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Ethical Dilemma in Workplace Overview


Workplace dilemmas are common in modern societies. The dilemmas are on the rise since the number of individuals, who spent most of their time in workplaces, is increasing. As such, these individuals, who may be employees or managers working in an organization, experience the dilemmas frequently. The changing dynamics and trends of modern individuals have also initiated ethical dilemmas presented before employees and managers of organizations in their workplaces. Some common workplace ethical dilemmas include increased dependency, harassment, wrong use of facilities and products, engaging in personal businesses at work, environmental abuse, as well as wrong recognition and praise (Pomeroy 49). These dilemmas are challenging and their solutions require critical thinking and wise decision making so that parties to the challenge become satisfied. For solutions to be effective and satisfactory, employees and managers need to cooperate and work together so that they understand their various temperaments and personalities. A good understanding of these temperaments leads to solutions that do not infringe on the rights of others in the workplace. It is within this context that the article discusses ethical dilemmas in workplaces and their solutions.


Rising cost of living, technological advancements, and changing lifestyles are trends that characterize modern societies. These trends lead to shifting behavior and an increase in the quantity of time that people spent in their workplaces in the quest to earn a living and meet their daily demands. As a result, several individuals spent a larger part of their time in workplaces as opposed to the time that they spent in their places of residence or on holiday. Malachowski explains that due to the increasing amount of time spent in the workplace, the number of ethical dilemmas encountered by employees and managers in the workplace is growing (34). While the dilemmas may look ethical on one side, others can look at them as unethical. For instance, it may be wise for an individual to handle some urgent matters, which can arise at home, using workplace facilities, yet it is unethical to spent working hours handling family issues. Therefore, ethical dilemmas experienced by employees or managers in the workplace require high levels of critical thinking that can be a result of experience and education on ethical issues and their resolution.

Ethical Dilemmas in Workplaces

Increased Dependency

Another ethical dilemma common in a number of workplaces regards the issue of dependency. Dependency can transpire from the employees, managers, consumers, or other stakeholders of a company. In the case of TOMS Shoe Company, dependency as argued by Shaw transpires from poor families, who become dependent after realizing that the shoe company gives their children shoes (35). As a result, they become lazy and reliant instead of working hard so that they can earn revenues, which can be useful in acquisition of shoes. Although it is ethical and philanthropic for companies such as TOMS to help poor families, critics argue that it is unethical because it results in dependency and laziness from the recipients. The issue presents an ethical dilemma before the employees and the management of the company as well as other companies, which provide similar products.


Physical, sexual, mental, and other forms of harassment that occur in places of work make employees or managers experience some kind of ethical dilemmas. However, the employees or managers, who come across the action, can experience an ethical dilemma, which concerns whether to report the action or remain in silence. The dilemma occurs because by reporting the act, the employee or manager can be the subject of victimization and resentment from the respective colleague. On the other hand, by keeping quiet the individual consents to the unethical activity (McCoy 12). Notably, harassment can also occur in the context of infringement of staff rights. A good example is CAT Automobile Company, which has been in continuous battle with unions over abuse and exploitation of employees (Sawayda, Fairy, and Ypez 48). The fact that harassments are common in a number of workplaces implies that several employees and managers come across the dilemmas in the course of their daily engagements.

Wrong Use of Facilities

Wrong use of workplace facilities, products, and environmental abuse is another cause of ethical dilemmas in workplaces among employees and managers. Wrong use of facilities and products is one of the ethical dilemmas faced by companies such as CAT. Brown asserts that the dilemma transpires because CAT provides the required precautions and education to consumers, who purchase its caterpillars and automobiles (97). However, there are instances when the consumers use the products against their intended purposes, sustain injuries, or harm those around them. When these individuals sustain injuries or harm others around them, they sue the company or challenge the effectiveness of its products, a factor that raises an ethical dilemma in the company.

Engaging in Personal Businesses at Work

Fundamentally, engaging in personal business at work is one of the leading ethical dilemmas that are common in a number of workplaces. According to Bredeson, the high instances of the ethical dilemmas are due to the thin line that separates personal business and workplace affairs (92). Furthermore, an issue that concerns a personal business affects the individual directly and can call for a spontaneous solution. The implication of the solution is that individuals often undertake the solution before consulting the appropriate authorities. Chenoweth and McAuliff highlight that some of the common dilemmas that employees or managers can experience, while in place of work include illness, burglary, and even a holiday reservation (46). While it may appear ethical to handle an urgent medical issue at home and call a family doctor, while in the workplace, the act infringes on the rights of the employer. Consequently, in a case of burglary, it is ethical to handle the problem spontaneously, yet the act affects the performance of the concerned individual and is unethical before the employer.

Environmental Abuse

In the quest to produce and deliver the best to its potential consumers, several companies have engaged in activities that compromise the aspects of environment. For instance, while fracking is one of the best sources of energy that has numerous benefits such as increased employment and revenues as well as infrastructural developments, it has various environmental problems that initiate ethical arguments. Newton states that while it is ethical and wise to develop a system that increases the amount of energy, employs the population, and increases revenues in a destination, it is unethical to develop an industry, which is not environmental friendly. The argument poses an ethical dilemma that at times hampers the performance of employees and managers working in fracking companies globally.

Besides facing an ethical workplace dilemma in matters pertaining to its development, other organizations such as Kimpton Hotel demonstrate a dilemma that relates to the mode of operation. The dilemma presented by Kimpton Hotel in its Earthcare Program regards the ability of a facility to engage in an environmental friendly business, while ensuring that if offers high-end products to its consumers (Frederick 17). The workplace ethical dilemma takes place because, while some of the company staff may opt for the concept others believe that the concept is unethical and costly. It is important to assert that the dilemma is one of the common workplace dilemmas faced by managers and employees of several organizations in contemporary societies.

Wrong Recognition and Praise

Wrong recognition and praise is one of the challenges that present an ethical dilemma before several employees and managers in workplaces. While teamwork is essential in the success of any organization, not all the employees or managers provide equal support required for the success of a given team (Driscoll and Hoffman 76). However, after a successful execution of the initiative and attainment of productive results, praise and recognition goes to all members of the team. The dilemma transpires because it is unethical to give credit to non-performing employees or managers but then it is not ethical to report non-performing colleagues due to issues like resentment or victimization. As a result, the team members become subjects of ethical dilemma regarding whether to report non-performing colleagues or keep quiet. Apparently, in most instances, these individuals fail to get the right system of redress. In the assertion of Collins, wrong praises are among the common dilemmas encountered by several marketing teams in organizations (62). The ethical dilemma is common, affects employees and managers in workplaces, and in some cases extends to their social lives.


Workplace ethical dilemmas require a range of solutions. The range of solutions transpires because the dilemmas vary in terms of scale and nature. Notably, the solutions need to be practical and satisfactory to all the parties affected by the dilemma. The solutions arrived at must have the capacity of solving the dilemma under minimal expenditure and should not be harmful to the affected parties. These solutions require critical thinking and wise decision making so that the employees and managers get maximum levels of satisfaction from them. Furthermore, these solutions should be free from any forms of coercion, victimization, or prejudice. Organizations need to understand that all the employees and managers have the ability to provide solutions, which can help in solving the dilemmas. As such, organizations should create an environment that encourages equal treatment and participation. Bowie and Bowie state that the solutions required in solving ethical dilemmas must have minimal negative outcomes (28). Although these solutions may not be right before a number of employees and managers, the organization should explain the essence of the solutions in management of a respective ethical dilemma.


Adherence to the Code of Ethics

As a solution to ethical dilemmas, adherence to the code of ethics is very important to both the employees and managers of a given organization. Global and organizational codes of ethics provide solutions to a range of ethical dilemmas that usually occur in workplaces. Silverman and Thomas explain that the code of ethics acts as a compass that helps organizations minimize ethical dilemmas in workplaces (7). Therefore, by adhering to these standards, employees and managers working in a respective organization can be in a position of solving various ethical dilemmas. For instance, if companies like CAT stick to the codes provided by global standardization firms, the ethical dilemmas experienced by its staff pertaining to environmental and employee abuse becomes minimal. By adhering to the codes provided, the organizations enjoy a freedom that transpires when the products delivered yield maximum satisfaction and minimum harm (Weiss 56). Additionally, by sticking to the code of ethics provided by the organization and global firms such as ISO, companies such as CAT can effectively solve environmental issues and wrong use of facilities that lead to ethical dilemmas in their workplaces.

Education and Training

Education and training is one of the major solutions to workplace ethical dilemmas experienced by several organizations in modern societies. Apparently, education and training applies to various stakeholders of a company such as consumers, suppliers, and employees. In the argument advanced by Jennings Marriane, global companies need to educate its consumers, employees, and other stakeholders on the importance of ethical conduct (12). Organizations like CAT can educate and train its consumers on the use and operation of its machines prior to a purchase. By training its consumers, the company reduces cases relating to improper use of its products and facilities that at times result in court cases and negative publicity of the company. Therefore, education and training reduces the problems that sometimes take place when consumers or stakeholders of a particular organization engage in unethical conduct like wrong use of products, resources, or facilities.

Providing an Open Door Policy

To solve ethical dilemmas in workplaces, organizations need to create a policy that encourages their staff to interact and share their ideas, opinions, and issues with others irrespective of their positions. According to Porter and Mark, an open door policy usually encourages equal interaction and exchange of ideas, issues, and opinions with other stakeholders of an organization (65). The implication of the policy is an increased flow of information among staff and management of an organization. Fundamentally, increased exchange of information leads to introduction of new ideas and solutions, and thus, helps organizations manage ethical dilemmas in their tender stages. When organizations like Kimpton Hotel, TOMS Shoe Company, and CAT employ an open door policy, stakeholders can walk into their offices and voice their suggestions on aspects relating to product development and management of probable ethical dilemmas. Open door policy is a useful policy, which can help organizations manage ethical dilemmas in workplaces and eventually deliver high-end products to their consumers.

Seeking Advice

Employees and managers working in organizations should seek advice from their colleagues and other organizations, which have had similar experiences. From the advices, the employees get insights that can lead to rewarding solutions and help minimize workplace ethical dilemmas. Through advices from experienced individuals in other organizations, ethical dilemmas become manageable and preventable. According to the argument advanced by Porter and Mark, advices from experienced colleagues and organizations are useful and minimize ethical dilemmas in workplaces. Organizations such as TOMS Shoe Company, CAT, and Kimpton Hotel can employ the solution and seek advice from others in the industry, which have faced a similar challenge. By seeking advice, the organizations can get ways, which can be useful in maneuvering out of ethical dilemmas in workplaces. Furthermore, advices from others in the field help organizations and employees develop an improved perspective on workplace challenges that can lead to ethical dilemmas.

Consulting Primary and Secondary Sources of Information

Principally, organizations can solve ethical dilemmas using information collected from primary and secondary sources. Extensive research on experiences in other industries can be very instrumental in management of ethical dilemmas in workplaces. In the assertion presented by Spaulding, Fernandez, and Jawayda, the information, an organization can employ the solutions used or devise new ones that can solve the present and future ethical dilemmas that can affect its products, employees, and performance (54). Out of consulting past and present sources of information, Kimpton Hotel can understand the strategies employed by past and present hotels in undertaking programs similar or related to their Earthcare program. On the other hand, fracking companies can use the information obtained from primary and secondary sources to understand the ways that can be productive in harmonizing environmental concerns and benefits accrued by their initiatives (Jolley, Leseberg, and Andon 7). Consequently, an organization like CAT can use the information from primary and secondary sources to create solutions to ethical dilemmas that they face in the course of the engagements.


Consultations among employees and other stakeholders in organizations is one of the best solutions that help solve workplace ethical dilemmas. In essence, consultation encourages employees and managers of organizations as well as other stakeholders develop good relationship and exchange ideas, opinions, and suggestions freely. Through a good relationship among employees and managers, ethical dilemmas become subject of rewarding consultations (Lawrence and Weber 89). When all the stakeholders of an organization receive fair treatment, they can effectively participate in consultations and help the organization devise solutions that advance its performance. Therefore, consultation is one of the key solutions to issues such as workplace ethical dilemmas. Companies like CAT, TOMS, and Kimpton Hotel can create an environment that encourages consultation in order to solve ethical dilemmas that they face as they undertake their activities. Engaging in an open door policy, seeking advice, and researching for information from primary and secondary sources are practical solutions of ethical dilemmas that occur in the workplace. However, without a good relationship and consultation among employees and managers of an organization, the solutions may not provide expected results.


Over the recent past, ethical dilemmas in workplaces have increased. Notably, ethical dilemmas in workplaces are increasing because of the high amount of time spent by employees in workplaces. In addition, the changing dynamics and trends of modern individuals have initiated ethical dilemmas presented before employees and managers of organizations in their workplaces. Environmental concerns, infringement of employee/employer rights, and legal aspects in societies have also initiated ethical dilemmas in the working stations of various organizations. The case studies of Kimpton Hotel, TOMS Shoe Company, and CAT Automobile Company provide classic examples of ethical dilemmas that employees and managers of organizations experience in workplaces. To control these dilemmas successfully, managers and employees need to develop a culture that encourages exchange of ideas and opinions, research, and consultation. Moreover, the organization also needs to encourage equal participation, seek advice from experienced individuals, and develop a culture of adherence to ethical conduct in all their operations. These initiatives can help an organization solve ethical dilemmas in the workplace and provide the best to its consumers.


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