The core idea of utilitarianism is that an action is right if it results in the happiness of the greatest number of people in a society or a group. In the workplace, the idea of this concept is if you conduct yourself properly at work, then you will be able to achieve professional happiness. By making morally correct decisions, your happiness will increase. However, if you choose to do something morally wrong, even though it may be legal, your happiness will decrease.
Utilitarianism creates a black and white of what is morally correct. In the world of someone who uses utilitarian ethics, there are no shades of gray, either something is wrong or something is right. At work, utilitarianism is displayed by working to make sure the workplace is a positive environment for your co-workers to be in, and then make it so for yourself.
Types of Workplace Utilitarianism
There are two types of utilitarian ethics practiced on the job, rule utilitarianism and act utilitarianism. Rule utilitarianism is put in place to benefit the most people by using the fairest methods possible. Act utilitarianism makes the most ethical actions possible for the benefit of the people.
Examples of Utilitarian Ethics
One example of utilitarianism in business is the practice of having tiered pricing for a product or service to different types of customers. For example, the airline industry offers first class, business class and economy class seats on many of their airplanes.
Customers who fly in first or business class pay a much higher rate than those in economy seats, but they also get more amenities. However, the higher prices paid for business or first class seats help to ease the airline’s financial burden created by making room for economy class seats. This would be an example of rule utilitarianism.
An example of act utilitarianism is a pharmaceutical company releasing a drug that has been governmentally approved with known side effects because the drug is able to help more people than are bothered by the minor side effects. Act utilitarianism often shows “the end justifies the means” mentality.
The main limitation to utilitarian ethics is that it is difficult to achieve in the workplace. People are taught to focus on self before others, making it difficult to practice utilitarianism. However, with hard work and perseverance, you can create the type of work atmosphere that you desire for yourself and those around you.
Crystal Lombardo has been a staff writer for Future of Working for five years. She is a proud veteran and mother. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our editor-in-chief a message here.