Situational Ethics

The term situational ethics was originally coined by Joseph Fletcher – as a Christian based ethical theory – Fletcher proposed that depending on the situation - circumstances existing in a particular time or place - that absolute moral principles or standards might be broken if the course of action or the outcome might result in more agape love-that is how we treat others might be improved.
Situational Ethics is more about judging the value of an action based on the value of its consequences (the end, the outcome). That is, the ends justify the means not the rules justify the means. This approach judges a person’s actions within the context of the situation as opposed to judging based on a fixed set of principles.
That is not to say that principles or standards or rules do not serve a purpose. However, situational ethics recognizes that human behavior and society are much more complex and dynamic than what can be proscribed in an inflexible set of standards. It also recognizes that there are contexts in which one standard could be in conflict with another standard. For instance what if there is a conflict between your professional code of ethics and your personal or religious/spiritual code of ethics.
The person using the situational ethics approach resolves problems with a set of general moral principles not a strict set of ethical laws or standards and is prepared to relinquish those defined laws or standards if the result is for a greater good.
The Litmus Test
  • Is it legal?
  • Does it comply with our rules and regulations?
  • Is it consistent with our organizational values?
  • Am I the only or prime beneficiary of an offer or service?
  • Does it match our stated commitments?
  • Will I feel okay and guilt free if I do this?
  • Is bias or emotion clouding my judgment?
  • Would I do it to my family and friends?
  • Would I be okay if someone did it to me?
  • Would the most ethical person I know do this?
“At least once in your lifetime take a risk for a principle you believe in, even if it brings you up against your bosses.” Daniel Schorr  
It may be a dangerous road to go-in terms of consequences, but the right one to be able to look yourself in the mirror when all is said and done.