An ethical dilemma is when an incident arises that causes you to question how you should react based on your beliefs and deciding how to choose between right and wrong.
Sometimes, an ethical dilemma might be easily solved once you have had a bit of time to think about it but in other cases, it might not be as easy.
Perhaps you have been put into a bad position where you need to make a decision that will most likely have consequences regardless of what you decide.
An example of an ethical dilemma is when a salesperson is guaranteed to make a big sale if they offer a kickback (ie. an illegal payment) to someone.
If they agree to the kickback, they get the sale but risk getting caught and getting into big trouble.
If they don’t agree to the kickback, they don’t get the sale and might end up looking bad in the eyes of their employer.
Also, should they even tell their employer about the situation or should they simply make a decision and live with the consequences?
Clearly, this is an ethical dilemma and although it’s easy to say you would do the right thing, when you are actually in such a position and are feeling pressure to act, you might not always be able to think as clearly as you would otherwise like to think you would.
Depending on the situation, how you react to an ethical dilemma might differ but at the end of the day, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Use common sense. If it’s clearly wrong or illegal, you know the consequences of doing something that could cost you dearly.
- Don’t let your self-interest get in the way and allow it to cloud your judgment. A short-term gain could be a long-term pain if you make the wrong decision and get caught.
- Don’t assume that your employer will back you up if you do something wrong and get caught. Referring to the above example of the kickback, don’t assume that if you decide to pay the kickback that this is what your employer would approve of. If you acted alone and get caught, don’t expect your employer to defend you because they may distance themselves from you to avoid further embarrassment or legal trouble.
- Don’t risk your credibility. It can take many good deeds to build credibility but only one seemingly simple indiscretion for it to vanish.
Where possible, try to speak with your manager or someone else you trust when in doubt especially if the decision you have to make affects the company. Don’t assume your employer will tolerate you doing something wrong even if it benefits them.
Remember to treat others as you’d expect to be treated and don’t do anything wrong in anticipation of a short-term gain that could end up costing you in the long-term.
Carl Mueller is an Internet entrepreneur and professional recruiter who wants to help you find your dream career.
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