When designing a building, an architect uses a methodical process to draw up blueprints that illustrate the structure from several points of view and explain how the building will look when it’s finished. A similar process should be used when making ethical decisions. By following a series of steps, you can examine your options from different points of view. As a result, you’ll reach ethical decisions that you can explain and defend.
A typical process for ethical decision-making includes four steps: gathering facts, identifying stakeholders, recognizing consequences, and prioritizing values.
Gathering facts — Decision-makers begin by gathering facts. Information about a decision-maker’s alternatives may come from reports, news sources, conversations, or interviews.
Identifying stakeholders — Stakeholders are people who have an interest in the outcome of a decision. To choose the most ethical alternative, the decision-maker must identify all the people who will be affected.
Recognizing consequences — Decisions have consequences. Decision-makers should ensure that they recognize how decisions will affect all stakeholders.
Prioritizing values — Once decision-makers have examined the consequences of their decision, it’s time to decide on a course of action. Decision-makers may find that different solutions to the problem support competing values.
Consider a chain of fast-food restaurants giving away small, inexpensive toys with each children’s meal. The chain contracts an independent consumer’s group to test each toy and ensure that they’re safe for small children. Recently, the chain’s marketing manager learned that the plastic egg-shaped packaging for the newest toy has caused injuries to six children at different stores.
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