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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

All About Ethics Blog

What is Ethical Decision-Making and Why Does It Matter?

Ethics is about how people treat each other, how they build trustworthy organizations, how they create just societies.

Everyday Ethics

If you’re facing a difficult choice and asking yourself what you should do, you’re making a decision that has to do with ethics.  Ethics is about how people treat each other, how they build trustworthy organizations, how they create just societies.

Almost any issue you can think of, has an ethical dimension.  On a personal level, you may need to decide the right thing to do for an aging parent.  At work, you may be faced with conflicts where you are tempted to put your own interests ahead of your clients’.  As a citizen, you often have to vote on initiatives that impact the rights of others.

How can we make ethical decisions in these areas on a daily basis? The Markkula Center for Applied Ethics offers a Framework for Ethical Decision Making to provide guidance. The first step is always to identify the ethical issue, gather the relevant facts, and think about options.  Use these five questions to evaluate the options:

  • Which option produces the most good and the least harm?
  • Which option best respects the rights of all who are affected?
  • Which option best treats people equally or fairly?
  • Which option best serves the ­community as a whole, the common good?
  • Which option leads me to act as the kind of person I want to be, a virtuous person?

Considering all of these concerns, which is the best option?  Test your solution and reflect on how your decision turned out.

The Markkula Center for Applied Ethics brings these traditions of ethical thinking to bear on real world problems.  It has programs focusing on ethics in health care, business, technology, journalism, government, leadership, and other areas.

As part of its Social Sector Ethics program, the Center has launched Standards for Excellence®, an ethics training program for nonprofits, foundations, educational institutions, and others in the social sector space.  Built on a national program and customized with the Center’s Framework for Ethical Decision-Making, this comprehensive training consists of a two-day clinic and shorter sessions focused on single topics. Our next clinic takes place January 19 and February 9.  For more information or to register for this clinic, click here.



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