The impact of ethics on decision-making is paramount. Ethics is the very fiber that we use to compass our decision-making. It is the very context, the heart and the soul from which all decisions have their basis derived from. In order to form an ethically defensible decision, one must takes great pains to make sure all the angles have been covered. Among the questions that should be asked are: Are all of the stakeholders are being considered in the process? Are all of the moral issues are being addressed? Are any or all-possible conflicts between stakeholders are being addressed? The question of is there any conflicts between moral absolutes, like between telling the truth and not wanting to cause harm to other individuals, groups or organizations. A lot of ethical dilemmas come forth when one seeks to apply ethics to any given decision.

For instance when a company is forced to make reductions in workforce. The morality of saving the company as a whole verses the stakeholders who will lose their jobs is a continuing issue in today's economy. Companies must consider what the ground rules are and then apply those ground rules fairly across the organization. When companies come to this juncture they must first ask: What are the ground rules, what could they be and what should they be? Management then must evaluate what are the moral implications of the decision? Companies then have to ask themselves if this decision will change the ground rules that are already in place? These same kind of ethical questions can be found and applied to any situation, for instance parents with their children, couples with each other, teachers and students, religious leaders and their flock. Ethics is paramount when it comes to government leaders in our three branches that are making laws, interpreting laws and enforcing those laws.

One of the first things an individual or group must do, is decide on what are the ground rules? Ground Rules: According to Pearson Custom Publishing's website on ethical decision-making, there is a process that an individual or group must go through in attempts ascertain what the ground rules are, what could they be, and what should they be. In order to come to a consensus or decision of what the ground rules are, what could they be, and what should they be, an individual or group has to lay down a framework from which an ethical decision can be made on what the ground rules are, what could they be, and what should they be. In the process of making that framework to discover what the ground rules are, what they could be or what they should be, various aspects of decision making need to be addressed. The site defines ethical decision-making as: "Ethics or morality poses questions about how we ought to act and how we should live. It asks, "According to what standards are these actions right or wrong?" It asks, "What character traits (like honesty, compassion, fairness) are necessary to live a truly human life?" It also asks, "What concerns or groups do we usually minimize or ignore? And why might that be?" Admitting our blindness is the beginning of vision." Ethics and morality need to be the cornerstone or the foundation from which the framework is built upon to answer the questions of what the ground rules are, what could they be, and what should they be. The first part to answering the questions of what the ground rules are, what could they be, and what should they be, are addressed first in recognizing what are the morale issues here? Pearson sites: "Is there something wrong personally, interpersonally, or socially? Is there conflict that could be damaging to people? To animals or the environment? To institutions? To society? Does the issue go deeper than legal or institutional concerns? What does it do to people as persons who have dignity, rights, and hopes for a better life together?" These are the moral questions that should be asked at the onset of the decision-making process of laying out the ground rules of all of the considerations that need to be addressed in the process.

The next step in lying out the ground rules in the decision making process is to get all of the facts. The collection of facts, and how and why they are collected, is paramount in the foundation of figuring out what the ground rules are, could be or should be. Pearson states: "What are the relevant facts of the case? What individuals and groups have an important stake in the outcome? What is at stake for each? Do some have a greater stake because they have a special need (e. g. , those who are poor or excluded) or because we have special obligations to them? Are there other important stakeholders in addition to those directly involved? What are the options for acting? Have all the relevant persons and groups been consulted? If you showed your list of options to someone you respect, what would that person say? " It is critical that the issues of what are the relevant facts, and who are the relevant stakeholders that will be effected by not only the ground rules but by the subsequent decision to follow. All of the options need to be carefully ascertained, addressed and thoroughly discussed in this ground rules analysis process.

Part of that analysis process is determining which, if any stakeholders have a special interest or need that needs to be addressed in this ground rules analysis process. When laying out the ground rules as well as in the rest of the decision making process, the various alternative actions must be evaluated to determine the moral and ethical implications they will impose on the affected stakeholders. Pearson states: "Which options will do the most good with the least harm?" Along with this statement Pearson believes that ethical perspectives are principal in the decision-making process. So when laying out the ground rules the "Rights Perspective" needs to addressed in the process. Pearson defines the rights perspective as: . Identifies certain fundamental civil, political and economic rights that merit protection or respect because they pertain to the dignity of the human person...

Each person has a fundamental right to be respected and treated as a free and equal rational person capable of making his or her own decisions... Examples of rights that are traditionally recognized in this approach include: the right to privacy, autonomy, the right to subsistence, freedom of conscience, the right to physical integrity, etc... The principle states: Act in ways that respect the dignity of other persons by honoring or protecting their legitimate moral rights. It is very important that these fundamental rights be respected when laying out the ground rules.

By considering all of the ethical and moral implications an individual or group can then ascertain what the ground rules could be should be. This process is repeated throughout the entire decision making process. Determination of Ethical Implications: By applying these rights it makes the job easier in determining the ethical implications of the decision. There are different approaches that can be used as a framework in this determination of implications process.

They are according to Pearson: The Utilitarian Approach, The Rights Approach, The Fairness or Justice Approach, The Common Good Approach, The Virtue Approach. Depending on which approach is selected, that criteria is applied to both the grounds rules and the resulting decision. Pearson tell us that: " Utilitarianism was conceived in the 19 th century by Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill to help legislators determine which laws were morally best. Both Bentham and Mill suggested that ethical actions are those that provide the greatest balance of good over evil.

" The Rights approach is also an important perspective and comes to us from Kant in the 18 th century. It believes in the rights of the individual. The Fairness or Justice approach has it roots even further back dating to Aristotle! This approach as described in his teachings according to Pearson: "equals should be treated equally and unequal's unequally." The basic moral question in this approach is: How fair is an action? Does it treat everyone in the same way, or does it show favoritism and discrimination? The Common Good approach reflects on what is good for the community as a whole and dates back to ancient Greece. The final approach is the Virtue Approach and it is described by Pearson as: "that there are certain ideals toward which we should strive, which provide for the full development of our humanity." Virtues are attitudes or character traits which reflect who we are and what we stand for. How might the Decision change the ground rules? The decision can often change the ground rules especially in a corporate or legal culture. In this modern era of corporate mergers we see decisions being made at the top of the management chain that effect all of the ground rules from which the organization is run.

In the political forum, laws can be written or interpreted in ways that change the landscape of the whole country as in women's suffrage or "Roe vs. Wade" We might not agree on the outcomes but we can agree how decisions made, can forever change the ground rules from which we live. In summary the impact of ethics on decision-making is Paramount. It is the chief dominant principle that is supreme in the initiation of guidelines for both the ground rules and the resulting decision (s) that is derived from the application of ethical approaches. Copyright (c) 2000-2001 by Pearson Custom Publishing. web > web.