How to Conduct an Ethical Analysis

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Ethical analysis is a systematic approach to figuring out the right moral decision in a particular situation. By analyzing the situation logically, in accordance with your ethical code, you can figure out which options are both effective and moral. Ethical analysis principles encourage you to form an accurate picture of the situation and think through the effect of your decisions before you act. In business, you can use ethical analysis to get your company back on track when your coworkers or supervisors perform unethical actions.

Gather the facts. The University of Kansas' Center for Teaching Excellence states that a high-quality ethical analysis requires gathering as much information as possible, making sure the facts are accurate, and being aware of what information you don't have available.

Define the ethical issues involved. The Computing Cases website states that when deciding on a course of action you may have to consider quality of life issues, the use or abuse of power, safety, property rights, the right ot privacy, and honesty. The specific moral issues involved will vary from case to case.

Identify the parties involved. If you discover, for example, that a supervisor is pushing his subordinates to sell defective goods rather than lose money by destroying them, then salespeople, bosses, customers, and the company's owners would all be affected if this comes to light.

List potential solutions and the possible consequences if you act on them. In the defective goods case, for example, you could report the supervisor to upper management, offer the salespeople your support if they refuse his orders, report what's going on to a regulatory agency or the media, do nothing, or find a job elsewhere. Each decision will have different consequences.

Pick the most ethical action to follow. The University of Nevada recommends you judge which action will generate the most good for the most people or which is most likely to fix the problem. Reporting defective goods to management could benefit everyone involved -- assuming management acts promptly -- except the dishonest supervisor. Reporting the problem to an outside agency will pressure management to fix the problem quickly and make sure it doesn't happen again. Ultimately, you'll have to make your decision based on the specific circumstances you're dealing with.

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