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Essay: Ethical dilemmas in the workplace

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  • Subject area(s): Business essays
  • Reading time: 6 minutes
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  • Published: September 15, 2019*
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  • Words: 1,498 (approx)
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  • Ethical dilemmas in the workplace
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Ethical dilemmas are a common occurrence in the workplace that can happen quite often and should not be avoided. Employees and organizations have responsibilities when faced in an ethical situation. Exploring Business (2014), expresses that to act ethically in a business, employee and the organization should be honest, do not harm to others, be fair, and declining your own interests above those in the organization. In the case study presented, Jordan is faced with an ethical dilemma regarding a promotion from her director that she believes she is not as qualified.  serves an important discussion regarding ethics in the workplace. Additionally, taking a look at the case study will give one a better understanding on how to analyze an ethical dilemma and ethics in the workplace.

Ethical dilemmas can be broken down into a few basic categories, which include bribes versus gifts, conflicts of interest, conflicts of loyalty, issues of honesty and integrity, and whistle-blowing, (Exploring Business, 2014, Ch. 2, p 23). It is common for businesses to give and receive small gifts, however, if the given gift may be too generous, or has an influence on a decision, it is best to refuse the gift, (Exploring Business, 2014, Ch. 2, p 23).  Conflicts of interest results from when an employee is in a situation in which personal or financial considerations may affect their job, (Exploring Business, 2014, Ch. 2, p 24).

 Furthermore, conflicts of loyalty occur when an issue arises, such as sick child or helping a friend, and the employee has to make a decision if they should be loyal to family or friend, or employer, (Exploring Business, 2014, Ch. 2, p 24). According to Exploring Business (2014), it is the employee’s responsibility to be loyal to their employer.

Additionally, in the workplace, it is important to maintain honesty and integrity. In Exploring Business (2014), figure 2.4 describes that it is important to follow a personal code of conduct, focus on the job and not nonwork-related activities, don’t use office supplies or other company resources for personal use, be honest with everyone, and that small gestures and daily activities will build character.

Lastly, whistleblower is when an individual discloses knowledge of illegal activities that are happening within the organization, (Exploring Business, 2014, Ch. 2 p 28).  Sometimes, whistleblowers may lose their job, but for those that keep their job, they experience some consequences., (Exploring Business, Ch. 2, p 28). Deciding on whether a whistleblower should keep their job, it is better to leave the workplace than lose integrity.

In the case study given, it presents an ethical dilemma that is an issue of honesty and integrity, and conflicts of interest. April and Jordan are both Creative Supervisors at Keller Ad Agency. Both were asked to work on a presentation together, however, April had to finish up a campaign for the Providence Bruins. Jordan had finished the presentation, and April helped address any gaps and made final changes. While Jordan spoke about the presentation, April’s knowledge and expertise provided the supplemental information, which made their presentation a huge hit. Jordan is now faced with an ethical dilemma, which is deciding whether or not she should accept the promotion as an Assistant Creative Director, even though she knows that April is more qualified. According to Exploring Business (2014), “honesty is a good policy.” Therefore, Jordan should speak with her director and be honest about the ethical dilemma she is facing. Then, her director would be able to appropriately decide who should be promoted.

There are many factors that contribute to employees not operating ethically in the business. Some of these factors may include pressure, misguided loyalty, money, unclear policies, unethical choices, or management. At times, employees can be pressured into doing things they may not normally do. In the workplace, there is pressure to get a head, to meet deadlines and expectations, and pressure to succeed, (HR and Employment Law News, 2011). Pressure and money, as well as management and unclear policies coincide with each other. In the case study, Jordan may feel the pressure to succeed, and if Jordan accepts the promotion, she would also receive a pay increase. However, if she was to accept the promotion, she would have made an unethical choice because she knows that she is not as qualified. Moreover, management and unclear polices may be a factor because sometimes, the employer may not have a formal ethical policy documented, or may not have a clear model of ethics, (HR and Employment Law News, 2011). It is important for managers to lead by example because if they are not following ethical policies or clearly identifying them, then the employee may disregard it. Furthermore, there are employees who will lie because they believe that they are being loyal to their employer or boss, however, misguided loyalty is another reason for being unethical, (HR and Employment Law News, 2011).

When an employee is faced with an ethical decision, they can take the following steps to be sure they make the appropriate choice. According to Exploring Business (2014), figure 2.2, the first step is to define the problem. In Jordan’s situation, the problem was if she should accept the promotion. The second step is to identify feasible options, such as looking at the problem as a whole and determining other options. The third step would be to assess the effect of each option on stakeholders. This step will make Jordan think of the effects following her decision if she accepted the promotion, and may have a negative effect on how she is perceived by April. The fourth step is to establish criteria for determine the most appropriate action. In this case, the most appropriate action would be for Jordan to speak with her director. Lastly, the fifth step is to select the best option based on the established criteria, which is to choose the most ethical one with the best outcome for the company.

It is Important for organizations to ensure that ethical practices are being observed in the workplace. There are several ways an organization can help employees make appropriate decisions when they are faced with making a mistake in judgment. It is important for organizations to have a formal code of conduct, which outlines guidelines and expectations that employees are obligated to follow during the course of their job, (Exploring Business, 2014, Ch. 2, p 33). Organizations need to explain to their employees the repercussions if they violate the code of conduct, and what is considered as acceptable behavior, (Exploring Business, 2014, Ch. 2, p 33). This would help the employee think about what they have done wrong and discuss their expectations, and may help provide a clearer understanding of the how to respond to the situation better.

 The organization can also provide ethical training to their employees and managers, (Wood, 2016). This training would help both, the employee and manager how to handle complicated ethical situations and make the best decisions, (Wood, 2016). The employee could also look at all perspectives of the situation when deciding an ethical decision, (Wood, 2016). Everyone has their own version of their story, so it is important for the employee to look at each person’s perspective.

Moreover, business owners or managers can also set an example for their employees, (Exploring Business, 2014, Ch. 2, p 32). If managers or business owners behave ethically, then their employees will follow their example. By exercising their ethical leadership, managers and business owners should be able to help their employees solve and identify ethical problems, and how to express their concerns, (Exploring Business, 2014, Ch. 2, p 32). Lastly, another approach could be to tighten the rules. This would provide the organization to report any wrong doing and take further steps to make sure their employees act according to the code of conduct, (Exploring Business, 2014, Ch. 2, p 33).

For an organization to ensure that all parts of the workplace operate ethically, they need to follow the following criteria: “treat employees, customers, investors, and the public fairly, making fairness a top priority, holding every member personally accountable for their action, communicating core values and principles to all members, and demanding and rewarding integrity from all members in all situations,” (Exploring Business, Ch. 2, p 8).  These criteria express that ethics can be more than an individual behavior, but also organizational, (Exploring Business, 2014, Ch. 2, p 34).

Although dealing with an ethical dilemma in the workplace can be difficult, ethics plays an important role in organizational success. Understanding how to analyze and solve ethical dilemmas is a skill that all employees, managers, and business owners should have if controversial issues arise. In Jordan’s situation, it is important for her to be honest and open with her director, and express to him that their presentation would not have been as successful without April. Jordan needs to decide on making the right decision, even if it means turning down the promotion. To make a business successful, it is important for organizations to always make the right ethical decisions.

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