BLIND SPOTS – ETHICAL DILEMMAS – PART TWO
By Zsolt Szalai - April 3., 2023.
In the previous article, we discussed two of the factors that interfere with ethical functioning, as set out in Max H. Bazerman and Ann E. Tenbrunell's book Blind Spots, and now we are discussing the remaining three: indirect blindness, slippery slope, and valuing outcomes over processes.
In the case of profit-oriented companies, it is often the case that they use the activities of third parties in the production of a particular product or service. This may be due to cost savings, efficiency, the availability of a specific expertise, or even bridging a geographical distance. From an ethical point of view, most of them seem to be completely innocent factors. However, such cooperation may also result in unethical behaviour towards third parties (e.g. price increases, environmental problems, the use of excessively low-cost labour, etc.) and the actual root cause of outsourcing is that this consequence cannot be directly linked to the original company. This often happens because the outsourcing company, if it had taken these steps on its own, would have suffered serious damage to its entire operation from a PR point of view, for example. Indirect blindness shows this phenomenon when we try to eliminate ethical violations from ourselves with the help of the involvement of third parties.
Postmodern thinking of our time prefers to approach phenomena not in an absolute, but in a relative way. This is no different with misdemeanors, as there are "forgivable sins" that can still be condoned because there are no large, wide-ranging damages. However, relativity has a serious pitfall: if there is no absolute measure, then a slight deviation from the previous ethical functioning does not seem tragic and may even qualify as completely okay behavior over time. Therefore, the next move in a relatively unethical direction does not seem to be such a big problem anymore, until the process can lead to a significant shift of the organization from the previous ethical operation, even unnoticed, causing serious damage and problems to its environment. The greatest danger of a slippery slope lies precisely in its graduality and therefore in its difficulty to recognize.
During the operation of an organization, it creates signal systems and processes that provide continuous feedback on the direction and current state of operation of either the whole or individual parts of the organization. It can be a financial statement, an activity in the field of research and development, or the evaluation of the market reception of a particular product or service. All these, of course, are important, they function as a kind of GPS whether the body is moving towards the goals and directions that were previously set, or whether it is possible to make smaller, larger correction. However, it may happen that a result obtained in the process is given more importance than would be justified, and decisions and actions taken on such grounds may even lead to unethical situations (for example, in the case of drug trials, when there is a high time pressure and a professionally justified protocol is overwritten due to interim favorable data).
In the first part of the miniseries, we alluded to the fact that the biblical worldview ties truth, and thus the moral norm, to the person of God, which appeared in the rules of operation of society even after the Exodus from Egypt. Perhaps best of all, however, is the Apostle Paul articulating the why behind our honest actions.
The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:9-10)