Free «Business Ethics: The Moral Ambiguity Problem» Essay Sample

Business Ethics: The Moral Ambiguity Problem


Ethical dilemmas are usual events in the human life, especially in the sphere of business. The necessity to organize cooperation with a variety of company’s stakeholders creates an opportunity for the occurrence of ethical issues on different stages of business processes organization. Moral ambiguity issue is usually considered the key element leading to the occurrence of all other ethical problems in modern organization. It is important to study the causes of moral ambiguity occurrence, the ways it affects main stakeholders of the company, and the main recommendations for the management to overcome this issue.

Ethical Dilemma Description

The specifics of modern business define the need for permanent competition between the companies to obtain leading positions in the markets and industry in general. Modern businesses usually use different tools to achieve success, including unethical methods of competition. The specifics of competition in the modern business have created the conditions for the existence of one of the most important ethical dilemmas for modern companies – the issue of moral ambiguity (Lowery, 2011, p. 125). This ethical dilemma can be considered as the basic type of ethical concern for modern business that is not usually considered by the companies’ management. Managers prefer to discuss specific cases of unethical behavior that take place in relations with clients, suppliers, and employees (Morley, 2016). Thus, moral ambiguity can be the ethical issue that defines the causes for the occurrence of all other ethical problems in the modern company.

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The main idea of moral ambiguity is that the manager and the employees in the modern company cannot easily estimate the ethical character of their actions and decisions. Because of this, the common problem of confrontation between the public good and private interest takes place (Lowery, 2011). As a result, it is quite difficult for the company’s management to form an effective behavior model for the employees on the basis of ethical principles. The employees are more likely to accept the concept of private interest than ethical rules as a motivation for certain actions (Maric et al., 2011). As a result, it is quite difficult to motivate the employees to apply ethical behavior – first of all, due to the lack of understanding of ethical business principles and the conflict between ethical requirements and personal interest of each employee in the company. The concept of personal egoism of each employee plays a vital role. Since all of them aim to achieve the maximization of personal benefit, they might avoid the requirements of ethical behavior and cooperation with other employees. This ethical issue can affect the general results of the company’s performance and require careful attention to management. Otherwise, the neglect to promotie ethical behavior model among the employees can cause significant losses for all stakeholders of the business.

The Reasons for the Definition of Ethical Dilemma

The moral ambiguity problem can be considered as an ethical issue because the presence of this factor in the organization usually assists in the realization of unethical behavior model. The absence of ethical guidelines leads to the situation when the management and the employees face the situation where it is difficult to determine the actions that have to be done to obtain ethical results (Paswan, 2011, p. 8). In this way, it is possible to say that the problem of moral ambiguity is the key element of the majority of ethical issues in the company. As a result, modern management should implement all possible efforts to reduce the probability of moral ambiguity occurrence.

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The problem of moral ambiguity can be especially significant for big international companies due to the presence of the employees with different religious and cultural behavior models. The examples of such situation are the companies in China, where ethical code is highly affected by cultural traditions of Chinese population (Ke & Wang, 2014). In case the representatives of the variety of companies are presented in a single company, cultural confrontation and ethical ambiguity can be the common factors of the personnel’s cooperation process. Modern management should be able to effectively respond to such threats.

In the current analysis, it is important to notice that moral ambiguity is a complex ethical dilemma that can affect each potential stakeholder of the company. The necessity to choose between the private interest of the employees and the company and the ethical model of behavior can bring negative results for all stakeholders. The opposite side of the same dilemma is when the employee displays interest in the ethical model of behavior, but the participation in unethical actions becomes the main condition for professional growth (Gunsalus, 2012). These conditions can provide a certain level of pressure on the employee and negatively affect his/her motivation for work.

For the employees, the orientation toward ethical model of behavior is the main factor of work productivity improvement. In this case, orientation toward the ethical model of relations among the personnel is the factor that contributes to the development of the informal relations among the employees, as well as the development of trust and confidence in one's companions (Haddad, 2014). In this situation, the absence of ethical relations among the personnel due to moral ambiguity issue can become a factor of contradictions and mistrust in the company. Such environment cannot be beneficial for the constructive process of cooperation — on the contrary, it only motivates the employees to conflict with each other and sabotage the work process. In this way, moral ambiguity problem provides the direct influence on one of the main stakeholders of the business – the employees.

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For stakeholders and investors of the company, moral ambiguity problem can have significant results in the form of trust level reduction and occurrence of barriers for the accumulation of the required funds. At the same time, the research of the effects of unethical behavior on investors has presented a conclusion that unethical behavior conditions reduce the probability of the effective resolution of any type of conflict between the company and investors (Collewaert & Fassin, 2013). For this reason, management should create the opportunities for reduction of the moral ambiguity issue.

Same situations with negative correlation between the facts of unethical behavior and the level of trust are relevant for the relations between the company and its suppliers (Nguyen, 2015) and clients (Kaynak, 2012). It is possible to say that moral ambiguity and the lack of certain ethical code and strategy in the company can become the reason for occurrence of serious problems among all stakeholders of the company.

Solutions to Ethical Dilemma

As can be seen from the previous analysis, moral ambiguity is the reason for occurrence of the majority of ethical issues in the company. They are mainly connected with the lack of understanding and sharing of single version of ethical behavior standards. At the same time, it is important to remember about the case of big international companies where the personnel include the members with completely different behavior, cultural, and religious standards. The development of common ethical standards for all of these groups can be quite a complex task for the management. However, certain resolution to this key issue can be provided.

First of all, it is important to develop a similar ethical code in the company. Though this action seems to be obvious for modern businesses, a big number of companies still fail to understand the importance of ethical code in increasing the effectiveness of cooperation with all company’s stakeholders. Ethical code should be the basis for the development of integrity culture inside the enterprise (Boatright, 2013). Specific attention should be paid to the support of ethical behavior development among the younger staff of the company. The younger workers can present lower effectiveness in the sphere of ethical behavior due to the lack of experience and knowledge (Boatright, 2013). Since the majority of employees face moral ambiguity as a result of the impossibility to adequately estimate ethical character of their actions and decisions, management should provide full-time support for the development of ethical principles among the staff (McLaverty & McKee, 2016).

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To guarantee the complete and effective integration of the employees into the existing ethical behavior model of the company, it is also important to create the opportunities for permanent studying of all possible ethical situations that can occur in any field of activity. Additionally, the employees should have the instructions for each potential situation in order to avoid negative effects of ethical dilemma and moral ambiguity.

At the same time, to build an effective business model of the company that would be based on the ethical behavior model, it is important to study the internal environment of the company thoroughly. This decision can allow the management to form a complex image of the internal processes, cultural differences of the personnel, and the initiatives that will help in forming a single ethical code that will be accepted and attractive for all the employees. To reach this goal, McLaverty & McKee (2016) have recommended for the management to use the means for development of personal networks. It is important for the manager to form a strong and diverse personal network that would give him/her information about the processes that take place among the personnel, main concerns, complaints, and limitations for the improvement of the employees’ performance. At the same time, the presence of information about the issues in the organization of business processes among the employees should be the basis for the adequate and relevant response. In general, management should be able to take an active role in the development and promotion of ethical code among the employees to reduce the probability of moral ambiguity occurrence.


The analysis of causes and effects of moral ambiguity occurrence in the modern organization allowed the researchers to state that this is a relevant issue that requires resolution and permanent monitoring by the management. It can cause negative effects for all of the company’s stakeholders and the company itself. The main tools for resolution of this issue should include the development of informal personal networks by the management and permanent control over the realization of the company’s ethical code by the personnel.