Resolving an Ethical Dilemma

In a business setting mangers are put to test when they face the challenge of resolving an ethical dilemma. Often certain situations do not fall in the ambit of procedures or the official code of conduct and this is when the managers feel the heat.

The problem with ethical decision making is that a decision in itself cannot be taken in a vacuum; one single decision affects lots of other decisions and the key is to strike a balance to ensure a win-win situation is arrived upon.

Though there are no golden rules to resolve ethical issues but managers can take a number of initiatives to resolve ethical issues. A brief description is given below.

  • Know the Principles

    In ethical decision making there are three basic principles that can be used for resolution of problem. These three principles are that of intuitionism, moral idealism and utilitarianism.

    The principle of intuition works on the assumption that the HR person or the manager is competent enough to understand the seriousness of the situation and act accordingly, such that the final decision does not bring any harm to any person involved directly or indirectly.

    The principle of moral idealism on the other hand states that there is a clear distinction between good and bad, between what is acceptable and what is not and that the same is true for all situations. It therefore asks to abide by the rule of law without any exception.

    Utilitarianism concerns itself with the results or the implications. There is no clear distinction between what is good and what is bad; the focus is on the situation and the outcome. What may be acceptable in a certain situation can be unacceptable at some other place. It underlines that if the net result of the decision is an increase in the happiness of the organization, the decision is the right one.

  • Debate Moral Choices

    Before taking a decision, moral decisions need to be thought upon and not just accepted blindly. It is a good idea to make hypothetical situations, develop case studies and then engage others in brainstorming upon the same. This throws some light into the unknown aspects and widens the horizon of understanding and rational decision making.

  • Balance Sheet Approach

    In balance sheet approach, the manager writes down the pros and cons of the decision. This helps arrive at a clear picture of things and by organizing things in a better way.

  • Engage People Up and Down the Hierarchy

    One good practice is to announce ones stand on various ethical issues loudly such that a clear message to every member of the organization and to those who are at the greater risk of falling prey to unethical practices. This will prevent the employees from resorting to unethical means.

  • Integrating Ethical Decision Making into Strategic Management

    Morality and ethical make up for a perennial debate and ethical perfection is almost impossible. A better way to deal with this is to integrate ethical decision making into strategic management of the organization. The way the HR manager gains an alternate perspective rather than the traditional employee oriented or stakeholder oriented view.

All these steps can bring better clarity into resolving ethical dilemmas. The choice lies with the manager and his own and the organization value clarity.


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