Profitability is the primary reason for the existence of business ventures. Many business ventures engage in unethical practices for the sake of enhancing the profitability of their firms. Workers in firms face a moral dilemma when they have to be part of an unethical business practice (Robert, 2012). Understanding the drivers of change requires the analysis of the internal and external work environment in order to come up with achievable goals. Consumer expectation and continued demand for better quality are key drivers for change. If a customer’s expectations are either not met or under met then their loyalty may shift, therefore, firms must always strive to meet these expectations. A change driver is anything that may precipitate change. For any effective change to take place, it must be anticipated and well planned. In order to plan for change, the key players in an organization must strive to involve and win the support of all members. This paper will analyze the probable response of an employee in a firm with unethical practice under the guidelines of the six stages of Kohlberg’s theory of moral reasoning.
Lawrence Kohlberg developed a theory of moral reasoning that formed a basis for ethical behavior and moral judgment. The renowned psychologist developed six distinct stages that individuals go through when faced with moral dilemmas. The six steps were grouped into three stages namely the pre-conventional morality stage, the conventional morality stage, and post-conventional morality stage (Blair, 2012). Alice, an employee at McDonald fries, realized that the firm was engaging in unethical business practice by concealing some vital truth about the fat they used for their products. The firm used beef fat to cook their fries in a centralized plant before transferring them to the restaurants where they used vegetable oil. The firm did this to prevent them from losing the Hindu customers who were vegetarians. The next chapters will give a critical analysis of the expected response of the employee at each stage.
The pre-conventional morality stage
The pre-conventional morality stage comprises of the first two steps of moral development. This stage is often seen in children even though it also occurs among the adults. At this stage, the subjects judge the morality of actions by their direct consequences. The subjects are yet to internalize and conceptualize the societal norms regarding particular actions. The first step is obedience and punishment driven. The individuals at this stage will perform an act or abstain from it depending on the expected direct income of their actions. The actions could be to avoid punishment or to achieve a reward or a form of approval (Krishnan, 2010).
The second step is the self-interest orientation also known as moral relativism. Here, the subjects’ actions are guided by selfish interest as they would want to know what is in the deal for them. The employee at the fries firm which is at the first step of the pre-conventional stage may fail to act or challenge the unethical process for fear losing her job or getting a negative appraisal from the superiors. At the second step of self-interest orientation, Alice could respond by holding her peace and ignoring the malpractice so long as she keeps her job and gets her wages.
The conventional morality stage
The conventional morality stage is primarily seen in young adults. At this stage, the morality of actions is judged by individuals in comparisons to the standards set by the society or significant institutions. The stage comprises of the fifth and the sixth step of the moral reasoning theory described by Kohlberg. At this stage, the individual accepts the standards set by the society as the appropriate measure of morality. The individual will judge as right or wrong depending on the moral standing of the society that they form part (Blair, 2012).
The third step of Kohlberg is referred to as the interpersonal accord and conformity or the social norms step. At this step, an individual seeks the approval of the society and will strive to live up to their expectations. At this stage, I would expect Alice to respond by blowing the whistle about the unethical practice because this is acceptable to the society. If Alice chooses to remain silent over the unethical business practice, then she would be doing contrary to the expectations of the society (Robert, 2012). The fourth step is called the authority and social order orientation stage. Here the approval of the subject is not significant as what matters is the maintenance of a properly functioning society. At the stage, Alice would respond by keeping silent over the issue for fear of disintegrating the firm.
The post-conventional stage
The post-conventional stage is also referred to by some scholars as the principled level stage. At the stage, an individual views himself or herself as a separate entity from the society. The subjects believe that their principles could take precedence over the standard set by the society. The individuals at this stage live by their ethical and moral principles which could be different from those of the society (Cardozo, 2010). The stage consists of the fifth and the sixth step of the moral theory.
The fifth stage is the social contract orientation stage where the laws of the land are viewed as a social contract that could be terminated if necessary. At this stage, I would expect Alice to respond by blowing the whistle because the act contradicts her moral principles. The last stage is called the universal ethical principles or the principled conscience stage (Cardozo, 2010). The subjects at this stage apply the universal ethical standards and abstract reasoning to judge their morals and not just the laws set by the society. Social contracts do not matter here, and the individual empathizes. At this stage, Alice would stand up for the rights of the Hindu community and point out at the injustice against them, irrespective of the consequence.
Lawrence Kohlberg developed a theory of moral reasoning that formed a basis for ethical behavior and moral judgment. This paper has analyzed the probable response of an employee by the name Alice in a firm with unethical practice under the guidelines of the six stages of Kohlberg’s theory of moral reasoning. The individuals at the pre-conventional stage will perform an act or abstain from it depending on the expected direct income of their actions. The actions are to avoid punishment or to achieve a reward or a form of approval. Alice could respond by holding her peace and ignoring the malpractice so long as she keeps her job and gets her wages.
At the conventional stage, the individual will judge as right or wrong depending on the moral standing of the society that they form a part. At this stage, I would expect Alice to respond by blowing the whistle about the unethical practice because this is acceptable to the society. The individuals at the post-conventional stage live by their ethical and moral principles which could be different from those of the society. At this stage, Alice would stand up for the rights of the Hindu community and point out at the injustice against them, irrespective of the consequence.
Blair R., (2012). Moral Development and Reality: A Contemporary Perspective (2nd ed. Vol. 1. Pg. 113). New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.
Cardozo D., (2010). Strengths and Weaknesses of Kohlberg Theory: Beyond the Theories (1st ed. Vol. 6. Pg. 57). London: Learning Matters Publication
Krishnan H., (2010). Lawrence Kohlberg Consensus and Controversy (Illustrated ed. Vol. 2. Pp. 288). Springer Science & Business Media.
Robert A., (2012). Business Strategy: Reflections on Education. (2nd ed. Vol. 1. Pg. 133). London and New York: Routledge Publishers.