We find ourselves in unpleasant situations that force us to make decisions contrary to all of our personal beliefs. This state of confusion becomes more complex when other people are involved. Despite all this, a course of action must still be determined to resolve the situation. Let’s know Ethical Dilemmas Examples.
An ethical dilemma is when one is faced with two choices, but none is morally acceptable. Yet, these are the only two options available to them at that particular time. We go through these situations occasionally, and decisions have to be made no matter how bad they are. But, unfortunately, weight, we are often told that not making a decision is a decision in itself! In this article, we will discuss some of these unpleasant situations that come our way every so often.
Examples of Ethical Dilemmas
An ethical dilemma can arise when someone wants to keep professional information private. Some roles at work require a high level of secrecy, and going against this may have severe repercussions. For instance, military personnel who has taken an oath of confidentiality observes criminal activity with one of their colleagues or supervisor. They are bound by the oath not to reveal military secrets. Yet, he is morally conscious of the injustice that has occurred. Keeping this information to himself can be a daunting task.
This is the practice of giving job opportunities to friends or relatives at the expense of the general public. It is even worse when these relatives or friends are not qualified for the position. The dilemma comes in when you are in a prominent position, and two candidates are shortlisted for a vacancy. One of them happens to be your relative but with fewer qualifications. The other candidate is unknown to you but extremely qualified for the position. On the one hand, your relatives expect you to take care of your kind while colleagues and the law expect you to select candidates on merit.
This is one area with a myriad of ethical issues. Whenever we are intimate with someone, we expect preferential treatment from their kin, friends, colleagues, and even neighbors! The moment this expectation is not met, all hell breaks loose. An ethical dilemma can develop when one of the partners has a double-booked schedule without realizing it. They have an event with their parents while at the same time they have a date with their partner. Neither of them will be too pleased that they canceled on them.
This is another sensitive area when it comes to an ethical dilemma. It has always been an area that yields lots of temptation, especially employees who work in accounting departments or banking institutions. An ethical dilemma can arise when there is misappropriation of funds. For instance, an employee handling petty cash for the company may be having a personal financial problem. Their child is sick and needs urgent medical attention. If she doesn’t take the company cash, her child’s condition will get worse. On the other hand, using company cash for personal use is unethical.
In some cases, abrupt incidences come up, such as accidents, office crises, and natural disasters, among others. No one plans these phenomena, and we are often not adequately prepared for the impact it is going to have on our lives. These incidences present many opportunities for ethical dilemmas. For instance, in natural disasters, the main concern is to get as far away as possible from the chaos. You want to save your life and those of family or friends. Strangers are not normally our concern at that particular time. For instance, an emergency worker is dispatched to a critical zone to assist flood victims. This is a high magnitude disaster, and not enough emergency teams are available to meet the demand. Therefore, teams are scattered with limited manpower and resources. This emergency worker gets information that his family has just had a road accident in another part of the town. The emergency worker is torn between saving the lives of flood victims since every second counts, and teams are stretched. On the other hand, he can’t bear the thought that he can’t be with his family as they fight for their lives.
The age-old ethical issue that is yet to be resolved to date. Which religion has its doctrine right about creation? Religion has always been a heated debate since time immemorial. It’s the easiest way to get into an argument or conflict with other people. This sensitive debate has even led to vicious large-scale wars and deaths historically and presently. Ethical dilemmas will arise when your belief system differs from the next person or group. You have to interact with them or operate in their territory. For instance, some religious groups may practice actions that are forbidden in your religion. Yet because of work responsibilities, you are expected to participate in these rituals. Such a professional is torn between standing up for their beliefs and lose their job or accepting the terms of engagement and violate their ethical standards.
This is almost similar to religious dilemmas. Cultural beliefs have also been a source of antagonism between many people for the longest time. It has led to many atrocities in society, such as discrimination, racism, genocides, just to mention a few. An ethical dilemma can develop when a couple wants to get married. Still, they are from different countries or ethnic groups. Some people are intolerant of a specific ethnic group. They may dislike their practices, dressing, location, and history, among other things. Therefore, they would not allow their family members to relate with them, let alone get married and have a life. This couple that wants to get married is confused about the course of action to take. Should they follow their parent’s wish or stay with their partner?!
The ideology adopted by a political leader or government is often a source of ethical issues in a country. With politics comes political parties, and they segment society. We all follow our preferred political party, and this, in essence, divides us into opposing forces. Ethical dilemmas arise out of this arrangement very often. For instance, a politician with family members supporting another party other than the one he is working under or one who has to choose between having influence in society or preserving his family’s integrity and risk losing his government position or popularity.
Students and teachers are often caught in this predicament. Some teachers give students the content of the exam paper in advance. Some students, on the other hand, are found with reference materials in the exam room. As a result, examination periods present opportunities for ethical dilemmas. For instance, one student might witness his classmate using reference material during exams. This particular classmate turns out to be their best friend. This student is wondering whether to inform the supervisor and lose his friendship or keep his friend and remain silent.
Medical personnel also experience ethical dilemmas as they perform their duties. Millions of patients go through their care within a given year. Some patients make a quick recovery and leave the hospitals successfully. Others struggle for the longest time and still end up dying in their care. Doctors and nurses sometimes develop attachments to their patients, especially those constantly returning for additional care or those permanently admitted for specialized care, such as in nursing homes or hospices. Once attachments are developed, ethical dilemmas can easily arise. For instance, a terminally ill patient who is not making good progress is constantly in pain.
In some cases, the disease reaches a severe level; there is not much anyone can do but try to make them comfortable. A doctor or nurse attending to such a patient may use experimental drugs to improve the situation. While they have the patient’s interest at heart, the use of unapproved drugs is ethically wrong.
Sportsmen and women have been involved in ethical issues many times, with some cases making national and international headlines. Sporting is their passion, and it is only natural that they would want to excel in it. However, they sometimes don’t get enough practice before a major competition due to physical limitations, and they doubt their ability to win. Alternatively, they may be coming up against a better opponent, and they lose their courage to face them. In these scenarios, they can be tempted to use unorthodox ways to overcome their fear and doubts to win the competition. For instance, they may be torn between using performance-enhancing drugs and win the championship or practice integrity and lose the championship.
Innovations and inventions have revolutionized our lives. They have simplified processes and given us access to massive opportunities that we would not ordinarily have. The underside is that these developments can also be used to violate our rights in society. Privacy concerns have come up many times whenever technology is featured. When systems are advanced, they can also be used for criminal activities and not just beneficial activities. This is also a concern with technological advancements. As a result, ethical issues are extremely common in this sector. For instance, there is always the dilemma between maintaining the privacy and exposing detected immoral behavior on the internet. Alternatively, there is also the use of surveillance equipment to monitor someone without their knowledge in a bid to expose criminals in a given neighborhood.
Methods Used To Prevent Ethical Dilemmas
Code of Conduct
In a professional setup, policies and procedures should be established to guide the activities of employees and operations in the organization. This should clearly describe both acceptable and unacceptable behavior and the respective actions that should be taken when an employee flaunts these rules.
Duties and responsibilities should be clearly defined for each organizational member to prevent duplication or clashing of roles. This is often a major reason for conflicts at the workplace, and efforts should be made to prevent it. In addition, job descriptions remove ambiguity and confusion for the employee. This makes them understand their role and not participate in activities that compromise their reputation.
Whenever there are large groups or teams, a leader should either be appointed or selected to oversee the activities and behavior of the people. Without proper guidance and an avenue to seek redress, a people will always perish figuratively or literally. Governance is important in ensuring proper moral conduct and compliance with ethical standards.
Leaders should influence proper practices and procedures in the organization or group. They should be role models and adapt to moral practices themselves before asking their teams to be upright. Anyone in authority must always lead by example and remind teams of the value of ethical standards in organizations and society in general. They should ensure policies and procedures are developed. They should establish values and belief systems that are sound. Finally, they should have a clear vision and mission which the people can easily understand and implement.
Creating awareness and imparting relevant skills and knowledge helps reduce cases of an ethical dilemmas. Most of the time, people unknowingly participate in activities that expose them to ethical issues. They lack information on the consequences of some ethical issues. Therefore, it is prudent to speak about ethical standards often and highlight the dangers of violating them.
Organizations and governments should reward and protect employees and members of the public who expose corruption. This will encourage more people to come forward with useful information and evidence to rid society of such vices. It will also be a disincentive to unethical people or criminals since they won’t be easily caught or exposed.
In modern society, people can easily find themselves isolated. Sometimes this is intentional where they value their privacy. At the same time, other times, it’s circumstantial whereby they found themselves in that predicament. When people are isolated or feel alone, they rarely seek advice during difficult times. They also feel embarrassed or ashamed to come out in the open and discuss issues.
As a consequence, they quickly become victims of ethical dilemmas. Therefore, relevant organizations or authorities should address this critical need and support this category of people. This can include establishing recreational facilities where people can go and socialize routine community meetings to address grievances and community service efforts, just to mention a few.
Proper channels of communication should be established at the workplace and in the community. People should know where they can go to get assistance and how to do it. Leaders should encourage communication between their teams and with the leadership itself. They should be accessible to deal with issues affecting their people. Only through sharing information can some problems be tackled and eliminated.
Centers or offices should be established to offer counseling and therapy sessions to victims of ethical issues. Going through immoral situations can be daunting, and people are often sidelined or excommunicated from their support systems. This leaves them isolated, fearful, and lonely, which are all ingredients for developing mental health issues. Counseling and therapy sessions will help reduce and prevent this.
Governments should enact laws that prevent ethical issues and those that protect victims. Ethical issues such as discrimination, gender disparities, ethnic violence, and corruption, among others, should be rendered illegal, and law enforcement agencies should be proactive in detecting and stopping these practices.
How to Resolve Ongoing Ethical Dilemmas
Acknowledge that you are in a compromised situation and something needs to be done about it. These situations need not be hidden and prolonged unnecessarily since they will only get complicated with time. In some cases keeping the situation, under-wrap can result in disciplinary action and/or criminal charges against you and other parties involved.
Obtain as much information as possible concerning both decisions that are presenting the dilemma. This may mean conducting a complete research exercise and/or formal inquiries into the situation. You will need to get relevant people involved to assist in the investigative process. This will assist you in getting adequate and appropriate information concerning the ethical dilemma.
This entails developing or identifying other options that may be available other than the two opposing choices that are creating a dilemma. Find out if there is a neutralizing agent. This would be something that will render the two options or standpoints redundant, powerless or irrelevant, in other words, a contingency plan or a counter-attack. Each of the new alternatives must be properly designed and understood.
Assess the consequences of each of the alternatives, including the two opposing choices. Establish how each of them will affect you and other stakeholders or parties in the dilemma. Find out the magnitude of the impact, liabilities, or consequences and the duration it will take to overcome the impact. Establish the resources required in terms of people, materials, equipment, finances, and time, among other relevant things.
Walkthrough the options presented before implementing the most preferred one. Get comfortable with the choice you want to take. Create a mental picture of the process from start to finish to know how to present it to others. You may involve neutral parties in this practice session. Be prepared to answer difficult questions since the next step will not be a pleasant one.
Invite the affected parties and other stakeholders for a meeting. Present your decision or decisions to them with proper justification for taking the option. Apologize if appropriate for not complying with their views. Allow them to express their feelings concerning your decisions. Let this session be brief and avoid being diverted from the objective.
Put the decision into action and execute the plan as per its specifications. Some plans will be short-term with immediate results or outcomes, while others will be long-term and needed to get the results or outcomes.
Establish the success and failures of your choices. Review the achievements made with your decision and actions. The issue ought to have been reduced if not entirely resolved with its implementation. If no change has been seen, alternative mitigation measures may be required or merely a longer waiting period. Investigate to know which applies, new solutions or patience. Rectify where necessary.
Ethical dilemmas are a common occurrence in society, whether at personal, professional, or community level. Victims should not be ashamed of finding themselves in this situation; instead, they should seek help through proper channels, authorities, and agencies. Furthermore, anyone witnessing these unethical acts should be bold enough to report these matters to relevant leaders or agencies to reduce the vices in society and take legal action against the violators. Several methods can be used to prevent ethical dilemmas. Each has its pros and construction. Therefore care must be taken in their selection. However, certain steps have been highlighted and can be followed to resolve an already ongoing ethical dilemma.
We should acknowledge that in some situations, no right way of doing something exists. This is especially true during times of change. No norms or steps exist to give guidance; hence those experiencing challenges must fumble through as they seek stability. In the long run, an appropriate set of policies and procedures will be established after understanding and adapting to the change. Society must be accommodative when ethical cases arise. We should not be quick to condemn. Instead, we must seek clarifications, obtain evidence or information and make rational conclusions. Remember that it is the one who lives in the house who knows where the roof leaks. Therefore, we cannot purport to know our reactions if the situation was reversed and we faced similar circumstances.
Frequently Asked Questions
- How do you identify ethical dilemmas in other people?
This is through an investigative process, often conducted by experts in the field.
- What is meant by “whistleblowing” when discussing ethical issues?
This refers to drawing attention to a problematic area or person. It is exposing the truth concerning a matter known to you.
- What are support systems in the community?
These refer to people or institutions that someone in need goes to get help concerning a problem they are experiencing, especially in the absence of family members and friends.