Ethical Dilemmas in Business: 3 Fresh Lessons to Learn From

Are you in a managerial role in a corporation? Are you a colleague who works on a team for your brand? Do you work in an office? Whether you are the CEO of a Fortune 500 company to an entry-level worker — every person who works for a business can potentially face a ethical dilemmas in business workplaces. Knowing the potential pitfalls and how you can navigate them is key to success not only at the company but in your next steps in your career.

If you’re wondering what lessons you can learn from identifying and working through the ethical dilemmas that all businesses face, then read on to get our quick tips and insights!

ethical dilemmas in business

What Are Ethical Dilemmas in Business?

An ethical dilemma in business is defined — in its simplest term — when an employee faces a decision in the workplace in which they must choose between a moral and an immoral act.

These dilemmas can take all sorts of forms. They can range from laundering money to spreading rumors about other employees to participating in workplace harassment. Because some of the lines are blurred and there are pressures from within the company at times to make bad choices, it’s important to know how to identify and address them.

Who Uses Lessons to Navigate Ethical Dilemmas in Business?

At a good company, a manager should be responsible for creating a culture in which employees make moral and good choices for the company and the team. In companies that struggle with a solid workplace culture, supervisors might put pressure on employees to make bad decisions — such as fudging the numbers on the quarterly report or not being forthright with a client. This all can be avoided if the company culture starts with honesty and transparency from the top down.

But keep in mind that even the most entry-level employee also can be a leader in this area. So know and uphold the mission and goals of your company. Let those be guideposts in all of your communications and interactions. For example, if one of your company goals is to deliver timely customer service, then don’t lie to your clients. Also, if you see other employees doing this, say something. It’s the only way a workforce can learn the lessons to navigate ethical dilemmas in business and preserve the trustworthiness of the brand.

What Are the Ways in Which Ethical Dilemmas Can Help Your Business?

  • When ethical dilemmas present themselves in a company they actually can have a whistle blower effect by shining light on a problem and helping the company and its workforce redirect.
  • So for example, as a supervisor, let’s say that you see an employee taking credit for another employee’s work. Then, you say something to the offending employee while at the same time giving the due recognition to the employee who has done the work. Then, you are acting as that whistle blower. You are also setting into motion a protocol for how you expect your employees to act and to operate.
  • In the best case scenarios, exposing the ethical dilemmas in business that your company is facing can help to prompt the writing of a company-wide ethics policy. It can also promote a current policy more visibly among the workforce.

3 Tips for Working Through Ethical Dilemmas in Business

1. Speak Up When Something Is Wrong

It’s difficult to be the whistle blower because no one wants to get into trouble or to be seen as a tattler. However, your voice can create changes that will keep your company honest.

  • Find a trusted supervisor to talk about the issues you see — such as the employee who is falsifying reports, billing clients too much money or stealing the office toilet paper. Whatever the dilemma is — it starts by having that conversation and working through the issues.
  • Another approach: Talk to the offending employee before you go to a supervisor. Let the person explain himself or herself and tell that person you know what is happening and it needs to stop.

2. Stand Up Against Discrimination and Harassment

These are serious workplace ethics issues that need to be fought against at every level.

  • If you hear an employee commenting on another employee’s body or clothing — tell the employee that the conversation is inappropriate.
  • If you hear an employee make a racist remark, tell that person that you don’t support that language.
  • Defend the employee that is being harassed or discriminated against. Moreover, show both your physical and vocal support by walking away from the situation with the employee who is being harassed or discriminated against in your workplace.

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3. Uphold Your Company’s Ethics Policy

You can be part of the solution of a bad company culture by knowing the principles and protocols of your company’s ethics policy — and then implementing those tenets in your every day working life.

  • Don’t abuse the lunch hour or work day by going to watch a movie under the guise of a doctor’s appointment.
  • Don’t use the office copier to print your birthday party invitations.
  • When you are asked a question by a customer or client, answer it as honestly as you can.

To the Right

These are small ways you can uphold your company’s ethics policy every day at your company. The more you follow them and make them a part of your work flow, the more they become real and lasting habits.

If you find yourself in an ethical dilemma at your business, then it is your responsibility to speak up. We know it isn’t always easy. But the good news about doing this is that it can bring about necessary and critical changes at your company. Those changes will benefit not only you but your entire workforce. Consequently, you are creating a company culture that is grounded in honesty, respect and equality.

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