EN103 for Foundations of Business Administration
Prof. Bauer-Ramazani

Business Ethics Memo ASSIGNMENT

1.     Ethics case/situation:

Definition--Ethical Dilemma:
An ethical dilemma is a predicament in which a business person must resolve whether an action, although benefiting the organization, individual, or both may be considered unethical.  An ethical dilemma may arise when two norms or values are in conflict.

  • personal experience (by professor's specifications) or Milkshake case (Prof. Olsen);

  1. Ethics Memo--individual writing assignment:

In an approximately 2-page, single-spaced memo with no indentations (following the memo-writing guidelines in Writing a Business Memo & Citing Electronic Sources), analyze the issue(s) in a particular situation (case, personal experience) and apply the concepts from the textbook chapter and lecture on Business Ethics.  Concepts to be included (see Business Ethics and Social Responsibility): the ethics/social responsibility, ethical dilemma, stakeholders, the pros and cons of whistleblowing, core ethical values, and guidelines for making ethical decisions.  Use any laws from the Appendix as they may apply.

Use the following headings in boldface: Introduction, The Situation, The Ethical Dilemma, The Stakeholders Affected by the Dilemma, Ethical Norms, Alternative Courses of Action & Tradeoffs, Solution, Personal Beliefs or Feelings, Conclusion. You will write a paragraph (5-7 sentences) for each one.


Write an introduction (2-3 sentences) which briefly states the situation.  Then write your thesis statement, which should include the purpose of the memo and give a preview of what the body of the memo will discuss.  You need to include, as keywords, all of the headings/topics you will address in the memo (highlighted below).

Briefly describe the situation and briefly mention the ethical dilemma.  (Then write: )The purpose of  this memo is to ___________________________________________________ (use the keywords discuss, ethical dilemma).  (Next, write a sentence that includes all of the headings/topics highlighted  below.  Use future tense and state what you will describe, state, express, argue, etc.). 

The Situation: State the facts; describe the situation.
In short, simple sentences, write a paragraph describing
who was involved, where the situation took place, when this happened, and what was going on. 

Begin with a topic sentence that contains the keywords and answers the questions who? where? when?  Then in short, simple sentences, answer the question what happened/what was going on?  All supporting sentences that follow must provide more details, facts, explanations about these questions. Please note that this is most likely in PAST TENSE, so check all verb endings!

The Ethical Dilemma and Ethical Norms --Discuss the values and norms that are in conflict.

Describe in detail what the ethical dilemma/issue is. Why is this a problem? 

Begin with a topic sentence that contains the keywords from the heading (ethical dilemma) and answers the questions what is the ethical dilemma confronting the person?  Then in short, simple sentences, answer the question which ethical values are in conflict?  Who will be hurt?  Who will benefit?  All supporting sentences that follow must provide more details, facts, explanations about these questions.  For ethical norms (or 6 Pillars of Character), see Chapter 2, p. 43 for the 4 ethical norms of UTILITY, RIGHTS, JUSTICE, CARING, or use the 6 Pillars of Character from the Josephson Institute).

Begin with a topic sentence that mentions which of the ethical norms are involved in this situation (see   In the rest of the paragraph, answer the question How is each core ethical value involved?  Write supporting answers for each core ethical value that you identified in your topic sentence.

The Stakeholders Affected by the Dilemma -- List them.  Describe their involvement.  Why/In what way are they stakeholders?

Begin with a topic sentence that mentions all of the stakeholders that are affected by this situation.  In the rest of the paragraph, answer the questions How is each stakeholder involved? and How will the dilemma affect them? (Why/In what way are they stakeholders?).

Alternative Courses of Action & Tradeoffs (benefits/costs) Discuss 2-3 possible ways to solve the ethical dilemma/issue(s).  What are the tradeoffs of each course of action for the stakeholders involved?  For each one, discuss the benefits and costs (who will benefit and how; who will see negative consequences and which ones?)

Begin with a topic sentence that mentions the keywords alternative courses of action and tradeoffs. In the rest of the paragraph, discuss each alternative in detail and show how this alternative will affect each of the stakeholders involved positively or negatively.  Use CAUSE-EFFECT vocabulary, e.g. If ......., then....... .    ......., so .........  .  .............; therefore, .............   verbs: lead to, cause, create, generate, result in.

Solution -- Discuss how the dilemma should have been solved.  Use the 7 Guidelines for Making Ethical Decisions (see below).

Begin with a topic sentence that states which of the alternative courses of action would be the best solution.  To make a decision, use 1 or 2 of the 7 Guidelines for Making Ethical Decisions and apply them to each of the alternative courses of action.  Which alternative passes the test? That alternative will be the ethical solution!  If the alternative does not pass the test, the decision is unethical.  Please discuss the tests you used and the result.  Also, consider the following questions: How many stakeholders will benefit from this alternative vs. the other ones?  Who will be affected negatively?  Which values are more important?

Personal Beliefs or Feelings
Express your opinion as to what the person(s) should do to deal with this dilemma/this (these) issue(s).

Begin with a topic sentence that mentions the keywords in my opinion/I believe/I think/I feel.  Then indicate which of the 7 Guidelines toward an Ethical Work Place offer the best solution (see below). Explain why you recommend these particular guidelines. 

rite a concluding paragraph (2-3 sentences) in which you restate the thesis statement from the introduction.  Briefly restate your suggested solution and why this is the best solution.

Creating an Ethical Work Place – 7 Guidelines
for making Ethical Decisions

(Choose the appropriate guidelines for your case.)

  1. The Golden Rule:  Act in a way you would expect others to act toward you.
  2. The Utilitarian Principle: Act in a way that results in the greatest good for the greatest number of people.
  3. Kant’s Categorical Imperative: Act in such a way that the action taken under the circumstances could be a universal law, or rule of behavior.
  4. The Professional Ethic: Take actions that would be viewed as proper by a disinterested panel of professional peers.

  5. The TV Test: Managers should always ask, “Would I feel comfortable explaining to a national TV audience why I took this action?”

  6. The Legal Test: Is the proposed action or decision legal/?  Established laws are generally considered minimum standards for ethics.

  7. The Four-way Test (Source: Herb Taylor 1932, Rotary International):
    Managers can feel confident that a decision is ethical if they can answer “yes” to the following questions:

  • Is the decision truthful?

  • Is it fair to all concerned?

  • Will it build good will and better friendships?

  • Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

VOCABULARY--Useful Expressions:

  • to commit a crime/unlawful act

  • to take responsibility for

  • may/might cause

  • to be affected by

  • should have + Past Participle

  • benefit from

  • immediate supervisor, manager, the CEO of the company

  • report the incident

  • make a mistake -- commit a crime/unlawful act (specify, e.g. steal, lie, cheat, take a bribe, trade on secret information, etc.)

WORD FORMS -- commonly used words in this assignment
  • steal (v) - thief (n, person) - theft (n, criminal act)
  • lose (v) - loss (n)
  • (un)ethical (adj) - ethics (n)
  • benefit (v, n)
  • profit (v, n)
  • report (v, n)
  • solve (v) - solution (n)
  • possible (adj) - possibility (n)


Christine Bauer-Ramazani; last updated: April 15, 2014