally, but to do so would maintain
an unjust society. In this case, many argue that a communal approach, which stresses the
common good, should take moral priority over the good of the individual.
When facing such dilemmas, the weights we assign to certain values will sometimes lead us to
choose those organizational policies or actions that will promote the common good. At other
times, our values will lead us to choose those policies or actions that will protect the interests
and rights of the individual. But perhaps the greatest challenge in discussions of ethics in
organizations is to find ways in which organizations can be designed to promote the interests of
This article was originally published in Issues in Ethics ‐ V. 2, N. 1 Winter 1989
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