An ethical dilemma refers to a complex situation where two or more moral actions contradict each other. In ethical dilemma, the outcomes of an act usually conflict and are often morally intolerable. Ethic and morals define standards and ways in which individuals should behave. Whereas ethics guide our conducts, morals differentiate between right and wrong. Ethical dilemmas thus cause battles between ethics and morals.
In my view, the act of a coworker overbilling some customers and under-billing others is ethically unacceptable, even if he is not taking the money for personal benefit. In response to this scandal, through professional interest and experience, I would help the coworker understand the importance of ethical conduct within the organization when transacting with customers. First, I would assist him comprehend that this act is against the ethical code of conducts for business transactions. It is expected that all business transactions should be recorded as they occur without any alterations. No customer account should be overbilled or under-billed irrespective of whether the customers is rich or poor, young or old, white or black. By so doing, the business will build customer confidence on its services, the business will be able to convince the customers that they are equal, and that none of its customers should expect any special treatment. It is a moral act to treat people equally irrespective of their status in the society. The customer accounts, therefore, should remain status quo. In this scenario, the first action I would take is to inform the coworker of his misconduct and advice him to make the appropriate changes on the affected accounts. This would reflect transparency and equity in the dealings of the organization with its clients. Such equal treatment and dealings given to clients would likewise help build good reputation of our company in the society. According to Shaw, Barry and Panagiotou, the reputations of high profile companies that were once treasured have all been tarnished by mere breaching of the societal ethics. This decline in reputation comes along with various effects that might be severe to the company’s image. Some organizations are heavily fined for the wrong doings, others experience decline in their stock prices, become bankrupt, and in certain cases top executives are jailed.
Secondly, I would assist him understand that it is unethical practices within an organization that leads to public scrutiny, an act which certainly may not be a good type of publicity for the organization. This is because if one customer gets dissatisfied by the services of the business, he/she will talk ill of the organization, tell others of poor services rendered and the business will eventually experience a massive loss of its customers and decrease in market in market share. It is thus recommended that all organizations set high standards of behavior to be observed by all workers.
Another good example of ethical dilemma in business occurs during corporate social responsibility. Most top corporations are exercising social responsibility and create stewardship initiatives so that they can make positive contributions to the environment and to the communities in which they operate, and to their customers and employees. However, challenges come in when the hard-earned profits of the organization are used in social responsibility activities such as charity contributions and environmental clean-ups. From investors’ point of view, these earnings should be distributed to the shareholders as dividends or be retained in the business as capital reserves for expansion and investment purposes. In contrast, the society expects the business to be socially responsible. This results into a conflict of interest between the shareholders and the society.
Similarly, companies advertising their alcoholic products and cigarettes are required by law to place the health warning label on conspicuous parts of the products. This, however, might contract their primary goal of increasing sales, since a negative conspicuous label may discourage consumers. The companies thus have to decide between increasing their sales by invading this legal requirement or to remain concerned with the health of the consumers.
In conclusion, it is important to note that, whenever a conflict of values and ideas occurs, the most suitable choice and course of action taken should not be detrimental to either party. In the world of business, an organization’s ethics and values should be consistent with the moral standards of its employees and the society at large. Workers should neither be forced nor be expected to do things that are inconsistent with societal morals. There should be greater consciousness and emphasis on corporate governance and accountability.
Ethical dilemma helps us answer some interesting questions about our conducts. For instance, do we normally behave ethically because of our morals, or because of panic of the consequences and burden of not doing so? In an attempt to answer this question I would group the consequences of ethical behaviors into four broad categories, namely:
a) The consequences of the ethical or unethical behavior are well known to the individual and are believed to be certain. In this case the individual is in no doubt of the outcomes of their actions.
b) The consequences of the ethical or unethical behavior are less certain but are still known to the individual. In this case, the person knows the likely consequences, but less certain whether they will actually occur.
c) The consequences of the ethical or unethical behavior are certain, but not known to the individual. Here, the person knows that something will happen, but doesn’t know what.
d) The consequences of the ethical or unethical behavior are not certain and are not known. In this situation, the individual has no idea if there will be any consequences relating to his behavior, and no idea if anything is likely to happen
These sets try to define how individuals react to different situations when faced with ethical dilemmas, for example, those who fall under set (b) will act with the hope of not getting caught whereas those in set (d) will be undecided on what action to take.
Organizations alike should be scrutinized. One may ask whether all organizations have ethical policies and well laid down rules and standards that govern the conduct and the behaviors of their employees? And if they do have, are the workers living by these principles? And how do these rules and regulations affect the individuals’ behaviors, given that a person’s code of conduct is often a function of many factors, including past experiences and lessons learned from day-to-day life.
Finally, I would like to bring forth that our actions are usually calls from the inner voice. Individuals should, therefore, act in accordance with this call. Similarly, the paradox of business ethics is to get its workers do things that are consistent with societal values, beliefs and morals for peaceful co-existence within the society. Whenever an individual or organization is faced with ethical dilemma, critical thinking should be applied before any action is taken.