self interest and morality

There is a challenge inherent in the discussion of ethics that relates to balancing individual self-interest and morality. Each of us struggles with this on a regular basis. We are faced with choices in our professional and personal lives that require us to make decisions that sometimes put our self-interest in direct conflict with our moral values. When this occurs, we must determine what takes precedence in our decision-making process. Do we hold firm to our moral values and sacrifice our self-interest, or does our self-interest take precedence? Is it even possible to ignore our self-interest to make a decision completely founded in moral values or are these inherently intertwined?

Read and reflect upon the following scenario in preparation for the discussion:

  • You have applied for a new job, and if you land it, it will be an enormous break for you. It is exactly the kind of position you want and have been trying to get for some time. It pays well and will settle you into a desirable career for the rest of your life. The competition has come down to you and one other person, and you believe correctly that she has a slight edge on you (Shaw, 2017, p. 17).
  • Now imagine that you have known your competition for years. Because of this relationship, you have personal knowledge that, if it became known, would move you to the top of the company’s list. The knowledge is not relevant to the position or skill of the individual, but would create questions in the hiring committee’s mind about suitability. You know the entire situation and, in reality, the situation does not affect the individual’s ability to do a great job.
  • You have an opportunity to spread the story in a way that would eliminate your competition and your name would not be associated with the information.
  • Your personal morals might not support this behavior, but taking this action would benefit you and your family.

What considerations are involved in making the decision? Consider how this connects to your personal values and code of behavior. Keep in mind that we are not judging any of the responses. Instead, we are exploring why one decision would be made over another, and what type of personal stressors affect the decision that is made. This makes it easier for us to see how unethical behavior can develop in our organizations.

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