Management Essays on Ethical Issues in Business


Work-related issues can cause major problems between employees and employers. However, how the employer handles an issue determines the employee’s relationship with the company. If the issue is resolved unethically, then there will be strained relationships brought about by those who are affected most. The best way to meet everyone’s standards regarding right or wrong is through ethical reasoning. Exxon Valdez’s organization made an unethical decision in protecting itself instead of those affected by the oil spill which it caused, resulting in a major crisis.



Ethical Issues in Business

Every business is expected to make operational decisions that are ethical and morally sound. It is the best way in which they can maintain a proper relationship with all the stakeholders involved. On the other hand, in case of a crisis, the stakeholders will look for the best and fair way to resolve the dispute for the good of the company and those whom they serve (Weiss, 2014). Nonetheless, not all organizations operate by ethical reasoning. Cases of unhealthy relationships between employees and employers have been reported on several occasions in the media. The management, for instance, failed to reason ethically regarding the well-being of their employees, leading to a crisis. The Exxon Valdez case study is an example of how an ethical reasoning process and decision-making was lacking among the management resulting in extreme dispute and crisis.

Ethical Reasoning and Moral Decision-Making Concepts

Every organization has a role in meeting the expectations of those whom they serve. However, there are instances whereby some organizations become more profit-oriented to the extent that they fail to maintain fairness or care for those they serve. In this case, Exxon Valdez’s management does not have any considerations to the major stakeholders because they fail to reason ethically or make moral decisions. Making assumptions may result in a major crisis and disagreement among the parties involved. An example is the case of Exxon Valdez. Exxon’s chairman, Lawrence G. Rawl, decided to send low-rank employees to handle the pollution crisis that it had caused. In this case, he assumed that this was the best team to handle the crisis. Ethical reasoning was omitted when Rawl made the decision. In the end, assumptions were made by the public that the company did not regard the oil pollution as a major crisis that needed full focus and attention from the top management. On the other hand, there were no signs of moral responsibility and decisions from the top management, showing lack of seriousness from the company.

The Need to Make Ethical Decisions

The best way in which Rawl could have dealt with the oil spill crisis was by evaluating the situation and making an ethical decision to respond fast to show signs of responsibility. His main focus should have been on clarifying the issue with the public to maintain trust. By having a clarified goal, it could have been easy for him to make a moral decision; thus achieving the desired outcome (Wesleyan University, n.d.). Another unethical decision made by the company was failing to issue a statement to the public regarding their major concerns on the oil spillage. Besides, the company spokesman failed to think ethically when he decided to claim that the oil spill caused minimal damage which was contrary to the events experienced. Though the U.S. Federal Court mandated that Exxon  pay a $900 million penalty for damages resulting from the heavy oil spill, it was not done out of obligation but demand (Florida Tech, n.d). There was a need for the management to make an ethical decision to protect its image while maintaining a proper relationship with the public at large. It was the only way in which they could have been considered to have dealt with the issue morally.

In summary, the best way to maintain a proper relationship and to handle issues that threaten to destroy the relationship between the employer and stakeholders is through making ethical decisions.  Exxon made some unethical decisions that eventually destroyed its relationship with the people they served, resulting in reputational damage. Employing ethical reasoning and making proper decisions is, therefore, crucial to have a smooth operation within a certain business environment.




Florida Tech. (n.d). The five biggest ethical issues facing businesses. Retrieved from

Weiss, J. W. (2014). Business ethics: A stakeholder and issues management approach. Retrieved from

Wesleyan University. (n.d). Ethical Reasoning: A Key Capability.  London: Wesleyan University Retrieved from