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Ethical Dilemma and Decision Making Ethical dilemma is nothing but the confusion, problem or constraints in decision making

one faces, when one has to make choice of the best alternative from among the available alternatives as a solution to the problem.

A situation in which an individual feels compelled to make a choice between two or more actions that he or she can reasonably and morally justify, or when evidence or an arguments are inconclusive, is called an ethical dilemma (Beauchamp&Childress,2001;McConnell,2002). One action must be chosen because performing both actions would be impossible.

This dilemma is faced by people who need to make decisions in their place of work and that they need to make more and more decisions at a faster and faster pace. Now a days management has simply become the process of decision making. All the parts of management pass through decision making towards goal achievement.

Ethical Dilemmas are usually described in terms of right or wrong, duty or obligation, rights or responsibilities, and good or bad. Ethical dilemmas are commonly identified by the question, What should be done?

Before organ transplantation , death did not require a legal definition that might still permit viable tissues to be removed and given to other living persons. A advances in the ability to decode and control the growth of tissues through gene manipulation present new potential ethical dilemmas related to cloning organisms and altering the course of hereditary disease and biological characteristics. Today, with treatment that can prolong and enhance biologic life, these questions arise: should we do what we know we can?

Three thought provoking questions become pertinent in this connection:

How can societies protect themselves from

members who behave unethically? Are unethical actions usually the work of few or does society inadvertently corrupt members who are ordinarily honest? Do reward systems and disciplinary procedures or even ethical codes themselves induce honest members to do dishonest things?


face to face ethics,

corporate policy ethics

functional area ethics.


These arise mainly because there is a human element in most

transactions. For example: A purchasing agent may develop personal relationship with the sales representatives who sells supplies to a company. They may frequently know one another on a first name basis, have lunch together and talk often on the phone. A companys best customer may be well known to people in the production department which helps to ensure that the companys product fit the customer needs. Because of these human transactions in business, it should not be surprising that face to face ethical dilemmas arise often. It is likely that the quality assurance man winks at minor defects and approves a lot delivered by a supplier because of the personal relationship the two enjoy between them. It is also not unlikely that the supervisor over rates the performance of an employee because of the similar relationship that exists between the two.


Companies are often faced with ethical dilemmas that affect their

operations across all departments and divisions. Following conflicting situations are typical: Your R&D department has modernized one of your products. It is not really new and improved but you know printing this statement on the package and showing it in the advertisement will increase sales. What would you do? You work for a cigarette company and up to now you have not been convinced that cigarettes cause cancer. A recent report has come across your desk that clearly establishes the connection between cigarette smoking and cancer, what would you do? Another issue relates to the consequences of employment contraction in labour intensive basic industries because of the improved methods of production. Modern technology replacing older methods of production results in hundreds being rendered jobless. The issue therefore is: global economic competitiveness or local social-psychological stability?


Functional areas of business are likely to confront

ethical issues. Accounting is a critical function of any business. Accounting statements reveal to the managers and owners about the financial soundness of accompany. Managers, investors, regulating agencies, tax collectors and trade unions rely on accounting requirements of the accounting function. Professional accounting organisations have evolved generally accepted accounting standards whose purpose is to establish uniform standards for reporting accounting data. When they are followed, these standards ensure a high level of honest and ethical accounting disclosures. Rarely are they followed in practice.

A business cannot claim to be ethical firm if it ignores unethical practices by its suppliers e.g.
Use of child labour and forced labour Production in sweatshops- Sweatshop (or sweat
factory) is a term for any working condition considered to be unacceptably difficult or dangerous. Sweatshop workers often work long hours for very low pay, regardless of laws mandating overtime pay or a minimum wage.

Violation of the basic rights of workers Ignoring health, safety and environmental standards

Making Ethical Decisions

Responsible ethical reasoning is rational and systematic. It should be based on ethical principles and codes rather than on emotions, intuition, fixed policies, or precedent (that is, an earlier similar occurrence).

Approaches to Ethical Decision Making

Approaches to Ethical Decision Making

Utilitarian Criteria
The Utilitarian method of Reasoning is: Accurately state the action to be evaluated. Identify all those who are directly and indirectly affected by it. Specially all the pertinent good and bad consequences of action for all those directly affected and imaginatively consider varied possible outcomes and the likelihood of their occurrence. Weigh the total good results (the degree of happiness produced against the total bad results, considering such matters: the quantity and duration of the harms and benefits involved). Carry out a similar analysis, if necessary, for those indirectly affected and for society as a whole. Sum up all the good and bad consequences. If the action produces more good than bad, the action is morally right and if it produces more bad than good, the action is morally wrong

Rights Criteria
This calls on managers to make decisions

consistent with fundamental liberties and privileges as laid in the constitution, to respect and protect the basic rights of individuals. For example right to speech etc. These criteria world provide protection toWhistle Blowers when they report unethical or illegal practices by their organisations to government agencies or to the media.

Justice Criteria
This requires individuals to improve and enforce

rules fairly and impartially so that there is equitable distribution of benefits and costs. It justifies paying the same wages for a given job and using seniority as the main determinant in making a retrenchment decision.

The 60 Minute Rule

Two decision making models 1- Thompson and Thompson (1985) Review the situation to determine decision needs,

ethical components, and key individuals. Gather additional information to clarify the situation Identify the ethical issues in the situation. Define personal and professional moral positions. Identify moral positions of key individuals involved Identify value conflicts, if any Determine who should make the decision Identify range of actions with anticipated outcomes. Decide on a course of action and carry it out. Evaluate / review results of decision / action.

2- Cassells and Redman (1989)

Identify and Gather relevant facts related to a moral issue. Clarify and apply personal values

Understand ethical theories and principles

Utilize competent interdisciplinary resources Propose alternative actions.

Apply codes of ethics to help guide actions

Choose and implement the action. Participate actively in resolving the issue Apply state and federal laws. Evaluate the action taken

Five step framework by Markkula Cente for applied Ethics

Recognise an ethical issue Get the facts Evaluate alternative actions

Make a decision and test it

Act and reflect on the outcome

Recognize an Ethical Issue

Could this decision or situation be damaging to

someone or to some group? Does this decision involve a choice between a good and bad alternative, or perhaps between two "goods" or between two "bads"?
Is this issue about more than what is legal or what is

most efficient? If so, how?

Get the Facts

What are the relevant facts of the case? What facts are

not known? Can I learn more about the situation? Do I know enough to make a decision? What individuals and groups have an important stake in the outcome? Are some concerns more important? Why? What are the options for acting? Have all the relevant persons and groups been consulted? Have I identified creative options?

Evaluate Alternative Actions

Evaluate the options by asking the following questions:
Which option will produce the most good and do the least

harm? (The Utilitarian Approach) Which option best respects the rights of all who have a stake? (The Rights Approach) Which option treats people equally or proportionately? (The Justice Approach) Which option is accepted to the community as a whole, not just some members? (The Practical Approach)

Make a Decision and Test It

Considering all these approaches, which option best

addresses the situation? If I told someone I respect-or told a television audience-which option I have chosen, what would they say?

Act and Reflect on the Outcome

How can my decision be implemented with the

greatest care and attention to the concerns of all stakeholders? How did my decision turn out and what have I learned from this specific situation?

Guiding factors for managers in ethical decision making

A persons personal code of ethics
The companys formal policies, values and culture The ethical climate in the industry Government regulations. Behaviour of management in the company Deep belief to abide by the laws Ethical conduct/Standards tend to rise due to greater public exposure/image

Ethical Dilemmas at Workplace (Donaldson)

Recognizing conflicts of interest and avoiding them Deciding if the business gift is just a gift or a bribe Attaining fairness in employee performance appraisals Initiating disciplinary action against an employee Executing an order to take action against staff

Ethical Dilemmas at Workplace (Donaldson)

Managing a problem employee Handling reports of wrong doing on the job

Safeguarding confidential information

Recognizing and balancing the legitimate interest of customers, employees, suppliers, owners and the society in which they live

Difficulties in ethical decision making

Cross cultural contradictions

Competitive Pressures
Business Goals vs Personal values Personal Gain and self interest

Why ethical problems occur in business

Personal gain and selfish interest

Nature of Ethical Problem

Selfish interest versus others interests Firms interest versus others interests Bosss interests versus subordinates values Companys interests versus diverse cultural traditions and values

Typical Approach Attitude

Egoistical mentality I will benefit me!

Competitive pressures on profits Business goals versus personal values Cross-cultural contradictions

Bottom-line mentality Authoritarian mentality Ethnocentric mentality

We have to beat the others at all costs! Do as I say, or else! It is fine in foreign country.

Suggestions for Ethical decision making

Top management can improve behavior Code of Ethics Interaction with peers and other colleagues

Control System

Lets Judge how ethical are we??

You're applying for a new job as a database

administrator. You're currently a software engineer, but due to layoffs, you've been performing most of your department's databaserelated projects for almost a year now. You want your resume to be taken seriously for the database administrator position.
What Do You Do?

Use the title database manager on your resume --

after all, you've been performing the duties of the person who last had that role. Use your official title, software engineer, on your resume, even though it doesn't accurately reflect the database skills you perform each day. Come up with a new job title altogether that better describes what you do each day. It's not your official title, but it delivers the message.