Ethics has always been a subject of high-level philosophical debate. The reason behind it is the fact that it’s always enveloped in the shroud of ambiguity. Other than this, ethical issues penetrate every instance of our lives. You have ethical dilemmas in your family life, ethical dilemmas in your habits, and even ethical dilemmas in the workplace. The latter is even more complex, seeing as how they’re sometimes regulated by a corporate policy.
Now, while an attempt to regulate ethical issues sounds like something impossible from the very start, the truth is that it may help provide some guidelines on how to behave in certain scenarios. With that in mind and without further ado, here’s a thorough guide that should help you overcome ethical dilemmas in your workplace.
1. A professional code
In some professions, there’s this thing known as a professional code. This is especially true in fields like healthcare, where, as a doctor, you actually have to take an oath that you will:
- Prescribe only beneficial treatments
- Refrain from causing harm
- Treat everyone equally
- Consider your colleagues as family
While a lot of people may see this as a leftover tradition, the truth is that it actually greatly helps in resolving all sorts of moral dilemmas.
Others, however, complain that having a professional code is an easy way out. After all, you don’t even have to use your moral compass if you have it all in writing. Sticking to the code, however, isn’t always easy.
Also, once written, the professional code should not be seen as set in stone. Instead, you need to review it after some major events and check if it holds out. Things change, new (unprecedented) situations occur and you learn about new behavior patterns and behaviors on a daily basis. Why not make an effort to keep up with the times.
2. Make this problem systemic
It’s important that your ethical policies are relevant and that your solutions are organized around your own corporate structure. According to experts behind Alba Ergonomics, workplace risk assessment is the necessary first step on this journey, seeing as how it gives you a specific problem to address.
Aside from this, you also need to know what to do in specific scenarios. For instance, what if your company gets a whistleblower? Is a corporate secret a higher priority than exposing an unethical business practice? How does this reflect on your company as a whole?
3. Don’t be afraid to take your time
The main excuse that the majority of people use in a situation with an ethical dilemma is that they’ve acted on impulse, or that they didn’t have time to think it through. First of all, this is usually not the case. It’s a convenient, pragmatic excuse that you can use for your mental gymnastics.
Second, in the majority of cases, it’s usually not too late even after the act is done. For instance:
- If you’ve taken credit for someone else’s work, it’s not too late to come clean. Even if this happens several hours or days later.
- If you’ve taken something from work, you can bring it back.
- Stealing company time can sometimes be remedied by voluntarily staying overtime (without compensation).
Will this still get you in trouble? Quite possibly. However, penance was never supposed to be easy and there’s a price that you’ll have to pay in order to get out of this scenario with a clean conscience and create a better work environment.
4. Give everyone a chance
Another thing you need to take into consideration is that, given a chance to make things right, people will make the right call. You see, stricter measures usually lead to more heinous crimes. Just think about it – if stealing a single pencil and stealing $1,000 worth of goods are both penalized by losing one’s job, there’s really no point in keeping it small.
The zero-tolerance policy only works well in practice. In fact, it only works as a deterrent, seeing as how it will keep the least daring of your employees on their toes. At the same time, it’s not a viable long-term solution.
It may also negatively impact your talent attraction and retention efforts, seeing as how, even those without dishonorable intentions, may see you as hostile or authoritarian. All in all, being tolerant is seldom seen as a weakness.
In the end, ethical dilemmas are always difficult to resolve. They’re not always illegal and one might argue that they’re not always immoral either. They are, however, problematic and may have a long-lasting impact on your corporate structure, reputation, workforce morale, and much more. This is why you need to resolve them quickly and you need to make sure that they’re resolved in the best manner possible. Looking for some outside help is never a bad idea but it’s far more important to learn how to put yourself in other people’s shoes. You always want to improve the results of your company and solving ethical problems is among the main contributors to this objective.