Ethical Decision Making

Personal moral philosophies, organisational relationships, and opportunity are three factors that interact to determine ethical decisions in marketing.

Applying Personal Moral Philosophies to Marketing Decision-Making.

Many marketers espouse the proposition that all is fair in love and war, and carry this concept into the business arena – that anything is fair which defeats the competition and increases profits.  Despite the warfare similes such as targeting, and guerrilla warfare, a distinction should be made between competitors and enemies.

Competitors are rivals that compete for customers and markets according to socially accepted rules, whereas central to the science of warfare is total conquest and elimination, in some cases, of the enemy.

Ethical behaviour may be a function of two different dimensions of an organisation’s value structure: the organisation’s values and traditions, or corporate culture, and the personal moral philosophies of the organisation’s individual members.  An employee assumes some measure of moral responsibility by agreeing to abide by an organisation’s rules and standard operating procedures.  When a marketer decides to behave unethically or even illegally, it may be that competitive pressures and organisational rewards provided the incentive.

Organisational Relationships

People learn personal moral philosophies and ethical behaviour, not only from society in general, but also from members of their social groups and their organisational environment.  Relationships with one’s employees, co-workers, or superiors create ethical problems, such as maintaining confidentiality in personal relations; meeting obligations, responsibilities and mutual agreements; and avoiding undue pressure that may force others to behave unethically.  Employees may have to deal with assignments that they perceive as creating ethical dilemmas.

Managers must balance their duties to the owners or shareholders and to the employees who look to them for guidance and direction.  In addition, managers must also comply with society’s wishes and ethical evaluations.  Striking an ethical balance among these areas, then, is a difficult task for today’s marketing decision-makers.

The role of the owners and management is extremely important in developing the culture of an organisation.  The interaction between corporate culture and executive leadership helps determine the ethical value system of the organisation.


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