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How Views on Ethical Issues May Vary with Job Titles

Professional engineering A profession is a learned occupation needing systematized knowledge and preparation added to a resolution to a common good. Engineering is the innovative way of applying science for the use of all mankind and therefore is a profession. The use of technological knowledge needs to count the commission to provide highly-valued products and services. This sense of obligation also needs to count producing a productive impact on society and the good of life. Because engineering is a profession, engineers must sense the impact of their actions. Need for ethical standards Ethic has been expressed as "referring to virtue" and ethical as "in accordance with the rules or values for justifiable conduct or practice, especially the principles of a profession.

" As moral values can be affected by the values of the society, each profession therefore has to conceive its own set of standard rules so that there is a well-understood understanding of what practices are okay and what are not. In this way, not only the members of the profession know which actions are suitable, others outside the profession will be able to know what to assume from the profession also. Limits of ethical standards However, it is not conceivable to provide directives to cater to all situations.

Therefore, there are situations when they are shades of gray with no single right or wrong answer. In such dilemmas, engineers must search for their best personal solutions. Many choices will have similarly crucial results. Diversed interest groups are influenced differently and to different levels. Solutions to ethical circumstances are seldom clear-cut issues.

In making decisions when ethical tight spots arise, engineers need to be receptive to how their decisions will influence different groups. What may make the selection making extra unfavorable is that the alternatives that are more ethical may put the engineers themselves, or their employer, at a unfavorable position. A common ethical dilemama We shall demonstrate the tight spots often faced by engineers by refering to the well-understood Challenger space craft accident case. In order for the space shuttle to have enough thrust to escape from the earth gravity to reach the orbit, the space shuttle's own rockets are assisted by two booster rockets that use solid fuel. These solid-fuel boosters were made by Morton Thiokol.

As a consequence of the cold temperature expected at the launch of the space craft, a teleconference was held the night before the launch between NASA managers and Thiokol officials and engineers. We can deem that all the representatives were either engineers or familiar with rocket technology. The initial recommendation by Thiokol was not to launch the space vehicle until the temperature had risen to a high enough level so that the O-rings would be able to perform the sealing effect.

However, because of the displeasure by NASA representatives over the recommendation, it was modified to launch recommendation. Unfortunately, the space shuttle exploded soon after launch. Let us deliberate upon the quandary faced by each of these three groups in this case: Group 1 - NASA Managers Group 2 - Thiokol Managers Group 3 - Thiokol Engineers Dilemma of NASA managers The NASA representatives were under the high-pressure to launch the space shuttle as a consequence of a couple of reasons. Further delay in the launch would influence the launches of next missions. Delay in the launch would attract more cost and made the shuttle project less economically worth having.

The lauch date was critical as President Reagan would be making the State of the Union address as the space vehicle was in orbit. In addition, he was going to highlight the issues that centered about education, and what better time for the president to talk about education than when a teacher was in space? In any event, NASA representatives were not furnished with sufficient verification to conclude that the launch would be treacherous because of low temperature. In addition, they did specify the perfromance of the booster rockets even at a cold environment, although not as low as what was expected at the time of the launch. Dilemma of Thiokol officials Insisting on the no-launch recommendation would antangonize the company's ties with NASA officials and affects their prospect for further business dealings.

Furthermore, their engineers could only provide circumstantial evidence of the danger of low temperature on the perfromance of the O-rings but it was not very convincing. Dilemma facing thiokol engineers Even though they were aware of the unsatisfactory sealing ability of the O-rings at low temperature, they did not have enough time to prepare a very convincing case. Although they expressed strong objection to the change in the recommendation from no-launch to launch, they were over-ruled. Important lessons The perspectives of a situation depend largely on the position a professional is in.

Particularly, a young professional may be very worried with the techical problems even as he climbs up the organizational ladder, he becomes more and more apprehensive with the business problems of the organization. When we teach engineering ethics, we have to examine the nervousness encountered by engineers at different levels of their vocations.

Jacob Gan PhD (Michigan) writes for www.succezz.com, www.JacobGan.com, www.JacobEducation.com, www.DemystifyCancer.com, www.understanding-orchids.com, www.motivate2success.com, www.JacobLearning.com and hosts Jacob.TheeLearningcentre.com, an elearning portal.

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