Ethical Decision Making – The App

Ethical Advocate has written before about ethics policies and social media as it relates to employee use of mobile devices at work. Businesses are encouraged to develop guidelines about employee use of mobile devices and social media, and to incorporate the guidelines into ethics policies and training.

However, they can also incorporate mobile devices and social media into ethics training and awareness initiatives in a way that can actively engage employees in the process.

For example, the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University created an app, an “ethical decision-making assistant”, to guide ethical decision making. The app can be accessed via the internet or downloaded to a mobile device or computer with iTunes. We’ve referenced a link to the site, below.

Called Making an Ethical Decision, the app draws on the Markkula Center’s framework for thinking ethically. The framework guides people to: recognize a possible ethical issue, get the facts, evaluate alternative actions, make a decision and test it, and to act and reflect on the outcome.

How does it work? The app prompts users to consider whether they have sufficient facts about an ethics issue to make a decision and if they do, to choose the best action to take in the circumstances.

It then prompts users to evaluate the action they are considering from five different ethical perspectives, which are also part of the Center’s framework. The perspectives are listed below, with one example each of the several questions users are prompted to consider. Users can assign different weights for each category if they wish, up to a total of 100% for all five.

Utility (Does this action produce the most good and do the least harm for all who are affected?)

Rights (Does my action best respect the rights of all who have a stake?)

Justice (Does this action treat people equally or proportionally? Does it give each person affected his or her due?)

Common Good (Does this action best serve the community as a whole, not just some members?)

Virtue (Does this option lead me to act as the sort of person I want to be?)

After users complete this step, the app provides a score that indicates whether the action being considered is on the right track and prompts users to evaluate another option if needed.

Of course an app cannot provide “the answer,” but you can see how this app or similar apps, if deployed to employees’ mobile devices or personal computers, could be used to add variety to ethics training and awareness efforts. More, the app engages employees directly in thinking through the consequences of a decision they might be about to make. So yes, your ethics policies should address mobile device use at work, but your ethics awareness efforts can use mobile devices – and apps – to engage today’s workforce in its own education.

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Santa Clara University. “A Framework for Thinking Ethically.” Markkula Center for Applied Ethics website.

Santa Clara University. “Making an Ethical Decision: A Practical Tool for Thinking through Tough Choices.” (The App).