Case Studies

Dealing with Ethical Dilemmas in an Organization

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Dealing with Ethical Dilemmas in an Organization

Ethics is a paralyzing concept in business. In the wake of the 21st century, competition is growing stiffer and businesses strive to stay ahead in the game at all costs. The concept of ethics emerges to be highly captivating in light of actions in which organizations, as well as employees, engage in to enhance profitability.  This paper examines a case study of an ethical dilemma in Keller Ad Agency. It also discusses employees’ responsibilities in ethical situations and roles of organizations in ensuring ethical practices. The analyis is structured this way to effectively explain and stress that making moral decisions is both a personal and organizational responsibility. While it is not simple to foster and maintain ethical behavior, recognizing the role of employees and measures the organization should put in place will promote high ethical standards in the company.

Jordan’s Ethical Dilemma

The ethical dilemma depicted in the case scenario is categorized as an issue of honesty and integrity. This case scenario resonates perfectly with an issue of honesty and integrity due to many key issues. Notably, Jordan and April jointly worked on the presentation that turned out to be a “huge hit”. Apparently, the “wow factor” that startled the clients and won the contract is attributed to the knowledge and expertise of April. Since Jordan understands that April is more qualified and deserving to be Assistant Creative Director, accepting the promotion would amount to an ethical lapse. Accordingly, the situation leaves Jordan in an ethical quandary.

Jordan can either accept the promotion offer to the position of Assistant Creative Director or step down for April. Luis was convinced that Jordan did a terrific work on the presentation. In his opinion, Jordan surpassed his expectations and proved capable for a new job role. Ostensibly, a promotion comes in handy with increased responsibilities, powers, and benefits – mostly financial.  Accepting the new position guaranteed Jordan status quo since the position is new in the organization.  Nonetheless, her understanding of herself and the just completed project reveals that she is not qualified for the post and should consider stepping down for April. All the same, Jordan has to make a choice.

Collins (2010) contends that to maintain honesty and integrity individuals should follow their own codes of personal conduct. Also important, one needs to recognize the importance of acting according to his or her own convictions rather than pursuing a course that is profitable or convenient at the time. As such, Jordan should inform Luis that it took collaborative work for the success of the presentation and most importantly, the exceptional piece was as a result of April’s excellent knowledge and expertise. She should equally stress that April is more qualified and deserving of the new position.

Employees’ Roles/Responsibilities in Ethical Situations

Fostering ethical behavior in the working environment is a primary goal of everyone engaging in business (Collins, 2010). Nevertheless, there are factors in the workplace that frequently hinder the workforce from operating ethically. One of the factors is company goals. Intense competition in the workplace shifts employees’ focus to the bottom-line rather than business ethics. In fact, evaluating employee performance as a factor of end results alone only catapults unethical behavior (Haron, Ishmail, & Razak, 2011 as cited in Boes, 2015).

Another significant contributing factor is an individual’s personal moral values and standards. As Collins (2010) argued, high standards of code of conduct will prompt one to act according to his convictions rather than that which is convenient or profitable at present. Contrarily, lower moral standards yield unethical behavior and cultivate dishonesty. Additionally, researchers have repeatedly identified peer influence as a critical factor that affects ethical decision-making. Arguably, the more an individual observes co-workers engaging in unethical practices the more likely they are to fall into an ethical lapse.

Fourth, an environment or culture that pressures employees to compromise ethical values to accomplish organizational objectives promotes unethical behaviour (Boes, 2015). Collins (2010) cited an example where a culture at Sears automotive service centers prompted employees to deceived clients into purchasing auto parts and services they never needed in the first place only to meet quotas and get to keep their jobs. Finally, lack of a formal code of conduct in an organization can be a contributing factor to unethical behavior. Without principles and guidelines to be followed while performing job-related activities, employees will likely err.

When faced with an ethical situation, employees can follow certain steps that Collins (2010) outlines, so that they may make the most appropriate decisions. Initially, it is essential to define the exact problem. The precise issue to be dealt with must be understood and all relevant facts collected. Subsequently, feasible options should be identified. Viable options are the set of possible courses of action to address the problem identified in step one. In the scenario discussed previously, Jordan has two choices: (1) take credit for the presentation and accept the new position despite lacking the qualifications and (2) advise Luis to promote April because she is highly competent.

A third step is to examine the impact of each option on stakeholders. In the case scenario, if Jordan accepts the new position she will definitely not move the department forward and this may hinder the organization from meeting its objectives. Otherwise, since April has the knowledge and competencies that the position requires, letting her be awarded the position will bring success to the entire organization and set a good example for other employees and those who care about Jordan. Finally, the employees should select the best option. Based on predetermined criteria, the options are evaluated and policies can be used to select and stick to the most viable and ethical option.

The Organization’s Role/Responsibility in Ensuring Ethical Practices

When it comes to making ethical decisions, there is nothing like hanging in the balance as it strictly a question of right-versus-wrong decision. Be that as it may, Collins (2010) offers compelling ways to enable workers make prudent decisions so that they may not make mistakes in judgment. To begin, an organization can encourage employees to question whether the decision about to be made is illegal. If the answer is a yes then the option should be revised or abandoned entirely. Secondly, an organization should influence workers to examine the fairness of their decisions. Before resorting to a course of action, understanding the interests of parties involved and how unfair a choice is to others is crucial.

Another way of inclining workers to make right decisions by motivate them to ask themselves if they are bound to feel bad about the decision. In the case discussed, if Jordan accepts the promotion, she will inevitably feel bad about it. A fourth way is to persuade employees to examine how much shame the choice might burden them with. When people fall in an ethical lapse Collins (2010) explains, they feel ashamed to tell their families, friends, coworkers, or even their bosses. The fifth way is to ask the employees if they would be embarrassed if their actions are published in the local newspaper. Incontrovertibly, unethical decision is destructive to one’s image if it goes public.

It is in the best interest of a company that upholds high ethical standards circumstances (Collins, 2010). With an intention to operate ethically, a firm should establish ethical leadership. The senior executives should foster an ethical culture by clearly defining ethical behavior and consequences upon violation. Another way to sustain ethical operations is to actually exercise ethical leadership. There should be constant collaboration between leaders and subordinates on ethical policies and expectations (Collins, 2010). Leaders should be present to guide workers in identifying and mitigating ethical issues. Also important, leaders should model high ethical standards.

Thirdly, the organization should tighten the rules. Having excellent reputation for integrity is not sufficient for an organization. Correspondingly, a company needs appropriate measures to bolster strict behavior in accordance with specific standards and encourage employees to report unethical behaviors. Finally, a formal code of conduct is a must-have to ensure that the entire organization operates ethically. The code serves to describe principles and guidelines that must be adhered to while performing job-related tasks (Collins, 2010).

In conclusion, a collaborative effort between employees and the management alongside clear guidelines on ethical standards is essential in upholding integrity in a firm. Workers should recognize the steps of handling an ethical dilemma and how to avoid ethical lapses. Also, it is in the best interest of the company to create an enabling environment for high ethical standards. In the today’s business environment, operating ethically will help businesses attract and keep customers, talented employees, and capital. For an employee, excellent ethical standards increase employability and enhance career success.











Boes, A. (2015). Factors Influencing the Unethical Behavior of Business People.

Collins, K. (2010). Business Ethics and Social Responsibility. In Exploring Business [PDF].