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Ethical Dilemmas In An Organization

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What is Ethical dilemmas in an organization ?



Ethical dilemma is a complex situation at workplace that the employees and the managers have to face that result in a conflict of moral imperatives. Ethical dilemma is also known as moral dilemma where the person faces two choices and neither of which resolves the situation in a morally suitable fashion. Ethical dilemma assumes that people will abide by communal norms such as codes of rule or religious tradition to make the choice morally not possible. The main aim of the essay is to describe a work situation at past or present employment that posed an ethical dilemma and how the employee resolved to that ethical dilemma. The essay also discusses the ethical theories to assess whether the resolution was ethical or not. Managing ethics in businesses has become as essential part of the organization. Ethics are the behavior or the morals that an individual in a work place posses the way they present in workplace. Ethical dilemma is the paradox of choosing one option over the other as both the options available transgress each other. There are many ways in which a person at a work place can behave unethically. Unethical behavior means that the employees in an organization lacks moral principles and are unwilling to comply with the standards and codes of conduct set by an organization. For example sexually harassing female employees in an organization is an unethical behavior in the work place (Andrews, 2014). The essay discusses the ethical dilemmas that the employees in an organization often face and what methods do they apply to resolve the ethical dilemma. Many ethical theories have been used by the author to explain the situation of ethical dilemma at workplace. Since the major part of the time is spent at office people are likely to face ethical dilemma at workplace. But with some common understanding and strategies ethical dilemma can be resolved. Some common examples of ethical dilemma at work place are conducting personal business on company time, taking credit for others works and harassing behavior at the organization (Banks, 2012). 



Ethical dilemma is the situation that arises because of the differences of the opinions of the employees at a workplace. Ethical dilemma can arise between two workers or can arise within a single person as well. Since different individual at a work place come from different background and culture ethical dilemma is bound to arise at a workplace because the thoughts of no two individual is same. Ethical dilemma can arise between a mangers and an employee as well in an organization. Some common ethical dilemmas at a workplace are discrimination between male and female participants at a workplace. Unethical behaviors are moving the female candidate to a higher position of authority just because she is facing harassment in a particular department (DesJardins & McCall, 2014). 

The main ethical issues that employees at a workplace face is making long phone calls at companies cost, using the organizations assets for its own personal use, wasting time of the organization, corruption and bribery, taking leaves beyond what is permitted hampering the production of the company. Breaching the rules and laws of the organization and involving in action that is not in accordance with legal laws are also the unethical behavior that an organization faces. An employee involved in working in different companies and outsourcing the organizations data is also an unethical behavior that is not acceptable by the society or the organization. Even the employers of the organization face ethical dilemma at workplace. Favoritism is the common ethical dilemma that the managers in an organization face. The unethical behavior is favoring one candidate over the other in a work place and giving all the benefits to that person even though some other person is there that deserves to be rewarded. Another common ethical issue of employers is sexually harassing employees in an organization. Employers often terminate employees without any prior notice. This is also one of the unethical behaviors of employees at workplace. Employers also indulge in delaying the salary and payment of provident fund. This is also an example of breach of professional ethics at workplace (Durkheim, 2013).

Ethical theories is the systematic theories explain the ethical dilemmas at work place that involves systematizing, protecting and recommending concepts of right and wrong behavior. The ethical theories are divided into three general categories as metaethics, normative ethics, applied ethics and deontology (Melden, 2013).  Kantian ethics theory has been presented by a German philosopher Immanuel Kant. It is an example of deontological moral theory where the right or the wrong behavior at the organization does not depend on the results of or consequences but depends on the whether they fulfill the duty of the organization or not. Kantian business ethics theory involves categorical imperative that is the action that is capable of serving the basis of all universal law. It is the unconditional law that is applicable to all rational human beings and is independent of any personal motivation or aspiration. Kantian theory is a rule based theory that is universally accepted by everyone. It is a duty oriented theories of ethics. The theory is used to determine whether one action by a person in a workplace is ethical or not in nature and it is solely based on the laws and regulations accepted universally. According to Kantian theory it is morally wrong to commit suicide because person is taking his life to further increase the hardship and misery. Kantian ethics is applicable to businesses and consumers, employers and employees and the global environment as whole. In case of employers and employees there exists one common code of conduct that must not be broken. The profit should not be maximized by utilizing the employees but it should be maximized keeping in mind the stakeholders of the organization. It is essential for people to adhere to the rules while fulfilling the duties (Louden, 2014). 


Utilitarianism theory explains that the best moral ethics or the actions are the one that maximizes the utility.   The theory is based on the motive of the agent. It is an example of normative theory. There are many ways to measure utility but the best way to define utility is satisfying the well being of the sentiment of the entities. Utility is the pleasure that the human being derives after deducting the suffering from the actions considered.  The theory is not only based on quantity aspect but also quality. Only that moral conduct or behavior is accepted in workplace that maximizes the utility of all the individuals or satisfies the needs of everyone in the society (Broad, 2014). The theory was developed by John Stuart Mill and was put forwarded by Jeremy Bentham. An act will be morally acceptable and will be considered ethical if it maximizes the happiness of people. An action is said to be right of it complies with the rules and the rightness or wrongness of any particular deed is said to depend on the universal rule. An action is said to be morally acceptable and regarded as ethical when the consequences or the results lead to happiness. Professional happiness will be achieved if the work allocated is done properly. Utilitarianism is a theory that helps to differentiate on what is wrong and what are right as so the things that are acceptable and considered ethical. Ethical behavior is the one that spreads positivity in a workplace. There are two types of utilitarian ethics practiced ion the job- rule utilitarianism and act utilitarianism. It means using the fairest method at the workplace to maximize the productivity and utility of the organization. Example of utilitarianism theory at workplace is the government allowing the release of a particular type of drugs that comes with known side effects but at the same time benefits the larger number of society by curing the diseases. In this situation the concept of ethical dilemma arises that whether the government should allow the release of these medicines. According to utilitarian ethics the government will release the medicine as it benefits the larger section of the society. The main problem with the utilitarian theory is that it is difficult to achieve in workplace or business because in businesses people first think of themselves and then others. So the picture of whole society in the workplace is not included (Barrow, 2015).

In the rights ethical theories the rights or the laws are given the maximum emphasis. It is set at the highest priority and is also protected. The casuist ethical dilemma is the theory that helps in comparing the present ethical dilemma that the organization faces with the similar examples of ethical dilemmas and its outcome. The virtual ethical theory is the one that judges a person on the basis of its characteristic and not on the basis of the actions that it presents. Various ethical theories and principles help the organization in decision making and differentiate various ethical behaviors and issues with a non ethical one. The behavior that is acceptable by the society is ethical. One weakness of the ethical theory is that the characteristics of individual are not taken into consideration and the decision is solely based on the actions or the act they perform (Wiltermuth & Flynn, 2013).

The first ethical dilemma faced was that of tax evasion in an accounting firm. The author was appointed as the one of the three partners in an accounting firm. The firm was working for a small and fast growing industry looking into its audit and financial statement. The terms with the directors if the company was very good and the accountant had all the idea of the operations of the firm. The accountant came to know that the goods purchased by the staff of the company were processed outside the accounting system to avoid taxes and use the funds for the coming Christmas party. Now the main dilemma is that whether the accountant should include the purchases of staff in the accounting system or not. Tax evasion is not considered as ethical behavior because its goes against the rue of conduct and it also harms the economy. The dilemma is that will the action of the accountant will hamper the relationship with the directors (Shapiro & Gross, 2013). The accounting firm has solved this dilemma by adopting proper steps to resolve it. The firm analyzed the key principles of the dilemma and divided it into the principles of integrity, objectivity, professional competence and professional behavior. The professional behavior will be to present the financial statement that is in accordance with the technical and professional standards. The maim aim of the firm is to protect its reputation. The dilemma is that whether including the staff purchase in financial statement will maintain the objectivity of the firm or will be cheating on the government. The ethical dilemma was resolved taking into consideration the facts and the parties being affected from the decision of the firm. The issue was resolved by conveying the proper course of action to the parties that are being affected that is to the directors of the company. The firm chose to include the staffs purchase in its accounting system as tax evasion is unethical behavior. Along with including it in the financial system the firm also suggested the alternate ways of raising funds for Christmas party. The dilemma was resolved successfully without hampering the interests of both the parties involved (Jennings, 2014). 


Another ethical dilemma that arises is in health care unit. The doctor who is strictly against abortion comes across a patient who wants to abort a child because pregnancy will put her life at risk. Now the ethical dilemma in this case is that whether the doctor will follow the rule or law against the abortion or will abort the child to save the patient. While resolving the ethical dilemma the doctor will firstly analyze the situation by preparing a questionnaire that that all will be benefited from the act, and who all will be hurt. The path chosen will prove to be ethical in long run or not. What are the harms and the benefits of the action or value? The doctor gives weight age to both the negative and positive consequences for the action. The decision of the doctor will depend on the consequences of the action. Since the patient is also ready for the abortion the doctor will resolve ethical dilemma by aborting the child. The reason for doing so is saving the life of patient who was at risk with pregnancy. If the doctor will follow an instinct that abortion is against the follow then the risk for the patient will increase. Resolving ethical dilemma will abort the child to save the patient (Wiltermuth & Flynn, 2013).

Another ethical dilemma that can arise at workplace or organization is the case of sexual discrimination and favoritism. The manager of one of the nig multinational company is in ethical dilemma as to whom it should promote to the higher level of position. A post for assistant manager is vacant in an organization. There are two people appropriate for the position. On one side is his daughter who has just done Masters in business administration from one of the top colleges of the world. On the other side is the employee who has been working in the organization for past fifteen years and has had a very good performance result since then his contribution to the organization has been remarkable (Herlihy & Corey, 2014). Now the ethical dilemma here arises is who to choose between the two potential candidates for the position of assistant manager in the company. On one side is his family and the other side is experienced professional who have been serving in the company for a long period of time. The dilemma here is that if the director chooses his daughter for the position of assistant manager then it will be injustice for the employee who has been working in the company for so long and expecting to get a power of position. The ethical dilemma has not been solved yet as the manager is still in confusion as to whom it should choose. The best approach that will totally comply with ethics is keeping aside the favoritism at the workplace and avoiding personal relationship at workplace. According to the experts the choosing a fifteen year old experienced employee will prove too beneficial for the company as he will help the organization increasing the productivity. The justice will be to reward the person what he actually deserves (Robbins et al., 2013).

There are various factors that put a person in an organization in dilemma. Personal friendship at a workplace is the greatest factor to put a person in an ethical dilemma. Another common ethical dilemma is extracting data from the organization by an ex employer of the company. An ethical dilemma situation arises when the ex employee of an organization extracts the confidential data from the organizations database and use it for its own personal benefit. Using someone else’s finding for its benefit is against the ethics and is seriously punishable in law (Shaw, 2016).

Another ethical dilemma situation is that when the employee of the organization is using the organizations assets for its own personal benefit. The rule and obligations of the firm is that employees are not allowed to take the company’s assets home or cannot use for personal benefit. But since an employee of the firm is taking the company’s assets for the office work only then the company will face an ethical dilemma. The rule set by the company should be equal for everyone in the organization. The company is benefiting because the office work is being done at home but the rule does not allow the employee to take the assets of the company home. The dilemma will be resolved if the organization allows the employees to take the company’s assets home only when the employee is using the company’s assets for the organizations benefits only (Reamer, 2013). 

Another common ethical dilemma in an organization is producing the goods that benefits the major section of society but harms the fewer ones. For example production of particular type of drugs benefits patience by curing diseases but it also have some known side effects. To some to be beneficial but to some it causes harms. The dilemma here that whether the organization should produce the particular type of good or not. In this case utilitarian approach or ethical theory will be used to resolve the dilemma. The organization will produce the product if it benefits the major section of society. Various ethical dilemmas can be resolved using various theories presented by various authors (Noddings, 2013). 



Ethical dilemmas are the situation that every employee or an employer has to face once or the other in an organization. The main issue is that how well and how quick the dilemma gets resolved. Resolving ethical dilemma includes many steps and methods.  A manger has to consider the facts and then take proper decision based on its finding. There are many ethical theories that can be used to understand the situation of ethical dilemma at workplace. Many authors have been indulged in providing the ethical theories such as Kant, John and many others. Ethical dilemma is also known as moral dilemma that is a vey complex situation. The manager should or the employee should keep all the people in its mind before making any decision on resolving the ethical dilemma. Business dilemma is a situation where a person has to make a complex choice between the two situations. The choices are such that neither of the two scenarios is ethically acceptable. Proper training and information will help in solving the ethical dilemma. 



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Andrews, W. A. (2014). Identifying, Resolving, and Managing Common Ethical Dilemmas in the Workplace: An Experiential Approach.Developments in Business Simulation and Experiential Learning, 27.

Badaracco Jr, J. (2013). Defining moments: When managers must choose between right and right. Harvard Business Press.

Banks, S. (2012). Ethical issues in youth work. Routledge.

Barrow, R. (2015). Utilitarianism: A contemporary statement. Routledge.

Broad, C. D. (2014). Five types of ethical theory (Vol. 2). Routledge.

Chell, E., Spence, L. J., Perrini, F., & Harris, J. D. (2014). Social entrepreneurship and business ethics: does social equal ethical?. Journal of Business Ethics, 1-7.

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Durkheim, E. (2013). Professional ethics and civic morals. Routledge.

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Jennings, M. (2014). Business ethics: Case studies and selected readings. Cengage Learning.

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Noddings, N. (2013). Caring: A relational approach to ethics and moral education. Univ of California Press.

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Wiltermuth, S. S., & Flynn, F. J. (2013). Power, moral clarity, and punishment in the workplace. Academy of Management Journal, 56(4), 1002-1023.

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