In the workplace, people at all levels of the organization are likely to encounter ethical dilemmas. An ethical dilemma is a situation where decisions have to be made that may be in conflict with one’s deeply held beliefs. Oftentimes acting in the best interest of the company requires considering the needs of others, not just one’s personal feelings. Understanding that personal beliefs cannot rule all workplace decision making, and in speaking of potential ethical issues, most people will state emphatically that they will assess each situation fully and only act when all the data has been gathered and a thorough investigation has been performed. However, the reality is that people make quick decisions that do not always take into account all affected parties, referred to as stakeholders.
Tools have been developed to help people prepare for actual workplace dilemmas. One such tool is the virtual EthicsGame Dilemmas. The simulation consists of two problematic workplace situations. The Case of the Mysterious Roses revolved around a woman, Gayle Dornier, receiving anonymous roses at work and how it made her feel as though she was being stalked, which in turn made her feel unsafe in the office (University of Phoenix, 2013).
The other scenario, the Case of the Cold Feet, involved a researcher, Dr. Waters, who wanted his superior to assist him in presenting the best data possible for a medical journal article (University of Phoenix, 2013). This would ordinarily seem to be a legitimate request; however, the supervisor was privy to information which indicated the results from the research were not as favorable as the article described. The purpose of the games are to help people determine who are the stakeholders and the possible outcomes using different perspectives, or lens, such as the rights/responsibilities lens, results lens, relationship lens, and reputation lens.
In both situations, the steps used involved being attentive, which is when
the issue is defined. In the Mysterious Roses case, the issue was ensuring that Gayle would be able to discuss what happened with her manager, while the manager maintained his/her responsibility to treat all employees fairly during the investigation. In the Cold Feet case, the issue was determining how to find the balance between dealing with the false data and preserving the reputation of the organization.
The second steps involves being intelligent, which is the point at which the stakeholders are identified. Making decisions without first understanding which parties will be affected by the outcome would be irresponsible. There are two sets of stakeholders, primary and secondary. The primary stakeholders are anybody directly involved in the situation and the secondary stakeholders are those who are likely not to be affected directly, but if they are, it will be a blip in their life, whereas the primary stakeholders may suffer a loss of reputation, employment, or investment. The third step involves applying reason and using one of the lens techniques to determine which type of action will yield the best result.
In the Mysterious Roses, the lens that worked best was the Rights/Responsibilities Lens, which is to tell Gayle that her issue can be kept confidential, but that it may have to be reported if it is a work-related problem. She should also be encouraged to review the Company Handbook before meeting with her manager to discuss the issue. This is a good decision from a risk to the company perspective as it ranks zero on a scale of zero to five. With the Cold Feet case, the best lens was the Reputation Lens, which was for the supervisor to inform the researcher, Dr. Waters, of his/her concerns regarding the data without alerting him to the fact that the information regarding the data had come from the junior researcher.
This will give Dr. Waters time to admit what he did and possibly explain why. If he does not come clean, the supervisor should then make the general counsel aware of Dr. Waters’ actions. This approach is somewhat risky as this could be elevated to a legal matter which would have to be shared with the public; therefore, it has a risk value of one on a scale of zero to five. These ethical perspectives were right in line with my views. As I was going through the simulation, there was an instance where my stance waivered, however, it was only when I was asked to make the decision that had the greatest good for the greatest amount of people. When I went back to my true feelings on the matters, my decisions were always in line with what was considered the best option.
Applying these Concepts to the Workplace
Because my true feelings regarding these situations were in line with what the simulation offered as the best possible solutions, I feel strongly that I will be able to effectively apply these concepts in my workplace. Successfully dealing with ethical dilemmas involves keeping a level head, determining the true issue, and then applying reason to identify stakeholders and work through the investigation process. These are skills I possess already and which will only improve over time with each ethical dilemma encountered.