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The Ethical Dilemma Situation

Mr. George is a Public Relations Practitioners in X Biscuit Factory. X Factory

actually produced various types of Cream Cracker Biscuits in market. Unfortunately, the

Cream that used by X Factory had certain ingredients that include the unhealthy

ingredient such as Melamine. After a period of time, the factory started receiving

customers who complaining that they feel uncomfortable and have side effect after ate the

Biscuits that produced by the company.

The Managing Director of the Factory wanted George to tell their customers that

their Biscuits are safe to eat and the ingredients of the biscuits are healthy.

Unfortunately, George facing an ethical dilemma: Should he follow his Managing

Director Instruction by cover up the truth of the story, or should he tell the truth to the


The interviewee Details:

Name: Mr. George

Contact no: 016 - 9187175


As a media profession, they will face an ethical issue in their working field. The

ability to explain and make ethical choices is important for them. Ethics has come to the

mean learning to make rational choices between what is good and bad, what are morally

justifiable action and what is the other way to settle it. Philosophers have tried to draft a

series of rules or guidelines governing how to make ethical choices. A decision making

model that allows professions to make ethical choices systematically and help them what

to do among conflicting voices.

Literature Review

There have various points of views fro Scholar. According to May (1996, p.2), she

argued that the moral concepts need to be understood as embedded in social structures

and processes such as socialization, solidarity, and collective consciousness. She hopes to

show how social and organizational worlds enable or constrain professionals’ sense of

integrity and social responsibility.

Besides, Adler, P (2002, p.148) suggested that professionals ought to understand

their social responsibility as a “fiduciary duty”. This means that “those who have

voluntarily placed themselves in positions of trust concerning the interests of others must

give careful consideration to those on interests” (May, 1996). Truth is more than a bonus;

it is tangible assets that must be created, sustained, and build upon. (Rest, J, 2004, p.7).

Lavelle & Borrus (2004, p.22) has proposed a four component model of

psychological elements that must be in place for people to behave ethically:

1) Moral sensitivity—awareness of possible lines of action, and how our actions

might affect other people

2) Moral judgment--- the ability to use moral reasoning to determine what behaviors

are morally justifiable

3) Moral motivation—the desire to prioritize moral values over competing values

4) Moral character—having the courage to do the right thing, despite the costs and

difficulties in doing so

The four components actually describe the details for the people must have the ethical

moral values to interact with people around.

Decision Making – Potter Box

The Potter Box is created by Harvard philosopher, Ralph Potter. Potter Box is a

decision making model that allows professions to make ethical systematically. Generally,

it is always used by communication professional. The Potter Box can be used by anyone

when facing an ethical dilemma too.

According to Guth and Marsh (2003), he elaborated on the concept of the four

dimensions of the Potter Box and provides clear definition to the action steps. The

authors’ clearly defined eight-step process, aided by the Potter Box model, is presented in

a summarized form. In short, the concepts of 4 dimensions are definition, values,

principle, loyalties and construct action steps.

Sociology Particular Judgment or

Feedback policy
Definition Choosing Loyalties


Reflective Identify Values Appeal to Ethical

Both Positive and Virtue, duty, utility,
Negative rights, love

Table 1: The Diagram of the 4 Dimensions of Potter Box

The Application of Potter Box in Ethical Dilemma

The first step on applying the potter box is to define the situation. In this case, the

situation was: A Public Relations who work in X Biscuits Factory. The cream has mixed

with Melamine and cause customers feel uncomfortable after eating it. The managing

director asked PR practitioner to lie to public that the ingredients of the biscuits are

healthy and safety to eat.

The next step is to identify the applicable values. As a PR Practitioner, Mr.

George has to consider few factors before make a final decision. As a PR, He has to be

honest and sincere to the public. He has a duty to tell the truth and reveal the information

to the FDA that the biscuits have been mixed with Melamine which will cause people

afflicted with kidney stone or nephropathy. Unfortunately, this action may cause financial

loss in billions and lost of trustworthy in public. On the other hand, by telling the truth to

FDA about the incident will likely to prevent future consumers from suffering the

negative side effects of the taking biscuits.

The third step in the Potter Box model is to link the ethical principle with its

associated applicable value. There are 3 theories that linked to the ethical philosophies,

which included utilitarianism, Categorical Imperative and Natural Law. PR practitioners

should be honest to reveal and report to public as well as FDA is categorical imperative

and also to prevent consumers from suffering the negative side effects of the taking


The 4th step is to identify the principle of loyalties. This is related to the parties

that PR practitioner ultimately loyal to. PR practitioners should be honest to the society.

The reason why Mr. George should tell the truth to public it is because melamine cannot

used in food industry which can cause kidney failure. Melamine will remains inside the

kidney and forms into stones blocking the tubes. And they might face the bladder

problems. The serious problem that may cause is kidney will not function properly and

harm their health.

Finally, in step 5 of the Potter Box, the final ethical decision must be made by the

PR practitioner. This decision must be justified, based on the previous steps. If PR

practitioners able to make a justified decision at this point PR practitioner can reach a

conclusion. Mr. George should suggest his Managing Director to recall all the Biscuit

products and make a public apologize to all the consumers. For those who get affected

after taken the product, the Company would give the compensation to them.

The application Of Theories


Base on the Ethical Dilemma Situation, Utilitarianism Theory stated that Mr.

George should tell the truth to the customers, because George action can bring the

happiness to majority people, who are the whole society. Utilitarian ethical theory is

founded on the ability to predict the consequences of an action (Ridley Aaron, 1998). To

a utilitarian, the choice that yields the greatest benefit to the most people is the choice

that is ethically correct. George action is considered as right thing because he brings

about the best outcome in the overall situation, or for the greatest number of people.

Furthermore, George prefers the highest good should refer to the quality, but not

the quantity. People should attempt to promote the greatest good for the greatest number

of people (Louis Elvin Day, 2006). This means that the George should realize that if he

tells the truth to public, the public will get concern to this current issue and do not eat this

biscuits. This will save the public to involve in the side effect after eating the biscuits. As

a result, the majority people do not get harm because of the disease after eating their

company biscuits.

A utilitarian ethic based on the majoritarian principle will have to concede that there

will be cases where people are made happier by giving them less freedom rather than more

(Ryan, A.1974, p.131). The ultimate goal is the same as its predecessor but quality of

happiness is the same important. This means that the goal of the action of George is

important to the customers because the whole society actually involves in this case and the

truth of the story can reduce their harm, which is the disease.

Categorical Imperative

On the Kant perspective, George need to tell the truth to the customers because

due to human have duty to do the right thing. As a PR Practitioner, George has the duty to

be ethical and should not lie to public. If he follow his Managing Director instruction by

cover up the truth, this will be breaking his duty as a Professional Public Relations, who

are suppose to be sincere and behave ethically wherever in what situation.

Besides, Cummiskey (1996) argues in Kant Perspective, human must be respect

for the value of Humanity and treating the interests of each as counting for one and one

only. people should always acting certain actions to produce the best overall outcome.

This means that the action that being done by individual should always have a good will

in order to bring a good outcome for us. The good will that mentioned here is important

for George to make a suitable decision so that the results of the action taken can bring a

satisfied outcome. In this case, George should built up a sincere good will, by tell the

customers the actual incident so that can save the customers life (Outcome).

To illustrate this point in a clear way, Kant justifies it through the Universability

Test by explaining how people can justify the good will. First of all, George should put in

the maxim by thinking: As a PR Practitioner, if I lied to the public and cover up the truth

of the story to the public. Then, I assume that the whole world PR in every organization is

lying to the public and does it cause lots of problem. In this case, George can be able to

justify that if the whole world people lying to others, it will cause lots of serious

problems occurred, such as lots of customers will die and at last the Organization also

will deal with the Crisis of killing other people life.

The Natural Law

According to Aristotle, men look not at the greatness of the evil past, but the

greatness of the good to follow. This means that as a human being, we have the instinct to

do the good thing in stead of doing bad things. We been trained to be a good person since

young. Besides law, everyone of us do have our own principles to follow. In natural law,it

stated that,we have to respect people as well.

Mr George have the right to do what he felt is good to do,he cannot run away

from his conscience. Because in naturally he has the responssible to tell the truth to the

public. Certainly, he also have the principles to follow because he respect other people

have the right to keep surviving in this earth.

Besides, Mr George need to put himself in other shoes. Mr George have to put

himself as one of the victim who suffer from disease after taking the biscuits. If he as a

Victim,definitely he also want an explanation from the company so that he can know

whats really happening. Of course, if something bad happen in his health, George will

need the compansation or maybe need the on behalf of the company to console him as

well. This is actually to show that the company really appreciate the consumers and

concern about what is happening.

IPRM Code Of Ethics

According to IPRM, Public Relations Practitioner shall not create or make use of

any organisation purporting to serve some announced cause but actually promoting a

special or private interest of a member of his client or his employer which is not

apperant. George should not be bias to support his company and ignore the public.

Therefore, he should explore the truth to public. In order to create the awareness to

public, they will be able to escape the risk.

Besides, , Public Relations Practitioner shall not intentionally disseminate false or

misleading information, and shall use proper care to avoid doing so. He has a positive

duty to maintain truth, accuracy and good taste. This means that as a professional Public

Relation, George has the duty to identify the misleading information and find out a good

solution to overcome it to avoid spread out the false information to public.


In the nutshell, Mr. George should suggest his Managing Director to recall all the

Biscuit products and make a public apologize to all the consumers. For those who get

affected after taken the product, the Company would give the compensation to them. This

is the win win situation that Mr. George can do to protect the reputation of the company

and to avoid more people get affected by the disease. This is the best solution to settle the

case to protect the image of the company. On the other hand, it also can protect other

people rights to survive.

With this rational action taken, it can create trustworthy within the consumers

towards the organization. This is a professional way to overcome this issue before it

turns in to a Crisis. If the company can consider about the ethical and rational decision

making, every members of the society can live in a healthy life.


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Allyn & Bacon.

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Lavelle, L., & Borrus, A. (2004, January 26). Ethics 101 for CEOs. Business Week, Issue

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Rest, J. (1994). Background: theory and research. In J. R. Rest & D. Narvaez (EDS.),

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