11.4 Ethical Dilemmas

When an issue arises, it can be categorized as either an ethical dilemma, (right-versus-right) or a moral temptation (right-versus-wrong) as described by Kidder (2009). Generally, a moral temptation involves violating a law, departing from the truth, or straying from moral integrity, whereas an ethical dilemma arises when two ethical principles conflict (Kidder, 2009).

Now that you have developed an understanding of ethics in a business environment and what it means to be a professional of integrity, we can discuss how to approach and resolve an ethical dilemma. In How Good People Make Tough Choices by Rushworth Kidder (2009), nine steps are provided for ethical decision-making:

  1. Identify the moral issue. What is the main problem that needs to be resolved?
  2. Determine responsibility. Identify who is in control of the issue and who is responsible for solving it.
  3. Collect information. Assess which factors have contributed to the moral issue. Consider the impacts if no change occurs, or if a change occurs in favour of either side.
  4. Distinguish right-versus-wrong issues. Use Kidder’s tests, as described below, to determine if the conflict is an ethical dilemma or a moral temptation. If the issue is a moral temptation, you do not need to continue following these guidelines.
    • Legal test: Are any laws being violated?
      • Moral temptation: laws are being violated.
      • Ethical dilemma: laws are not being violated.
    • Regulations test: Are any regulations, codes of conduct, or policies being violated?
      • Moral temptation: regulations are being violated.
      • Ethical dilemma: regulations are not being violated.
    • Stench test: Do you have a gut feeling about what should or should not happen?
      • Moral temptation: you have a gut feeling that you should choose one solution over another.
      • Ethical dilemma: you do not have a gut feeling that you should choose one solution over another.
    • Front-page test: Would you want to see this issue on the front page of a newspaper?
      • Moral temptation: you do not want to see this issue on the front page of a newspaper.
      • Ethical dilemma: it would be okay to see this issue on the front page of a newspaper.
    • Mom test: Would you want to tell a moral exemplar about this issue?
      • Moral temptation: you do not want to tell a moral exemplar about this issue.
      • Ethical dilemma: it would be okay to tell a moral exemplar about this issue.
  5. Evaluate right-versus-right paradigms. Consider the common dilemma paradigms Kidder identified below. If an issue fits within these paradigms, it is an ethical right-versus-right issue and you can continue to the next step.
    • Truth versus loyalty. For example, will you be honest with a stranger or remain loyal to a long-term friend?
    • Self versus community. For example, will you apply for a scholarship you are eligible for or share the opportunity with deserving peers?
    • Short-term versus long-term. For example, will you provide plastic water bottles to a community under boil advisories, or will you implement a purification process using water from the local stream?
    • Justice versus mercy. For example, will you turn in the young child for the small crime he committed, or decide he is too young for the punishment?
  6. Apply the resolution principles. Evaluate how you can use the normative approaches, from Chapter 11.2 Being a Professional of Integrity, to solve the dilemma.
    • Utilitarianism: Examine the consequences.
    • Deontology: Consider the duties you owe others.
    • Virtue ethics: Remember that your actions will determine who you are.
  7. Explore alternate solutions. Think outside the box. Is there a third solution to this problem?
  8. Choose the course of action. 
  9. Reflect on the action.

SOURCE: Kidder, R. (2009). How Good People Make Tough Choices. HarperCollins e-books.

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Introduction to Management Copyright © by Kathleen Rodenburg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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