Argumentative Ethics Essay

Question

Ingrained in contemporary belief is the efficacy of the use of incentives and rules to shape ethical behavior. In light of what Barry Schwartz has to say about practical wisdom, make a counterargument to the prevalent use of incentives and rules; stating what is problematic in their use and what needs to be considered in their stead.

Answer

Counterargument to the Prevalent Use of Incentives and Rules

Contents

Introduction. 1

Discussion. 1

Conclusion. 3

Works Cited. 4

Introduction

Over the years, there has been a continuous debate about the use of incentives and rules to shape ethical behavior. As it is today, incentives and rules are being relied on everywhere, in schools, homes, and business, and it appears to shape virtually all everyday activities. Besides, there is a contemporary belief that incentives have a high degree of efficacy. However, according to Barry Schwartz’s take on practical wisdom, people should always do the right things the right way without relying on incentives or a set of rules (Schwartz and Kenneth 14). As much as the use of incentives and regulations may seem to improve ethical behaviors and performance, these gains come at a cost. The unintended consequences of rules and incentives outweigh the desired outcomes.

Discussion

The widespread use of rules and incentives has an effect on ethical behavior and even turnover. While incentives can improve performance, this does not guarantee that the desired outcomes will be earned using ethical or moral approaches. When individuals are given incentives to achieve certain goals, they are highly likely to employ unethical practices such as cheating by exaggerating performance. The risk is even higher especially if one fall short of the goals. If high incentives are given, many individuals will cross the ethical lines to receive them, all the while consoling themselves by arguing that the end justifies the means (Schwartz 379).

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Apart from encouraging bad practices, incentives and rules create inequality in compensation, leading to increased employee turnover, a situation that ultimately affects performance negatively. When financial incentives are based on performance, people doing the same job receive different levels of pay, leading to envy, jealousy, disappointment, and frustration. Besides, it is common for individuals use their pay to signal their value and status in an organization. Another problem of incentives and rules is that they reduce intrinsic motivation. When intrinsic interest is overshadowed by incentives and adherence to rules, the motivation to continue working is greatly reduced.

Therefore, it is imperative to consider other factors instead of relying exclusively on incentives and/or rules to promote performance. For instance, autonomy, which involves freedom of choice in terms of what do and how to do it, should be embraced. When individuals are given freedom, they feel more responsible for their work, dedicate more of their energy and time to it, and create more efficient and innovative techniques of accomplishing the desired goals. As a result, their performance and quality of the work increases remarkably. Mastery of a skill, which involves the development of specialized expertise and knowledge, is also an excellent method of motivating people to behave ethically in their work. Whenever an individual is given an opportunity to master his/her skill, he will naturally feel motivated to do things the right way while continue to acquire more skills (Schwartz & Kenneth 67).

According to Schwartz, Americans are growing increasingly dissatisfied with the institutions on which they rely for social stability. The disappointment experienced by the recipients of service often matches the dissatisfaction of those providing those services. This is true because the people offering the services have to balance between doing things as they should be done according to the rules of the system and deciding to do the right thing in the right way. The problem with the rules is that they may be imposing constraints’ on people’s efforts to do the right thing. The problem of incentives is that they are anchored on the premise that people will not do the right thing unless they are motivated (Schwartz 393).

Conclusion

As it is today, the pervasiveness of incentives and regulations in schools, homes, and in businesses arises from the contemporary belief that using incentives has some degree of efficacy in terms of driving the intended results. However, As much as their use seems to improve ethical behavior and performance, these gains come at a cost. In fact, the unintended consequences of rules and incentives may sometimes outweigh the benefits. As a result, encouraging people to rely on practical wisdom and to do things the right way is more efficient than relying on rules and incentives.

Works Cited

Schwartz, Barry. “Practical wisdom and organizations.” Research in Organizational Behavior, 31 (2011): 3-23. Print.

Schwartz, Barry. Why we work. London: Simon and Schuster, 2015. Print.

Schwartz, Barry, and Kenneth E. Sharpe. “Practical wisdom: Aristotle meets positive psychology.” Journal of Happiness Studies, 7.3 (2006): 377-395. Print.

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