Utilitarian Theory, Human Rights and Organizational Inequities

Introduction

This essay is divided into two parts. The first part discusses issues of utilitarian theory and human rights, while the second part deals with issues of organizational inequities. The last part of this essay provides a conclusion on the discussions that have been tackled in both parts.

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Utilitarian Theory

Jeremy Bentham is one of the prominent scholars who contributed to the development of the theory of utilitarianism. Bentham considered moral and political philosophy as a public utility (Read, 2006; Gwin, 2010). Bentham directly associated the theory with the concept of the universal interests (Veenhoven, 2010; Ott, 2010). This has been described as comprising a distinctive partnership among the interests of members of a specific community (Harrison, 2011).

It is important to note that the utilitarian theory has a number of principles, one of which is the belief of a morally good action being able to assist the greatest number of persons (Brink, 2013). Another important fundamental principle of the theory is that the greatest happiness of the greatest number of people is the yardstick of measuring what is either right or wrong (Brink, 2013). Bentham also came up with the principle of utility, otherwise known as the greatest happiness principle, as a vital component of the utilitarian theory (Crimms, 2011). In this case, the theory provides that pleasure is dominant over pain.

While developing the utilitarian theory, Bentham postulated that nature placed human beings under two sovereign masters by which what ought to be done were to be determined: pain and pleasure (Crimms, 2011).

Bentham and Mill argued that the theory was consequential in nature (Crimms, 2011), a claim that is still held by other proponents of the theory (Crimm, 2011). This implies that right actions are appreciated totally within the context of the resulting consequences (Crimms, 2011). The utilitarian theory is also considered as agent-neutral and impartial, which means that it considers everybody’s happiness as the same (Crimms, 2011). In addition, anything can be considered as valuable that seems as an object of cogent or informed desire (Crimms, 2011).

Three Human Rights Violations and Rankings

One of the human rights violations witnessed in a number of public institutions organizations is a sex-based discrimination (Roscigno, 2007). A sex-based discrimination entails an unfavorable treatment of an individual on the basis of sex (Roscigno, 2007). An example of sex discrimination in a public institution is a case where, in 2000, some women claimed that the United States’ Information Agency and the Voice of America denied them employment due to their sexes (Belmonte, 2008).

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Nonetheless, with reference to the principle of utilitarian theory, a sex-based discrimination against women ranks first because it can affect both male and female members within an organization (Belmonte, 2008). When either sex is discriminated against, the members are likely to feel most pain as compared to the other two that have been mentioned in this paper (Belmonte, 2008). In fact, their male counterparts are also likely to feel pain, which means, among the three violations, a sex-based discrimination yields the most pain when left unchecked; however, solving the problem is likely to generate high levels of pleasure for both sexes since no one will fear being victimized on the basis of their sexes (Belmonte, 2008).

A privacy violation is another affront to human rights in some public institutions (Reilly, Sirgy & Gorman, 2012). Privacy to information is about the right of persons to control their personal information that is held by others (Reilly, Sirgy & Gorman, 2012).

Failure to observe this fact is one of the ways through which human rights violations take place within public institutions (Reilly, Sirgy & Gorman, 2012). For instance, the United States Education Department was sued for enforcing policies that violated the privacy rights of students and parents (Hughes, 2011). This violation has been ranked the second because it does affect all public and non-profit institutions in general; only a few institutions are affected. In this regard, the pleasure derived from dealing with the problem does not benefit as many people as dealing with a sex-based discrimination would.

Lastly, bullying is another form of human rights violation that has been witnessed in a number of public and not-for-profit organizations (Balducci, Fraccaroli & Schaufeli, 2011). Bullying has been defined as the repeated infliction of verbal abuses and humiliations upon employees or other individuals. Studies have shown that bullying is one of the major problems affecting public organizations in the United States (Balducci, Fraccaroli & Schaufeli, 2011).

For instance, Phoebe Prince died as a result of bullying within a public institution; she hanged herself in 2010 (Contrada, 2012). Bullying as a violation of rights has been ranked as number three because it is one of the problems that the authorities have effectively dealt with, and it only occurs in rare cases. However, dealing with bullying is likely to yield pleasure to the vulnerable people, who are often few due to the severe consequences meted by laws against it.

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Equality and Equity within Organizations

An existing equity issue in my organization is about prejudice. There is a tendency of some leaders having preconceived opinions about their peers in other departments and junior members of the staff. Prejudice in the organization is as a result of unreasonable dislikes among some members of the organization’s staff (Bauer & Kabardov, 2011; Brostrand, 2006).

The prejudice within the organization has had a number of impacts on the members of the staff (Bauer & Kabardov, 2011). First, it has caused a serious miscommunication among leaders of different departments within the organization (Bauer & Kabardov, 2011). This means that information flow between different departments is sometimes not efficient, and in many cases lacks accuracy (Bauer & Kabardov, 2011). Moreover, the issue of prejudice has sometimes resulted in verbal conflicts among leaders of different departments (Bauer & Kabardov, 2011).

Even so, there are solutions to the problem, which can be provided through the use of the ethical decision-making model (Cooper & Menzel, 2013). First, the relevant leader should begin solving the issue by having some uncertain assumptions and acknowledge that the claim of the existence of a prejudice within the organization may be real or fictional (Cooper & Menzel, 2013). During the process, the leader should be able to identify the main actors, whose behaviors result in the prejudicial issue, the views of each actor as regards the issue and the inherent risks (Cooper & Menzel, 2013).

The second stage should involve the definition of the problem in narrow terms. It is important to note that solutions can only be provided where a problem is specifically narrowed down (Cooper & Menzel, 2013). In narrowing the problem, the leader may need to gather more information in order to establish the dynamics of the issue of prejudice within the organization (Cooper & Menzel, 2013).

In the third stage, the leader should strive to identify alternative courses of action within a specific time limit. At this stage, any possible solution to the issue should be taken into account (Cooper, 2012; Cooper & Menzel, 2013). Once different alternative courses of action have been identified, the final step is that the leader needs to identify the likely consequences of adopting each of the alternatives and choose those that are supported by either all or the majority of the stakeholders (Cooper, 2012; Cooper & Menzel, 2013).

This stage therefore necessitates the use of moral thoughts. The leader must find out whether or not the identified courses of action are supported by all the stakeholders as being of morally acceptable standards (Cooper, 2012; Cooper & Menzel, 2013). If the stakeholders do not support the solutions, then the problem of prejudice may not be dealt with. Hence, the leader should settle on the most appropriate solutions that are morally attainable (Cooper, 2012).

Even though the foregoing solutions may be effective in resolving the issue of prejudice in the organization, there are some factors that may constrain the implementation of the recommendations (Bohlooli, 2011). One of the constraining factors is the likely lack of sufficient information to act on the issue. Besides, if the concerned individuals fail to cooperate and participate in the process, the recommendations may become difficult or impossible to implement (Bohlooli, 2011). Most importantly, the leader who may spearhead the decision-making process should be competent (Bohlooli, 2011).

Conclusion

Jeremy Bentham is one of the prominent proponents of the utilitarian theory (Read, 2006). According to the theory, a morally good action is capable of helping the greatest number of persons (Read, 2006). Besides, the theory postulates that the measure of something as either being right or wrong is through pleasure and pain (Read, 2006). The equity issue in my organization is prejudice, which can be solved through the application of the ethical model of decision-making model (Cooper & Menzel, 2013). However, the implementation of the solutions may be constrained by lack of cooperation by concerned stakeholders, incompetence of the leader and lack of appropriate moral alternatives that are achievable (Bohlooli, 2011).

References

Balducci, C., Fraccaroli, F., & Schaufeli, W. (2011). Workplace bullying and its relation to work characteristics, personality, and post-traumatic stress symptoms: an integrated model. Anxiety, Stress & Coping, 24(5), 499-513. Web.

Bauer, E., & Kabardov, M. (2011). The psychology of prejudice in the multicultural learning context. Cultural-Historical Psychology, 1(3), 90-97.

Belmonte, L. A. (2008). Selling the American Way: U.S. Propaganda and the Cold War. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Bohlooli, N. (2011). Pathology and Identifying Reasons and Obstacles of Institutionalizing Staff Creativity. Australian Journal of Basic & Applied Sciences, 5(9), 1623-1689.

Brink, D. O. (2013). Mill’s Progressive Principles. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Brostrand, H. L. (2006). Tilting at Windmills: Changing Attitudes toward People with Disabilities. Journal of Rehabilitation, 72(1), 4-9.

Contrada, F. (2012). Settlement in Phoebe Prince Bullying Case still Leaves Room for Question. Web.

Cooper, T. L. (2012). The Responsible Administrator: An Approach to Ethics for the Administrative Role. Winchester, UK: John Wiley & Sons.

Cooper, T. L., & Menzel, D. C. (2013). Achieving Ethical Competence for Public Service Leadership. London, UK: Kogan Page Publishers.

Crimms, J. (2011). Utilitarian Philosophy and Politics: Bentham’s Later Years. New York, NY: Continuum.

Gwin, J. S. (2010). Juror Sentiment on Just Punishment: Do the Federal Sentencing Guidelines Reflect Community Values? Harvard Law & Policy Review, 4(1), 173-200.

Harrison, J. L. (2011). Regulation, Deregulation, and Happiness. Cardozo Law Review, 32(6), 2369-2389.

Hughes, T. D. (2011). Violating Student Information. New York, NY: Springer.

Ott, J. C. (2010). Good Governance and Happiness in Nations: Technical Quality Precedes Democracy and Quality Beats Size. Journal of Happiness Studies, 11(3), 353-368.

Read, D. (2006). Experienced Utility: Utility theory from Jeremy Bentham to Daniel Kahneman. Journal of Thinking and Reasoning, 13(1), 5-59. Web.

Reilly, N., Sirgy, J., & Gorman, A. (2012). Work and Quality of Life: Ethical Practices in Organizations. New York, NY: Springer.

Roscigno, V. J. (2007). The Face of Discrimination: How Race and Gender Impact Work and Home Lives. Plymouth, UK: Rowman & Littlefield.

Veenhoven, R. (2010). Greater Happiness for a Greater Number. Journal of Happiness Studies, 11(5), 605-629.

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